This is a news release from The University of Southern Mississippi
As The University of Southern Mississippi celebrates Black History month, Southern Miss Theatre opens its spring theatre season in Tatum Theatre with By The Way, Meet Vera Stark. Lynn Nottage, a Pulitzer Prize winning playwright and screenwriter, explores stereotypes and typecasting in her playful, sharp and poignant work.
Performance dates are Feb. 21, 25-28 at 7:30 p.m. and Feb. 22 and Mar. 1 at 2 p.m. A pre-show talk will take place at 1 p.m. prior to the Mar. 1 matinee performance. Tickets are $14 public; $10 faculty, staff, seniors, and military; $8 students and may be purchased by visitingwww.southernmisstickets.com or by calling 800-844-8425. Tickets are also sold at the box office prior to each performance.
Vera Stark is a talented African American actor and maid, determined to break into early Hollywood films. She must first contend with her competitive employer and an impossible industry.
Hillary Lewis, a Master's of fine arts in theatre performance candidate from Newport News, Va., plays the role of Vera Stark. Lewis believes the play is very relevant to audiences today.
“Not only is the style of the play extremely theatrical in its use of multimedia and stylized lighting, but the play also deals with themes such as racial discrimination and equality, gender roles and gives us a unique view in the way many black actresses during that time period were, to quote from the show, ‘both in their roles and commenting on them.'”
Emma Harr, a Master's of fine arts in theatre performance candidate from Atlanta, Ga., plays the role of Gloria.
“The show itself crosses through three separate time periods - the 1930s, 1970s and early 2000s - and examines the evolution of race relations, gendered power dynamics and status in Hollywood and the entertainment industry,” said Harr.
Harr goes on to say that this particular play is intensely relevant to the current social climate, noting how unfortunate it is to see story after story in the media about violent crimes being related to issues of race.
“I find myself hearing these stories and seeing so many similarities to the research I've done that goes back almost a hundred years ago - that yes, in general things are much better now than they were in 1933, but there are still so many obstacles ahead of us. This show reveals to us where we've come from, asks us to evaluate where we are now and asks just how far we have yet to go,” said Harr.
Lewis believes that By the Way, Meet Vera Stark is in theme with Black History Month at Southern Miss.
“This year's Black History Month theme is ‘to be young, gifted and black,' which ties in beautifully with this show, as Vera can be described with these identities. We see her struggle to stand in the light of fame, while recognizing the need for change in black America,” said Lewis.
“I am so excited to take part in such an important and thrilling production, and I can't wait to bring this piece of art to the Hattiesburg community,” Lewis added.
“This show has been lovingly crafted into being by an incredible company of extremely talented and passionate artists. This show has challenged all of us to learn and grow together, and I am beyond grateful for the experience,” said Harr.
For more information about the Department of Theatre, which is part of the College of Arts and Letters, call 601.266.4994 or visit www.usm.edu/theatre.