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V 35 Issue 26

 
 
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ACT Theatre: Shoes tell this compelling story
ACT Theatre: Shoes tell this compelling story
by Miryam Gordon - SGN A&E Writer

Etta Phifer's Testimonial Shoe Kismet
By Shontina Vernon
Directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton
Starring Shontina Vernon, Demene Hall
Hansberry Project at ACT Theatre
June 16-July 8


Etta Phifer likes shoes. She likes shoes so much that she places them strategically around the room, so she can converse with them properly. She wants to introduce her shoes to a new pair, but somehow, one has gone mysteriously missing. Before she can complete the introduction, Etta wants to find the other shoe.

Etta's purchase of a new pair of shoes is precipitated by her wish to celebrate her 80th birthday in style. However, we learn that shoes are really the only friends she has left. Meanwhile, a spirit or sprite or gremlin or&..has stolen Etta's shoe for herself. This spirit, Kismet, also likes shoes. She (yes, "she" seems the right gender word) constantly tries on shoes. There is a connection here, but it's one you fill in with your own ideas. This is the nonlinear portion of the evening.

Demene Hall, as Etta, is a charismatic and funny woman. She seems gracious and kind, but somehow has ended up with no remaining friends or family. She evens tells her shoes about having sent a man she loved away, because she was afraid to be too involved with him.

Shontina Vernon is the spirit/sprite Kismet. Her decision is to play Kismet with movements that remind one of cerebral palsy in our world. Maybe in her world, she moves normally to others. She displays grace and joy in the character.

This one-act play is the second full production of The Hansberry Project that is housed at ACT Theatre. Named after activist-playwright Lorraine Hansberry, the project is focused on developing theater based on the black experience and culture, either through productions of classic plays written by black playwrights or by collaborating on new productions with black playwrights.

Shontina Vernon has written this new play and is a graduate of the UW. She is the first playwright to be awarded a new fellowship, the Louise Jones McKinney Fellowship for African American Playwrights. Louise McKinney is known for her many efforts to support the arts in Seattle, including being a board member of ACT Theatre. Valerie Curtis-Newton, Artistic Director of The Hansberry Project, reports that one fellowship will be awarded each year. Although this year a local playwright was the recipient, the fellowship is open to any black playwright across the country. However, local playwrights get a "leg up." They may submit a script, directly. Non-local playwrights' scripts will need to be submitted by a theatrical organization, instead.

The next full production will be "The Mojo and the Sayso" by Aishah Rahman, opening in September. This play is considered a classic, since it was written in the late 80s.

To find out more about this production or The Hansberry Project, go to www.acttheatre.org or call 206-292-7676.

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