Justin R. @ 'By the Way, Meet Vera Stark' - desperate to dull the ambitions of people of color

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

The story of a beautiful woman of color and her meteoric rise to stardom.

MY EXPERIENCE.

This is a play conscious of color and the legacy of African-Americans. It highlights the hurdles people like Vera Stark had to overcome trying to shine in a time desperate to dull the ambitions of people of color. By the Way, Meet Vera Stark was a canvas of colors and adventures. My mouth dropped at the humor, the adventure and the adversity. My investment in the experience was due to the fantastic staging at Signature Theatre, which immersed the audience with realistic, beautiful sets.

In fact, it was the penthouse scene, which shined with ribbons of gold and gleams of wine glasses, that really caught my attention. There, Vera Stark worked for an aspiring actress whose personality was outrageous and humorous, but the racial jabs that she dealt couldn’t be discounted. It was something that made me dislike her, despite her humor.

Vera Stark, on the other hand, inspired me with a more gentle humor. In spite of the odds as an aspiring black actress (at a time which trivialized black acting roles) she followed her wild dreams! Her determination sparked motivation straight from the lights of the stage to my heart.

Yet those sparks ceased as the play went on and the grim reality of her ascent was revealed. Meet the older Vera Stark: the same beautiful woman of color alongside young Vera Stark memories — a star divided. As scholars and the older Vera Stark reflected on her career, my heart sank realizing the amount of struggle she had endured on the basis of her skin color and how it defined much of her life.

And though the play left me awestruck, with memorable characters and a plot as exciting as a carnival, it did remind me that, in spite of the images we put out there, there are unpleasant realities behind stories of struggle.

In February we celebrate famous African-Americans to remind ourselves that the stars we know (with likeness to Vera Stark) were humans who shattered the chains of segregation so we could have a celebration of color on stage today, tomorrow and forevermore.

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