Pipeline: A Thespian Interpretation of Parenting

Leo Yang

 How important is a parent’s company for teenagers? Is good parenting simply providing the most to your children? On Saturday, Nov 9, five Bears together with Dr. A.J Kohlhepp were lucky enough to catch the closing performance of the play Pipeline, which discussed those questions and more.

 Crafted by the talented playwright Dominique Morisseau, Pipeline portrays a frustrating family struggle and a concerning social prophecy. The main character, Nya, a single mother and public school teacher, sends her only son Omari to a private boarding school, hoping to prevent a criminal future she fears he will fall into. The huge educational investment offers little salvation: in the opening of the play, Omari is suspended for the third time, facing possible expulsion because he punched a teacher who pushed too far to make Omari answer a question. Conflicts burst out between the parents and the son. 

What overrides blame is fear: Nya’s fear that Omari will step on a destiny of crime and violence; Omari’s father, Xavier, is afraid that his educational investment is failing and his son is self-destructing; Omari’s fear that the inevitable mistake he made will lead to him be locked inside a cell for years and seal his fate…All of which corresponds to the theme of “black fatalism,” which refers to the fate of crime, poverty and failure. 

Loneliness and lack of parent’s company are among the most serious of teenage issues, especially for those students in boarding schools. Without the care and advice of parents for a long period, it is easy for teenagers to feel overwhelmed and stressed, and thus make bad decisions. Outside of boarding schools, it isn’t uncommon to see parents too busy with work to pay enough meaningful time with their children. Pipeline was created to raise awareness of the importance of company in education.

The relationship between partners can be equally influential to the growth of the children. In Pipeline, Nya and her ex-husband Xavier have endless quarrels, and they use Omari as their only remaining bond: “It’s you and him. Me and him. Us and him. That’s the deal. You and I without him does not exist” shouts Xavier, as they blame each other for not taking good care of Omari. In fact, it is the problematic partner relationship that leads to Omari’s grumpiness and impatience, as may be expected from bring made the couple’s punching bag. 

On the car ride back to school, students discussed whom in our community should go and watch Pipeline. We agreed that the administrators attend, seeing that the play reveals many teenage issues that could help them more deeply understand students and look for better ways to educate. This play is also ideal for students who feel lonely and helpless. We hope that Omari’s story, during which he eventually escapes his predicament, resonates with those students. Overall, Pipeline is a great play with profound lessons, and we highly recommend you to check it out.