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REVIEW: A Tale of Two Mothers in Radio Play of Toni Morrison’s “The Bluest Eye”

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Cathleen Riddley. Photo courtesy of Aurora Theatre Company.

Michael Asberry. Photo courtesy Stuart Locklear Photography

The Aurora Theater is finishing up a run for radio of the stage adaptation of Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, “The Bluest Eye.” 

Just past Mother’s Day, the tale of two moms, adapted for the stage by Lydia R. Diamond, we meet Mrs. Breedlove and Mama as actor Cathleen Riddley takes on both personas. Perhaps the actor’s success lies in the potential inherent in each of us to do the same if given certain experiences within fixed structural policies or historic mapping.

What does Black geography look like? 

Mrs. Breedlove sees herself as beautiful until she believes the lie. Her melanin too much for a world without color, she frightens her neighbors, even other Black people who are trying to get along and so she stifles her fire; covers her flame until it is little more than a spark, just enough to throw her legs over the side of the bed, put feet into worn, yet comfortably familiar shoes until the weight of her Blackness settles like an anvil upon her once proud shoulders . . . and so, into this world Pecola is born– a beautiful brown baby girl.

     With her marriage to Cholly (Michael J. Asberry), an orphan rescued for a garbage heap, Mrs. Breedlove was so looking forward to this new, sweet life. Leaving behind loved ones — a community reminder to the newlyweds that they mattered —  the newlyweds head north to the bare northern region Lorrain, Ohio, where that sense of self-worth is absent.

All Pecola (Jasmine Milan Williams) wants is for Mrs. Breedlove, her mom, and Cholly, her dad, to love her. Constantly wishing to disappear from the violence and unhappiness furnishing all the rooms in her life, the child notices how in the absent body– her eyes are always left. Her soul refuses to shut its eyes. Perhaps the windows remain open as a witness. Pecola wants to be gone completely– she does not want to take anything forward into the fairy tale captured in films with blonde, blue-eyed heroines or the pretty “light-skinned” girls at school who get all the attention.

Mama, on the other hand, is the mother of Frieda and Darlene (Sam Jackson), two girls who are Pecola’s friends. After a fire, Pecola stays with the girls’ family while their home is being repaired. Pecola has an opportunity to see and perhaps imagine another version of her story. Frieda and Darlene’s mother and father are so different from her own. The story takes place over a season beginning in Autumn.

Dawn Monique Williams, the director, says the Aurora production is for all the Black girls and women who couldn’t find a space to be free, where beauty and liberation were synonymous. 

    “The Bluest Eye” is an adult story, even if the narrator is a child. There is rape, physical violence, and death. It is what one might call a tragedy, so take care of yourself and listen to loved ones. You will want to talk with others afterward. One can feel the love shared among the cast, director, and creative production team. The sound design (Elton Bradman) is marvelous and you will probably never forget this story. We need to be gentle with each other. We literally do not know who is on the other side of the mask, but we can still hold each other in love and light as we recognize their humanity as we look in their eyes as we pass.

    As I spoke to cast members over a week in a series of radio conversations, my suggestion is to listen to all the perspectives. Each is singularly enlightening. It is pretty amazing to watch the actors slip in and out so seamlessly. between personas. There is also laughter and lightness within this story as in life.

    In its 29th Season, it is to its credit that Aurora Theatre allowed Williams, associate director, to take it on a creative journey unlike any before. We hope such excursions continue. Toni Morrison’s work, “The Bluest Eye” is among the classics in the Western canon.

Apply the Family Discount code: BluestCNC50 for half-price tickets: For tickets visit https://www.auroratheatre.org/thebluesteye or call (510) 843-4822

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Go Fund Geoffrey’s

Whether it was Paul Mooney, Faye Carroll, Sugar Pie or Jay-Z performing or whether it was Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Mayor Elihu Harris, or Kamala Harris along with many of the Bay area’s elected officials they too have come to bask in the limelight of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle.

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Geoffrey's Inner Circle

For more than 30 years Geoffrey Pete ‘s business, Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, has been a cultural hub because of its full-service restaurant, live entertainment, nightclub parties, jazz music and community special occasion events. Faith-based organizations have also rented the spacious facilities for services and concerts. Their full-service restaurant, bar and live entertainment business along with their tenants and multilevel event rental spaces have been severely interrupted and devastated by the COVID 19 lockdowns and restrictions.

Whether it was Paul Mooney, Faye Carroll, Sugar Pie or Jay-Z performing or whether it was Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Mayor Elihu Harris, or Kamala Harris along with many of the Bay area’s elected officials they too have come to bask in the limelight of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle. Now those lights are dimmed due to the economic conditions that have descended on high intensity people-contact businesses.

Thanks to a group of customers and supporters a Go Fund Me page has been opened for the public to contribute to support Geoffrey’s Inner Circle https://gofund.me/b2541419.

The Post newspaper has notified the Oakland African American Chamber of Commerce that regular articles concerning the needs of Geoffrey’s and other Black-owned Businesses will be published weekly.

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Entertainment

‘The Neighborhood’ Welcomes New Executive Producer Meg DeLoatch 

Firing on more than one cylinder and beyond the comedic arena, DeLoatch wrote on VH-1’s hit drama, “Single Ladies” and is completing a middle school fantasy novel about a boy who fights demons.

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Meg DeLoatch/ CBS

Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., is in the house and in “The Neighborhood.” 

CBS Studios has brought aboard Meg DeLoatch as executive producer and showrunner to guide its popular Monday night, family-centered sitcom starring Cedric the Entertainer and Max Greenfield.

DeLoatch, a proud member of the iconic African American national sorority, is an award-winning Hollywood veteran who’s written and produced a variety of hit shows during her acclaimed entertainment career.  She’s the recipient of two (2021, 2020) NAACP Image Awards and nominated for a 2020 Writers Guild Award for Netflix’s “Family Reunion,” the multi-generational family series she created and currently serves as its executive producer.

An advocate for diversity and inclusion, DeLoatch assembled one of the first all-Black writers’ rooms to authentically voice the comedy series starring Tia Mowry-Hardrict (“Sister Sister”), Anthony Alabi (“Insecure”), and Emmy-winner Loretta Devine (“The Carmichael Show”).  Richard Roundtree (the original John Shaft) guest stars as Grandpa.

An impressive list of industry credits for DeLoatch range from family-friendly shows including Disney Channel’s “Raven’s Home” and “Austin & Ally” to adult comedies “Born Again Virgin,” “Bette,” (CBS) and “Brothers,” (FOX). DeLoatch created and executive-produced UPN’s romantic comedy, “Eve,” starring Grammy Award-winning Hip Hop artist Eve.  She wrote and executive produced TV One’s comedy series, “Here We Go Again,” starring LeToya Luckett and Wendy Raquel Robinson.

Firing on more than one cylinder and beyond the comedic arena, DeLoatch wrote on VH-1’s hit drama, “Single Ladies” and is completing a middle school fantasy novel about a boy who fights demons.

The Maryland native is no stranger to celebrity stratosphere having worked with Bette Midler, Jennie Garth and Ice Cube.  Early on, DeLoatch combined her interests in theater, literature and visual media to earn an interdisciplinary degree from American University.  She subsequently moved to California and the rest is Hollywood history.

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