Saturday, March 10, 2012

Suzan-Lori Parks Appears at Davidson in Connection with Her "In the Blood" Production

Like most of Suzan-Lori Parks' work, In the Blood confronts the
audience with the tragedies of downtrodden people and asks the viewers
to not just watch, but take a stand. In the Blood focuses on a
homeless, illiterate single mother, Hester La Negrita, struggling to
provide for her five children amidst inner urban poverty and prejudice.

Six Davidson College student actors will showcase their interpretation
of this contemporary American tragedy in fiveperformances from March
28 through April 1 in the Duke Family Performance Hall of the Knobloch
Campus Center. March 28-29 performances begin at 7:30 p.m., March
30-31 at 8 p.m. and April 1 at 6:30 p.m. The audience will be seated
on the stage with the actors, so attendance will be more limited than
standard productions in the venue. The play contains graphic sexual
content, violence and crude language, and is recommended only for ages
17 and up.

General admission is $15, $11 for seniors, $9 faculty/staff, and $6
students. Tickets can be purchased weekdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at
the Alvarez College Union ticket office in person or by phone at
704-894-2135, or online any time at For more
information email<
>. (Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks will also present two free lectures
on April 3. Call 704-894-2361 for information on those events).

Parks has been a prolific and heralded storyteller on stage and page
for the past 25 years, known for powerful plays about social justice
and the black experience in America. Among many other honors, she is
the first African American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in
drama, and she won a McArthur Foundation "Genius Grant." She wrote In
the Blood in 1999.

In the Blood is a modern reflection of Nathaniel Hawthorne's 19th
century novel, The Scarlet Letter. Parks' play tells the story of a
mother, Hester, and her five fatherless children. Hawthorne's work
also focused on a character named Hester who was forced to sew a
scarlet letter "A" onto her dress as punishment for her illicit
affair. Similarly, Park's Hester had sexual relations with five
different men and scratches out the letter "A" on the cement floor and
cardboard boxes of her family's makeshift home.

Professor of English Ann Fox, whose contemporary theatre class studied
In the Blood this semester, said both works deal with flawed women
tormented by the moral hypocrisy of men who rule their lives. Fox
said, "The characters in both are more symbolic than realistic. They
represent social forces that judge disenfranchised people like Parks's
Hester LaNegrita and Hawthorne's Hester Prynne. In the Blood is highly
contemporary, but its message has been voiced in literature throughout
history. Both stories ask us to think critically about our society and
question our own complicity in these tragedies."

Hester La Negrita is entirely dependent on the kindness of strangers,
who in turn take advantage of her. Hester's future and that of her
children grows dim. Her white friend Miga both uses her and cares
about her struggles, and advises her toseek help from her children's
fathers. Hester does so, and the play moves on to their hypocritical
stories and a chilling conclusion. Davidson student Christa Johnson
'12, who plays the part of Hester, said, "I've never worked on a play
as emotionally dense, one that took more time for me to learn."

Parks has given directors of the play an unusual amount of latitude
for creativity by writing into the script many "spells" and "rests."
The rests are times when an actor has something to say to another
actor, but holds it in and stays silent. The spells are also periods
of no dialogue that the Davidson interpreters of the play have chosen
to fill with sound and movement. Professor of Theatre and Director Ann
Marie Costa said, "We've approached these moments by asking the actors
what their characters are feeling, and then worked with them to find a
suitable abstract physical expression for it."

Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance Alison Bory has also been
working with the cast of veteran student actors to fill those spaces
with movement and sound. Costa noted, "It creates a mixture of modern
dance and drama. Even without words, I believe the audience will feel
the emotion, the tension between the characters in these moments. It
should be compelling to watch. "

Other direction for the play has come from Winthrop University
dramatist Anna Sartin, who has created a set littered with foundurban
objects like discarded tires, cardboard boxes, old mattresses and oil
drums. Carolyn Bryan is the costume designer, and Josh Peklo is
lighting designer.
In addition to Johnson, the cast includes Audrey Gyurgyik '12, Amos
McCandless '14, Lori Pitts '12, Rodney Saunders '13 , and Brandon
Smalls '12. All are theatre majors, and each will play two roles—as
one of Hester's children, and as the adults who complicate her life.

Gyurgyik, who plays Hester's friend Miga, is excited to be in a play
that directly deals with contemporary social issues in a
straightforward way. "This will stir up the community," Gyurgyik said.
"You can't just watch this play and leave it behind like traditional
entertainment. In the Blood leaves you asking questions. It challenges
you to act."

Two public programs are being planned at the college in coordination
with the production of In the Blood. On Thursday, March 15, the cast,
director and stage managerswill join the public in a dinner discussion
about poverty. That will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Black Student
Coalition House on Patterson Court. On Monday, March 26, the Upsilon
Mu Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta sorority invites the public to a
discussion about the economic and religious responses to poverty. That
event will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Sprinkle Room of the Alvarez
College Union. For more information on both events, contact
, or call 618-402-1690.

Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for
1,900 students located 20 minutes north of Charlotte in Davidson, N.C.
Since its establishment in 1837 by Presbyterians, the college has
graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently regarded as one of
the top liberal arts colleges in the country. Through The Davidson
Trust, the college became the first liberal arts institution in the
nation to replace loans with grants in all financial aid packages,
giving all students the opportunity to graduate debt-free. Davidson
competes in NCAA athletics at the Division I level, and a longstanding
Honor Code is central to student life at the college.