Racism, sex, drugs and relationships are some of the controversial issues addressed in Ed Bullins’ “The Taking of Miss Janie.”
The University of La Verne’s Bianca Shehata boldly chose this eye-opening production for her senior directing thesis.
The play, which was held in the Dailey Theatre from Feb. 17-19, deals with the drastic changes and movements during the 1960s.
Set at a party in California, it follows the lives of young college students trying to make sense of the confusion around them.
Jonathan Ernest, a freshman at American InterContinental University in Los Angeles, played Monty, one of the central, complex characters.
Junior Tera Forrest played Janie, a naïve young girl who Monty seduces.
Initially, Forrest had some reservations about the play’s content. However, she is more than thrilled to be part of the production.
“It took a while to grow on me,” Forrest said. “When I first read it, I was completely shocked. I was not sure what to make of it because of the racial slurs and the rape scene.”
The backbone of the play is their interracial relationship which is dissected by themselves, as well as their friends.
From black nationalists trying to find a voice to a Caucasian drug addict desperate for a fix, each of the diverse characters articulate their experiences regarding their past, present and future lives through candid monologues.
The provocative subject matter is what initially captivated Shehata.
“I wanted to bring something different to ULV,” Shehata said. “I wanted to shake things up a bit. It’s not Shakespeare or the traditional play you see everyday.”
Senior Christina Massengale, stage manager for “The Taking of Miss Janie,” agrees.
“I love the play,” Massengale said. “It opens eyes and ears to what’s around. It’s definitely going to make waves.”
Make waves it did.
With compelling performances from the talented cast, the audience gasped in disbelief and shock throughout the play as controversial topics, such as rape and racial tension, were bluntly addressed.
The most impressive aspect of the play was the interaction between the characters and the crowd.
The audience was treated as intimate friends, not as faceless spectators.
Shehata, who is a double major in both criminology and theater, began preparing for her directing thesis this past summer.
In January, she selected her cast and crew, who rehearsed either every day or every other day for the next six weeks.
From soundtrack selection to lighting, Shehata was involved in almost every aspect of the production.
“I pretty much do everything but act,” Shehata said.
Shehata recognizes her friend and stage manager, Massengale, as “my right-hand man” and a great help in the entire process.
After graduating this spring, Shehata has ambitious plans for her future.
She wants to continue her work in the theater, through writing and directing.
Shehata also has an interest in pursuing a career with the FBI.
Despite the unfortunate weather over the weekend, Massengale is pleased with the outcome of “The Taking of Miss Janie.”
“I thought the play went well considering the unexpected rain, but that’s just Mother Nature at her best,” Massengale said. “I also think that the actors did a great job. I think that those people who came to the show got a good message and got some good laughs out of a subject that is extremely heavy.”
Tracy Spicer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.