A Story of Immigration and Reconciliation

“Demerara Gold”
Ingrid Griffith will play 18 characters in “Demerara Gold,” her solo show at the East Hampton Library on Saturday. Trevor Augustus Brown

Ingrid Griffith was 7 years old when her parents emigrated from Guyana to the United States, leaving her and her older sister with their grandmothers, one of whom was a recluse, the other a religious fanatic. Five years passed before the girls joined their parents on Long Island.

Ms. Griffith, an actress and writer with a house in Springs, has turned her story into “Demerara Gold,” an 80-minute solo show she will perform Saturday afternoon at 3 at the East Hampton Library. With a set consisting of one chair and a screen, and punctuated by Caribbean music, she portrays 18 characters, including herself at different ages, her parents, her grandparents, her sister, and her American friends.

Once reunited with her parents, she grew up in Wheatley Heights, and, while at City College, she began taking acting classes. That led to commercials and eventually to productions at the American Place Theatre, Aaron Davis Hall, John Jay College, and the Southampton Cultural Center, among others. Because it was not financially sustaining, she took a break from acting to return to school.

While earning a master’s degree in creative writing, Ms. Griffith began a memoir. “After I graduated and got to about 250 pages, I decided I should do a solo show about it because I really wanted the story to be told, to be heard.” 

It took her two years to develop “Demerara Gold,” which premiered in July 2014 at the Midtown International Theatre Festival in New York City, where she received a nomination for best solo show performer. Since then the play has been performed throughout the United States and in London, Guyana, where it toured, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines, among other locales.

“The show has a lot to do with separation and immigration and coming around to who you really are as a person,” said Ms. Griffith, adding that the play also addresses identity, cultural norms, and domestic violence. What propelled to her create it was a “desire to move on.”

“As a teenager and a young woman, there were a lot of things that affected me that I couldn’t shake loose, and I was becoming introverted and isolated because I had trouble sharing what I’d experienced. We all have a public and private side, and I decided to share my private side because I thought it would not only empower me but also empower others.” 

In a review of a 2016 production for the New York Amsterdam News, Mike Masson wrote, “ ‘Demerara Gold’ . . . is a boisterous one-woman show about a young Guyanese girl’s coming of age journey, capturing a heart-wrenching immigrant’s tale in spurts of immense elation and disconcerting sorrow, with pocket-sized doses of laughter.”

Ms. Griffith proposed the show to the library in June. “I wanted to present it in my own community. I love it out here, and this story connects all of us, because we are all immigrants. When I perform it at colleges or even high schools and junior high schools, everyone knows what I’m talking about and can relate at some level. So I want to keep sharing the message.”

Reservations for the free performance can be made at eventbrite.com, the library’s adult reference desk, or by calling 631-324-0222.