Student-written play asks audience to examine what role they play in racism.
The first thing that comes to mind when Taahira Davis ’19 thinks of “The Medusa Play” by Angela Antoinette Bey ’19 is “black excellence.” Davis plays Carly in Ursinus’ production of the play, which is directed by Tamanya Garza and which premiered last week in the Blackbox Theater.
“The Medusa Play” revolves around a black female performer, Meddie, who went to a majority white college, as she auditions for a play and works through her relationships with her friends, roommates, and significant other. This show is not like what Ursinus has put on before. It is the first time in 20 years that a student-written piece is on the main stage as well as the first time a piece by a black student has been produced.
“The Medusa Play” aims to “reach out to black females and to empower them,” said Davis, especially through the way that the play revolves around the Medusa myth. “Medusa was a monster, with green skin, and snakes for hair and everything. So, there’s talk about if she was black. It is kind of trying to take that myth and flip it. Instead of being seen as a monster, she is being seen as something beautiful,” Davis said.
Bey’s hope in writing the play was to get people “to think about how they are perceived by people. So much of this play is about the white gaze and navigating that and it’s so specific to the Black experience, but I think we all can relate to people projecting their ideas of who they think we are onto us and us either embodying that or rejecting that and then being judged for either one of those decisions.”
“My favorite scene is when Meddie is telling Carly about the Medusa myth and Carly is just trying to run lines because she is in a production of Othello. Basically, they get into an argument because Meddie questions Carly’s blackness, and says you’re not acting black enough for my taste,” said Davis.
This scene is Davis’ favorite because of the emotions and the power between herself and Zana Lee ’19, who plays Meddie. Playing Carly, Davis has learned about how important it is to know your own worth. Davis said, “Meddie tries to challenge Carly, but Carly doesn’t back down. She says, I know who I am, you might have the issue of questioning me, but you need to reevaluate your thinking because I know that I am right inside.”
The show asks the audience to reevaluate their actions, how they communicate with others, how they approach others and whether what they are doing is benefiting the community. However, the implications of the show reach beyond personal introspection. Bey said, “I want the campus to know that black people are not a monolith. . . to welcome diversity of black stories that are being told and by extension, the diversity of black people. I want them to be hungry for making relationships with black people that are not just surface level. I want them to feel implicated in investing in the lives of people of color on this campus.”
Sophie Gioffre ’19 responded that the play is “definitely jarring for me. I am someone who is a white female, who is very interested in racial studies and critical race studies, who is on my journey to becoming the best white ally I can be. It forces me to challenge myself and question if I am being problematic.”
Audience members will be awestruck by this powerful work, which asks every individual to examine their actions and evaluate what role they play in the racism of our society. Bey hopes that audience members will have a strong reaction to this play. They said, “If you want to walk out, you can walk out. If you want to not talk about it after the performance because you hated it that much, that’s awesome.”