Finding oneself, history is theme at ‘Funnyhouse’

Lauren Crist

Black Theatre Assoc. show opens tonight

A mellow saxophone is heard playing over the speakers. A woman in a nightgown walks back and forth across the floor, silently crying.

This is the pre-show to the Black Theatre Association’s production of “Funnyhouse of a Negro,” beginning tonight with an open dress rehearsal.

The play tells the story of Sarah, a young black woman in the 1960s who is haunted by her past and trying to find herself. The scenes that unfold take place in Sarah’s dream.

“(The theme of the play) is Sarah’s sense of identity and finding it and finding herself,” said Kelly Morgan, a senior theater performance major who plays Sarah’s mother. “She has all these parts of herself who she looks up to.”

The cast of characters consists of different identities of Sarah’s subconscious, such as Jesus, Queen Victoria Regina and Patrice Lumumba. Each character illustrates a different time in history and shows Sarah’s differing views on her identity.

“I play the mother, who is part of the reason Sarah has such a confused and conflicted life,” Morgan said. “She’s seen as ‘the lightest one,’ and ‘black is evil’ to Sarah. So, she has always been drawn to her mother.”

The play is mostly made up of monologues by the individual characters, and the powerful voices of the actors encompass the entire room.

The use of blackouts and flashlights add to the emotion of the monologues and help to create the mood of the production.

“My favorite part of the play is the ‘Funnyhouse Mirror Scene’ when I am doing my first monologue,” said Antoinette Comer, a sophomore theater major who plays Patrice Lumumba. “From where I am speaking, I can see my reflections in the mirrors along with the lights, and it looks really cool.”

It’s important for students to keep an open mind when watching the performance, said Brian Heigel, a sophomore theater performance major.

“Even if the audience doesn’t get the plot of a show as complex as this one, they will still feel the emotion,” Heigel said. “And that is a learning process in itself.”

The open dress rehearsal is at 9 p.m. today. There is also a performance at 7 p.m. tomorrow and at noon Wednesday in Room B005 in the Music and Speech building. Admission is free and is first come, first served.

The Black Theatre Association is for students of all nationalities. Its goal is to provide students with access to black theater.

“There are a lot of shows within the African American community that are just not done enough, and there are a lot of great stories that are just not being told,” Heigel said. “I think that the BTA brings this diversity back into the theater world and the public eye.”

Contact College of the Arts reporter Lauren Crist at [email protected].