Race can be a dividing factor in any community. In America, it’s been a catalyst for violence, oppression, and community unrest. Still, a number of citizens are working diligently to repair the racial rifts in our country and move forward.
As community members continue to overcome issues of prejudice and racism, others are addressing such problems using creativity. Take for instance University of Houston-Downtown junior Shatara Hale, who has written a play titled “Negro.”
This weekend, Houstonians will have an opportunity to experience Hale’s work during a limited engagement at Frenetic Theater (5102 Navigation Blvd.). Performances are at 7:30 p.m., Nov. 11 – 13.
Tickets are $20 and $10 for students. They can be purchased on Eventbrite.com or by calling 832-918-9647.
The play addresses the recent spate of violence affecting African Americans and looks at all sides of the story. She focuses on both the victims and police officers, offering different perspectives on the problem. The play is set in both Houston and New York. Cast members include professional actors including Uju Edoziem and Kurt Bilanoski.
Hale wrote “Negro” last year under the guidance of professor Willioneita Pittman, but its primary inspiration was the number of news stories reporting incidents of racially-motivated acts of violence.
“I was reading and watching the news. These stories bothered me,” said Hale, a creative writing major. “But I had a dream that what happened in these stories happened to me. I woke up with my heart beating and I was crying. I texted myself how I felt at that moment, and I knew that God had given me a vision and I needed to get the message out.”
Hale said that Pittman was particularly helpful in helping her transition this story from her mind to the script page and ultimately to the stage.
“She made sure that I delved into each character’s background,” Hale said. “I had about five pages of notes for each background character. By the time, I sat down to write the script, it pretty much wrote itself.”
Joining Hale for the premiere of “Negro” will be her two year-old twins Noah and Cobe. Hale discovered UHD after previous academic forays at other institutions. She pursued acting in New York, but decided to pursue a degree after becoming a mother. She eventually made her way to Houston and while working downtown took notice of UHD.
“It’s been a very good experience,” she said. “The theater classes here have taught me to look at scripts and plays in new ways. The faculty here and the courses are very inspirational. I can’t think of anything that would make me excited to get up at 8 o’clock in the morning, but UHD has done that.”