Second-act troubles afflict By the Way, Meet Vera Stark | Theater Review | Chicago Reader
By the Way Meet Vera Stark opened Off-Broadway May 9, at Second Stage. Theatre's Tony Kiser Theatre in New York City. The play can be seen at The. Title. By the Way, Meet Vera Stark. Playwright. Lynn Nottage. Director. Tlaloc Rivas. Category. Mainstage in Thayer. 1st Rehearsal. November. The heroine of Lynn Nottage's fiercely ambitious, wildly uneven By the Way, Meet Vera Stark is a black actress who makes the trip to Hollywood.
About - LYNN NOTTAGE
Her big break came inwhen famed Hollywood director Maximillian Von Oster gambled his career on a film adaptation of a little known southern novel called The Belle of New Orleans, written by Bernard St.
The novel, a classic melodrama, follows a year in the life of two slave sisters in New Orleans: The novel was originally conceived as an indictment of slavery and the caste system in the Deep South.
It was even viewed by some during that period as a provocative anti-slavery narrative. Cited as vulgar and unseemly, The Belle of New Orleans was publicly burned in front of the state capital in Louisiana on June 16, and subsequently banned throughout the south by politicians threatened by its sexual and racial politics.
Lynn Nottage - Wikipedia
Yet, inconceivably the book went on to become an underground hit, spawning popular theatrical spectacles that toured the nation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Produced in pre-code Hollywood, the film adaptation of The Belle of New Orleans starred screen legend Gloria Mitchell, but more interestingly, it launched the controversial career of Vera Stark.
She was subsequently signed to a multi-year contract at Celestial Pictures, but the studio squandered her talent on bit parts in B-movies. In her private life, Vera was plagued by misfortune.
She had two unsuccessful marriages: Coming up during the Depression, for instance, my dad obscured his Ashkenazic roots by Latinizing his first name Maurice, from Moisheclassicizing his middle name Alexander, after Alexander the Great and Teutonizing his surname Adler, from, well, something that wasn't Adler.
Others have had to resort to more extreme methods. Obviously, a name change alone wasn't going to give a Negro access to the good life in pre-Civil Rights Act America, though a high-yellow complexion and careful locution might.
Too dark to pass? Then it was a good idea to be phenomenally talented and resourceful. Josephine Baker found stardom by flirting with scandal en Francais.
Musicians like Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, by inventing jazz. Actors like Hattie McDaniel, Butterfly McQueen, and Stepin Fetchit, by simultaneously playing to and humanizing "subverting" is too strong a word white society's standard catalog of black caricatures.Women in Theatre: Lynn Nottage
The heroine of Lynn Nottage's fiercely ambitious, wildly uneven By the Way, Meet Vera Stark is a black actress who makes the trip to Hollywood in the early s, on a hunch that "maybe, just maybe times was ready to change," only to find herself employed as maid and nursemaid to a neurotic white movie star named Gloria Mitchell.
Stark breaks through anyway—cast, ironically enough, as a maid opposite that same Miss Mitchell—in an antebellum costume drama. The film, The Belle of New Orleans, becomes a classic, while Stark ages somewhat less gracefully and then seals her legend by disappearing.
By act two, set inscholars at a colloquium are arguing about her semiotics. Nottage won a Pulitzer Prize four years ago for Ruinedher devastating play about guerrilla war and sexual atrocity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. With Vera Stark she just as perceptively anatomizes African-American identity—its imposition, construction, and appropriation.
The problem is that the script's structure ultimately fails to support its insights.