This past weekend, the Florida A&M Essential Theater shined with its first Fall 2012 production of “The Story.”
Written by Tracy Wilson Scott, The Story is a fictional tale about an African American woman named Yvonne, played by Noelle Strong, and loosely based on the 1980s Janet Cooke scandal. Cooke wrote a fictional feature story titled “Jimmy’s World,” about an 8-year-old heroin addict named Jimmy, which won her a Pulitzer Prize.
“The Story” was a proven audience pleaser, with a nearly sold out auditorium . The auditorium lit up with applause whenever the cast did anything remotely humerous. At times the cast, if only briefly, lost their composure.
“I was able to take part in making the set and had so much fun doing it,” said Netta-Rachelle Roberts, a senior theatre performance student from Tampa. “Working on stage and behind the scenes with the Essential Theatre had been a dream come true for me.
Studded with accolades and a seemingly impressive resume, Yvonne assumed she would begin her career in her Metro section. But, to her dismay, she is placed in the Outlook section, which is staffed mostly by African Americans.
Frustrated with the beat she is assigned and an editor, Pat, played by Simone Curry, who is unrelenting and unsympathetic; Yvonne seeks to transfer as quick as she can. Suddenly, into her lap falls the apparent confession of Latisha, played by Carolle Cox, a young woman “from the hood but not of the hood,” who claims to have just recently killed an inner city school teacher.
The play follows the months in which Yvonne seeks to compose this groundbreaking story that could make her career. Resulting in the published story, which draws much criticism for her use of an anonymous source.
Like Cooke, Yvonne fabricated much of her identity, and in the resulting scenes all that was done in the dark comes to the light. Steeped in ambiguity, The Story leaves an ending open to interpretation by the audience, just as the playwright intended.
Carole Cox, the actor who portrayed Latisha, said that she chose the character because she identifies with her. “She is just like me low key and smart,” said Cox. She also said that she and her director had many discussions to determine whether Latisha was real.
“I chose the perspective to make my audience start to question if the character Latisha really exist,” said Marci Duncan, director of “The Story.” “I wanted you to think about the truth and lies and what is that point you would go to get what you want.”
“This play did shine a light on how hard it can be to get recognition and be seen as a credible black journalist,” said Brittanie Wright, a FAMU alumna who attended in support of Carole Cox. “The play had a great story line and no table was left unturned in reference to the plot.”
The shows final curtain call was Sunday afternoon. Show goers said the production was the best yet of the entire year.
“I laughed so much during the first 30 minutes alone.” said Thomas Bailey, a junior sociology student from Jacksonville. “ But along with the laughs, this was a huge eyeopener for me about the politics many African Americans have to deal with in the work place. It provided a wonderful lesson for everyone and I would love to see it again.”