The newest production of Northern Kentucky University’s Theatre Deparment is part social commentary and part history lesson.
The Colored Museum opened with a group of college-aged students watching the results of the 2008 presidential election. During their celebration over President Barack Obama’s victory, they are morphed into a kind of alternate universe where they experience The Colored Museum and its interactive exhibits.
The actual play is made up of 11 different vignettes, all of which are satirized African-American stereotypes — some of which include “Git’ on Board”, “Cookin’ with Aunt Ethel”, “The Photo Session” and “Soldier with a Secret”, all of which are hilarious, but sometimes makes you think, “Oh, I shouldn’t be laughing at this.”
“Git’ on Board” was perhaps the most moving, as it portrayed images of racism across the span of hundreds of years. Slaves with their backs whipped to ribbons, police unleashing fire hoses on protestors and the hope-inspiring face of Martin Luther King, Jr. are just some of the images that ran across the screen while the annoyingly perky stewardess, Miss Pat, outfitted in a very patriotic red, white and blue ensemble, directed newly-captured slaves on the way to properly fit their shackles to their wrists and continually reminds them that “there is no drumming allowed on board.”
Director Brian Robertson elaborated that when Miss Pat reminds passengers (and theater-goers, at the end of the production) that “any belongings you leave behind, we’ll trash” is supposed to be a reinforcement of the ideology of “trashing racist perceptions” to better understand and identify with our fellow man.
The Colored Museum was written by the African-American dramatist George C. Wolfe in 1985 and premiered in 1986 at The Crossroads Theatre in New Brunswick, N.J.
According to Wolfe, penning it was “an exorcism” (according to a mention in the playbill).
“It’s about getting rid of stereotypes – not only that society has of black people, but that black people maintain,” said NKU student-actor Romeo Armand Seay, who entertained with his portrayal of multiple characters, including Guy, Kid and Waiter, commented after the show.
Audrey Weatherby, who was the TV studio garments designer, said that the play gives a “controversial view of black America” and rightly believes that an appreciation for diversity “is much needed on (NKU’s) campus.”
I went into the theater not knowing a thing about the performance, and I think that if I had known beforehand that the play is actually made up of the 11 different vignettes, then that would have enhanced my enjoyment, because the scenes move very fast and I sometimes found myself wondering what was actually going on. The costumes were very impressive, especially those worn by Miss Roj.
The character was played by freshman Montez O. Jenkins, who should have gone by the title Miss Fabulous, as he strutted across the stage outfitted from head to his go-go booted toe in silvery-white sequins and blue eye shadow, with a huge “R” emblazoned on his sequined belt.
Opening curtain times will be at 8 p.m. through Saturday, Feb. 27, and at 3 p.m. on Sun- day, Fen. 28, which will be the last show. Student tickets are just $8 and are available at the Fine Arts Building in Room 259 of the Corbett Theatre Lobby.
Story by Betina Kemker