Senior Directs “Our Lady of 121st Street” At Holden
By Brianda Reyes ’14, News Section Editor
Exploring racial and social stereotypes and the nature of human connection, a 12-person cast performed “Our Lady of 121st Street” at the Holden Theater from October 28-30. Under the direction of Estefania Colon ’11, the play focuses on the aftermath of events that follows the theft of the dead body of the beloved Sister Rose. Colon will incorporate her experience directing the play, as well as the reactions of the actors and audience, into her senior thesis.

Colon’s thesis revolves around how the audience and actors receive a play with gender, racial and sexuality issues as they explored and adapted to the characters. Due to strong stereotypes and, in some characters’ cases, traumatic experiences, the actors had to separate themselves from their characters.

“I was curious to see how people would receive [the play] because it had a lot of stereotypes,” said Colon.

The process to direct “Our Lady of 121st Street” began when Colon decided to major in theatre. Knowing that she would be directing for her thesis, she began to brainstorm possibilities for her play in the second semester of her junior year, finally coming up with six, which she then brought before the theater board. After eliminating some choices because they were not deep enough and others because they had been performed too recently, together Colon and the theatre board settled on “Our Lady”.

“I was looking for a play that focused on real issues, that was deep in psychology,” Colon said.

Colon faced a difficulty when the play, originally scheduled to be performed in November, was changed to October. She was afraid that she would not be able to find enough people to audition to be able to fit all of the characters. However, she managed to find a cast she enjoyed working with.

The play was entirely under Colon’s direction; however, she was not without help. She cites the department’s specialist in play direction and also her thesis advisor, Assistant Professor Ron Bashford, as essential to the success of the play. Bashford helped cast, design and polish many of the character portrayals. However, Colon had the las say about all final decisions about the creative aspects of the play.

“While I did give her lots of advice, the execution and creative decisions were hers alone,” Bashford said. “Estefania proved especially adept at applying broad principles to specific creative problems, which is just what she needed to be able to do.”

In order to gather feedback from the audience, Colon scheduled post-performance discussion sessions which were held immediately after the performance. During these discussions, Colon asked the audience a few questions which she could use to gauge their reactions to the play.

“During the post-show discussion, Estefania was able to collect more nuanced observations from audience members,” Bashford said. “There were quite interesting discussions, about racial stereotypes in particular.”

The actors were also deeply affected by the play, in which they played characters such as a homosexual actor, an alcoholic policeman and a war veteran Catholic priest. With such roles exploring such different situations, the actors had to set aside their pre-established perceptions and adapt to their characters. Shanika Audige ’12 played the role of Inez, an angry, “urban” black woman.

“Being Inez scared me most of the time because I’ve seen her character before in my own life, in my own family,” Audige said. “In playing the role of Inez I had to come to terms with the questions: So what if you are the stereotype? Does that define you? And the answer is no.”

Colon will continue her feedback-gathering process by joining with different student groups to discuss the stereotypes and ideas which the play explores. The positive reactions from the audience reflected not only their enjoyment of the play, but also their artistic appreciation for it.

“It shocked me how well it was received,” Colon said. “I was really impressed with how the pieces of the puzzle came together.”

Issue 08, Submitted 2010-11-03 02:53:20