Davidson College’s theater department this week is presenting a production of “In the Blood,” a sort of modern “Scarlet Letter” tale by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks. And Ms. Parks will be on campus Tuesday, April 3, for two public events. Also this week, students from Community School of Davidson High School are presenting their first 10-minute play festival, “I See You, Do You See Me?”
SUZAN-LORI PARKS AT DAVIDSON
Davidson College’s theater department this week is presenting a production of “In the Blood,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks. In connection with the show, Ms. Parks will be at Davidson next Tuesday, April 3, for a morning workshop and an evening conversation on “The Role of the Artist in Social Justice.”
“In the Blood” runs 7:30 p.m. March 28-29, 8 p.m. March 30-31 and 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 1. It’s a modern-day spin on “The Scarlet Letter,” focusing on a single mother struggling to provide humane living conditions for her five fatherless children amid inner city poverty and prejudice.
The play has a large number of roles for actors of color on campus, and also presents material that its directors acknowledge may “challenge” audiences and the actors. It’s being presented in Duke Family Performance Hall, but in a modified setting: Bleacher seating has been arranged on three sides of the stage facing a small stage at one side.
Davidson theater professor and director Ann Marie Costa said this play has been on her list to direct since it first appeared in the 1990s. “I tend to like gritty plays, and this is gritty,” she said this week.
The play also offered another opportunity – for a collaboration between Ms. Costa and dance professor Alison Bory. “In the Blood” includes a series of empty moments, which playright Parks calls “spells,” which are left to the director to fill with something that helps explain “what’s going on with the characters that is of this world and not of this world,” Ms. Bory said.
So she has choreographed actors’ movements for those intervals that help add to the action of the play, as near the end when the main character Hester and her oldest son are in conflict. “Through movement we start to build some of the tension that doesn’t exist in the text,” she said.
A highlight of the week of activities will come Tuesday with the appearances by Ms. Parks, who was the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for drama.
At 11 a.m. in the Alvarez College Union Smith 900 Room she will present a program titled “The Art of Making Art.” She describes that presentation as “part lecture, part reading, part singalong, and part consciousness raising of the collective unconscious.” The event during the college’s weekly “common hour” is free and open to the public.
On Tuesday at 7 p.m., Ms. Parks will appear in Duke Family Performance Hall for a conversation with the audience about the role of the artist in the social justice movement. She’ll talk about issues raised by “In the Blood,” such as single motherhood, poverty, homelessness and illiteracy. That event will be followed by a book signing. That’s also free, but tickets are required, available at the Union Ticket Office or at the door an hour before.
A 1985 Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Mount Holyoke College, Ms. Parks began writing stories when she noticed voices in her head. She told a “New Yorker” magazine interviewer, “It was the weirdest thing. I was sitting at my desk at Mount Holyoke, and I was typing as if they were standing right over there. And I kept thinking, ‘If I turn around, they’ll leave.’ And I just copied down what they were saying. It’s been that way ever since.”
Ms. Parks credits her writing teacher and mentor, James Baldwin, for encouraging her literary interest. One of the first to recognize Ms. Parks’ writing skills, Mr. Baldwin declared her “an astonishing and beautiful creature who may become one of the most valuable artists of our time.”
“In the Blood” contains graphic sexual content and language, and is recommended for ages 17 and up. General admission is $15, $11 for seniors, $9 faculty and staff, and $6 students. Tickets can be purchased weekdays from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at the Alvarez College Union ticket office in person or by phone at 704-894-2135, or online any time at www.davidson.edu/tickets.
Suzan-Lori Parks’ visit to Davidson is co-sponsored by the Vann Center for Ethics, The Public Lectures Committee, The Center for Civic Engagement, The Office of Academic Affairs, The Charles E. Ratcliff Junior Endowment in Economics, Friends of the Arts, Black Student Coalition, the Upsilon Mu Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and the Department of Theatre.
10-MIN. PLAYS AT COMMUNITY SCHOOL OF DAVIDSON
Community School of Davidson High School (CSDHS) Theatre Arts department presents its first 10 Minute Play Festival “I See You, Do You See Me?” March 29th, 30th, and 31st at 7:30pm in the High School Commons Area. The compilation of pieces explore the theme of body image from four different perspectives: 1) How we perceive ourselves, 2) How others can mis-perceive us, 3) Body image leading to eating disorders, and 4) Bullying and its effect on self/body image.
A variety of formats will be showcased — some light hearted, some not — including traditional 10 minute plays, poetry, monologues and transitional pieces. Several of the pieces to be performed have been written by students in the theatre department.
Melissa Ohlman-Roberge, CSDHS Theatre Arts Teacher and Artistic Director at Davidson Community Players, says her cast of 13 ninth and 10th graders have been working for five weeks.
“Students have grown as actors by getting into the mindset of the characters,” Ms. Ohlman-Roberge said. “These pieces have allowed them to explore the need for healthy body image and self-worth that is lacking for too many teens these days, but the pieces are not at all preachy. I purposely chose pieces that present the issues from a variety of really interesting angles as a means of engaging both actor and audience.”
The public is welcome to attend. Tickets are $7 and are available at the CSDHS starting Monday, March 26. Reserved tickets may be obtained by emailing Melissa at NCMOR@aol.com; tickets may also be purchased at the door. Due to the nature of the theme of these performances, it is recommended for students 5th grade and above.
CSDHS is at 404 Armour Street, Davidson.