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What Is the Story of Hurt Village?
Set in the crumbling Hurt Village housing project in Memphis, Katori Hall’s drama is the story of Cookie, a 13-year-old girl who wants to be a rapper. Cookie lives with her mother, Crank (who collects welfare and receives cash under the table as a hairstylist), and her great-grandmother, Big Mama (who is proud to be a hard-working nurse). When Memphis is awarded a government grant to demolish Hurt Village, Cookie and her family must move out. As the family is packing to leave, Cookie’s father, Buggy, returns home from Iraq and tries to reconnect with his daughter and the community. But when Big Mama discovers she makes too much money to qualify for section 8 housing in the suburbs, the family’s dreams are dashed. With nowhere to go, each family member searches for a way to survive.
Stories about the cycle of poverty are common, but the fine acting does wonders to drive this one home.Review by Joe Dziemianowicz from New York Daily News
'Hurt Village' is as lucid as any work I know in identifying rap (and dissing) as both a weapon and a release, a brandishing of arms and of affection.Review by Ben Brantley from The New York Times
What Is Hurt Village Like?
Young Cookie is the narrator of the play, expressing herself in spirited rap verses. The realistic set, which depicts both Cookie’s decaying home and the graffiti-ridden neighborhood outside, allows the audience to understand the dangerous world she lives in. Although Hurt Village is at times hysterically funny (the whole neighborhood participates in rap battles and Jookin’, a type of Memphis dancing), the drama is an ultimately jarring, somber look at growing up below the poverty line.
Is Hurt Village Good for Kids?
No. Hurt Village contains extremely coarse language, descriptions of sexual acts, and depictions of violence and heavy drug use. Although the production doesn’t exactly glorify the dangerous and difficult life in the Hurt Village housing projects, children and teens may not be mature enough to make this distinction.