This week marks the opening of the St. Louis Black Repertory Company’s 40th anniversary season with the Midwest premiere of “Miss Julie, Clarissa & John,” a play by Mark Clayton Southers.
The Black Rep’s founder and producing director Ron Himes, actress Alicia Like and artistic associate Linda Kennedy joined St. Louis on the Air on Friday to discuss the production and the rest of the season.
“Forty years ago we couldn’t imagine we’d still be producing shows and growing at the rate that we’ve grown,” Himes said of the company’s 40 years in theater productions.
“Miss Julie, Clarissa & John” is based on an 1888 August Strindberg play that was set in Sweden. In this version, the action is moved to a Reconstruction-era Virginia plantation.
“It’s a triangle of sorts, for love, for power, for property,” said Kennedy, who also serves as the production’s assistant director. “It is set after the Civil War, so there’s this sense of freedom but not quite. Equality but not equal: a sense of trying to find your own personal balance as well as community balance.”
Himes said that the play is particularly relevant today because of power struggles in terms of gender and race.
“Clarissa and John are servants now on a plantation where they were once slaves,” said Himes. “Miss Julie is the daughter of the guy who owns the plantation. There is about to be a change of power as the man is dying in terms of who controls the property. Who will control the relationships between Miss Julie and Clarissa and John? I think that in a lot of ways, the dynamics in those relationships speak to dynamics we still see today.”
Like said that the play is timely and hopes the play will spark conversations and realizations about today.
“Race relations in our country are a big issue and those conversations need to be had — ‘Miss Julie, Clarissa & John’ starts those conversations and as you watch the play you see parallels,” Like said.
This season will see three other plays that “move the dialogue forward,” Himes said. “Lines in the Dust,” running January 11-29, 2017, is about underperforming neighborhood schools. “Seven Guitars,” running March 29-April 23, 2017, looks at African Americans in the music industry. “Crossin’ Over,” running May 24-June 18, 2017, will trace the evolution of songs of faith over time in African American history.
What: The Black Rep Presents “Miss Julie, Clarissa & John” by Mark Clayton Southers
When: September 9 - 25, 2016
Where: Edison Theatre at Washington University, 6465 Forsyth Blvd, St. Louis, MO 63105
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