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THE CHANTICLEER

Opening the door to diversity

An inside look at CCU theatre department’s production of Saturday Night/Sunday Morning
Jackie%2C+played+by+Kassidy+Young%2C+and+Mabel%2C+played+by+Chlo%C3%A9+Holmes+during+a+scene+in+the+production.
Keller Goldstein
Jackie, played by Kassidy Young, and Mabel, played by Chloé Holmes during a scene in the production.

Coastal Carolina University’s theatre department put on the play Saturday Night/Sunday Morning, written by Katori Hall, Nov. 3-5 and 8-12.  

This show takes place in Memphis, Tennessee at Miss Mary’s Press and Curl beauty parlor and boarding house over the final days of WWII. It gives a look into the relationships formed between the women, as well as the impacts that their men leaving for war has had on them. 

When sisters Taffy and Mabel have had enough of Leanne’s constant state of depression due to the lack of letters from her solider Bobby, they convince aspiring journalist Gladys to write to Leanne as if she was Bobby. This show highlights themes such as love, loss, sisterhood, faith, homosexuality, discrimination and loneliness.  

As this show was written about people of color (POC) and by a POC, CCU hired a guest director as well as a guest designer to come in and put the show on. Some actors and actresses said they believe they decided to outsource for the show due to the fact CCU’s theatre department does not have any POC professors.   

Dawn Monique Williams was the guest director brought in, who has a lot of experience in directing and is best known for directing the premier of Gracia Morales’s award-winning play “NN12,” and has experience directing both realism and heightened texts.  

Although Williams had never head of Coastal prior to getting asked to direct, after discussing the student population she would be serving with department Chair Steven Higginbotham, she said she was “really excited to say yes.” 

Williams said she agreed to direct Saturday Night/Sunday Morning at CCU because she was excited to work with this student population.  

“To be able to work with young people on this material and especially seven young women was really exciting,” Williams said.  

Along with this, she was happy Coastal decided to have a woman of color direct this show due to the cultural significance in the show and the fact that it allowed the actors to be authentically themselves to a collaborative environment.  

Not only did this show impact the creative team, but it had a profound impact on the actors as well.  

Senior Bachelor of Arts theatre major Teniia Brown, who played Gladys in the show, said the show might not have benefitted the right audience.  

“If I’m being completely honest, we prayed for times like this, but I feel like it’s not affecting anyone but the people of color,” she said.  

Although the actors are grateful for the opportunity and the environment created in the show, it became frustrating at times that the show was not causing as much change as originally projected.  

“Some of them aren’t doing it intentionally. It’s just the fact that that’s what they’re used to doing. You know what I mean? So, it’s just like we kind of expected it,” Brown said.  

Senior theatre major Teniia Brown performs as Gladys on stage at the production of Saturday Night/Sunday Morning. (Keller Goldstein)

However, senior theatre major Destiny Toney, who played Taffy in the production, said she felt the show had a very positive impact. Jayde Torres, a sophomore theatre major who played the role of Leanne, agreed.

“[It] definitely brought us closer together with other people of color for the department as a whole,” Torres said.  

She noted that although she finds herself feeling boxed out often times, she is glad that opportunities such as this for students of color exist.  

Sophomore B.A. theatre major Chloe Holmes also played a role in the show and is new to CCU this year. Holmes, who played Mabel, agreed with both Brown and Toney on some of their viewpoints. She expressed her frustrations with the lack of excitement from her peers.  

Chloe Holmes as Mabel in SNSM. (Keller Goldstein)

“Even though it’s a smaller show, it’s still impactful and powerful,” Holmes said.  

Torres discussed how grateful they were to work with both the guest director and designer, but said it felt as though everyone came to opening night while attendance lacked for the other shows. Torres said they think the cast didn’t speak out about these issues due to the fact that they didn’t want to seem bratty or ungrateful, and noted that they didn’t want to sound like they were asking for too much.  

“When in reality it’s just the same as everybody else. We do not want to be above anybody else, we just want equality,” Torres said.  

Both Toney and Brown noted that in order to create more diverse casting, they need to have more diverse recruiting. 

“We don’t have any people of color professors either, so it’s almost like, you know, who are we supposed to look up to? Who we supposed to learn from, you know?” Brown asked.  

Looking toward the future, Holmes said she hopes other shows are modernized, rather than during the ‘40s during racial segregation. Although an important story to tell, the actors noted that there are many other shows involving a predominantly POC cast, that are not period pieces. 

Torres believes that without a POC faculty member, it is difficult to put on shows like this as it’s extremely expensive to hire a guest director every time.  

The process in which shows get chosen is through an elected season selection committee that includes students from every major in the theatre department, as well as professors. Brown was elected to be the B.A. theatre representative last year, giving her an inside look into this specific show being chosen. 

She said she felt as though she was the only one advocating for people of color. When assistant Professor of stage and production management Sadie Desantis saw that, she helped Brown conduct research and advocated for doing a show like this one.  

Brown said when Desantis presented this play specifically, everyone loved it. 

“Personally, I feel like they just liked it because they wanted to get the requirement out the way in the selection committee,” Brown said.  

The committee’s handbook guidelines the types of shows that should be presented in a wider scope, highlighting that shows written by POC should be presented as often as possible. As Brown discussed, they decided this would be the year they put one on.  

Torres, a fan of Halls writing, noted it felt very rushed as this play was just recently put on for the first time and is not even fully finished. Although she was excited about the show, she said there were definitely better options.  

Williams is also a Katori Hall fan and was shocked to hear that CCU was putting on a Hall play she’d never heard of. 

Trinity McCrorey, senior BFA design and production major, served as stage manager on the production. She said it’s a step in the right direction for the department and University. 

“Because this is the first, from my understanding, all black cast production, which one not only shows that the department is finally having enough people of color acting wise to be able to put something like this on and then two, that they have started to open their mind to different productions as well,“ she said. “I know there’s been different trials and tribulations in the past and this is just a great sign of stepping forward into the right direction.” 

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keller goldstein, Photographer
Hey there,  I’m Keller and I am beyond stoked to be the official photographer for The Chanticleer I am from Saint Louis, Missouri, and studying to get my BFA in theatre arts with a concentration in physical theatre here at CCU.   Aside from studying Physical Theatre, I am passionate about writing and producing music, directing, writing plays, traveling, film and cinematography, and of course, photography!    Although I got my start in concert, editorial, and conceptual photography, I have absolutely loved exploring the world of photojournalism this past semester and I look forward to showing you our school through my lens!

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    KelleyDec 2, 2023 at 8:59 am

    Brave & amazing cast. Pushing boundaries is never easy on either side, but this mom is proud of you all for taking on this heavy task of helping the next generation of actors who come after you. You are worth it, make them see you!

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