The African-American Theatre Program at the University of Louisville strives to bring awareness of issues, past and present, to the forefront of discussion through theatrical presentations such as Mad at Miles: A Black Woman’s Guide to Truth. The program gained notoriety with students of all races at U of L and within the Louisville community. This adaptation of Pearl Cleage’s book casts six women in the production under the direction of Lundeana Thomas, Ph.D., also the Director of the African-American Theatre Program on campus.
Triza Cox, Renea Brown, Jody Ann Henry, Tamara Kamara, Jocelyn Matsuo, and Kristi Papailler provide stellar performances in Mad at Miles. These young ladies come together through voice, song, and dance to provide the audience with vivid images of life for black women in past and present times. The stage set is simple, yet effective; providing the women ample space with sensible props with which to tell their stories.
Scenes from this adaptation range from the times of women in the Amazon through the turn of the 20th century and end with current issues women face. Essentially, the play strives to inform the public of the plights of women. In the opening minutes, the oration depicts the women of the Amazon, who, for many years survived on their own accord; the time “before the men came”, repeated many times in this scene. Thoughts of strength, community, and sustainability are reiterated. As the production turns toward a time when a woman could be “lured” away by a gentleman caller, the audience sees a woman who enthralled with a man who treats her like a queen until he beds her. After he succeeds in his conquest, she is shunned, yet accepted back into the circle of trusted women who forewarned her.
The actors remain true to their roles as the audience is taken to the period in which Davis becomes involved with actress Cicely Tyson. The play’s title becomes clear when the audience hears the hurtful and demeaning words penned by Davis, concerning his relationship with Tyson. The manner Davis wrote about Tyson only solidifies Cleage’s anger with him while it confirms the views some men hold about women, Cleage writes, “Either we think it’s a crime to hit us, or we don’t.” These views have not improved with time, as increases in violent crimes against women are still very much an issue.
Photo: Courtesy of University of Louisville Theatre Arts Program
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