Viewers filled the seats of the Ronald O. Davis Acting Studio on Saturday as Florida A&M’s Essential Theatre presented a play reading series called “Deals with the Devil and Other Reasons to Riot.”
Set in Club Zebra’s Shop, the cast presented performance pieces from the book written by award-winning playwright Pearl Cleage, who is known to challenge issues like domestic violence against women, family values, racism, and sexual independence.
Kerrah Sharpe, a cast member from Tallahassee, said she was proud to be part of the project and was pleased with attendance. She said being part of the presentation has taught her a lot as a performer.
“It was not hard … to put myself in the character’s shoes,” Sharpe said. “It forced me to grow and research.”
Each cast member narrated a piece that closely examined issues such as love, sex, family, sexism and domestic violence from a feminine perspective.
Director of the reading series, Valencia Matthews, wanted to give the audience a series that was honest, raw and uncensored through the eyes of women. Matthews enjoyed Paige’s plays and book and was compelled to teach, and orchestrate performances involving her work.
“I always wanted to do the reading of her essays, so this year it was the right time,” Matthews said. “It was an honest attempt to say I love her work.”
She said the message that she wants to send is that women have to stand together, regardless of socio-economic backgrounds, because sexism is still real.
“Deals with the Devil and Other Reasons to Riot” was a combination of singing and humor. The performers were also interactive with the audience.
Anastasia Moshy, a senior theater performance student from, said she enjoyed the play and thought it was relevant for students and community members to see how women are portrayed.
“The show was a real eye-opener, and it allows us to think and be progressive and realize we still have a lot of things to do to come together as black women and people,” Moshy said.