San Francisco, CA, USA – San Francisco Playhouse continues its series of “Zoomlets” with Elizabeth Carter directing February 15th a free reading of the short play “Give Her God” by Candrice Jones.
This dark comedy involves two Black women, Nisha and Teen, who are bound in friendship to Amber, a 30-something white woman who is dying due to cancer. Advised by Amber’s parents that their friend’s illness is terminal, the two are summoned to Amber’s deathbed and, as well, to a command performance to attend the eventual funeral. In the meantime, these two must deal with the ugly issue of racism. The specifics around the issue may shock some, but they’re real, they’re intense, they’re sometimes humorous, and they engage the audience and create important conversations.
“I’d fallen in love with Candrice Jones a while ago when I read a wonderful play of hers called FLEX,” Bill English announced during his introduction of the reading. “She is a playwright you will all want to look out for; she is a rising talent.”
Playwright, poet, and educator Candrice Jones, hails from Dermott, Arkansas, and lives and works in Minneapolis where she is recipient of a 2019-2020 Many Voices Fellowship and a 2020-21 Jerome Fellowship from The Playwrights’ Center. She is a VONA Playwriting alum and recipient of a CalArts Critical Studies MFA. Jones is the author of the plays Crackbaby (a dark comedy and 2010 Wasserstein Prize Nomination), FLEX (a period drama developed at the 2020 Humana Festival of New American Plays), Counter-Curse (a comedy), A Medusa Thread (a drama dealing with the afterlife and rape), and tonight’s performance Give Her God.
“(Give Her God) is grounded in personal history,” Jones shared. “Fifteen years ago my closest friend passed of cancer. She was questioning all the reasons why she was so young and dying (32 at the time, not a drinker, not a smoker, liked having fun but just didn’t “indulge”) Jones’ friend was also from rural Arkansas. She was white and had an African American son. Her question to her friend, Jones: “Do you think this happened to me since I had sex with African American men….?” “Her father had disagreed with her dating black men,” Jones shared further. “My initial reaction was just understanding her history with race and racism from the rural south. What could lead her to ask that question at that very crucial point of her life- which ended a couple of weeks later… That stayed on my mind…” It stayed on Jones mind for a long time, playing over and over. “,I think racism is a sickness,” she shared, “a disease, and it can happen to our children… I hated that (my friend) passed with that question on her lips. I ‘m thinking of the fact that every person has histories with racism and how it impacts our choices and dwindles away at our humanity bit by bit.”
Director Elizabeth Carter is a Bay Area actor as well as director. Her theater credits include You Never Can Tell, Othello, As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, for California Shakespeare Theater, and The Crucible and The Convert for Marin Theatre Co.
“I’d been itching to do something with (Jones),” Carter shared. “The thing that jumped out at me (in Give Her God): the relationships that are born out of trauma, coming together because there is hardship- what is that friendship vs something that is organic? There is also this idea of who deserves redemption and at what cost to the people around them, to the person providing that redemption, and how do we love people who disappoint us- when someone we care about says or does something that shocks or surprises us.. or we wish we’d never heard. How do we move through that… Does love transcend that?” Gilbert shared the final touch that made her rush to take on this particular play: “Then throw in Black Jesus, and I was sold! There is a gift and there’s a cost…”
“My job,” English explained before the cast began the reading, “is basically to pick the play and pick the director. Elizabeth (Carter) chose the actors with the right qualities and talents to bring the characters’ traits out.” Carter did, in fact, make some terrific choices in casting Tristan Cunningham (The Fugitive, All Rise, and Lethal Weapon) as fast-talking“Teen,” Akilah Walker (chosen for ABC’s 2020 America Discovers Talent Digital Showcase) as emotional “Nish,” Garrett Turner (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Love in NY, and Madam Secretary) as smooth operator “Lucien,” and Luisa Frasconi (Medias Res) as woeful “Amber.” Most appreciated is Turner’s delivery of scripture during his lines, including his character’s rendition of John 14:3.
The magic of these LIVE Monday night “Zoomlets” is not only in the quality of the talent but also the fact that they are not all archived, so what you might see and hear live online is one-of-a-kind history in the making!
Before signing off tonight, San Francisco Playhouse co-founder and Artistic Director Bill English expressed gratitude to the Ohlone People for the use of their land. He also announced that SF Playhouse is currently in rehearsals for a co-production with the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre of Hieroglyph by Erica Dickerson Despenza. They’ll be shooting this production live- with three cameras!- and then broadcast. Stay tuned for that! In the meantime…
“Zoomlets” are a wonderful way to spend a Monday night “in.” Showtime begins at 7:00, with doors open virtually at 6:45pm. The Readings are free to the public, however prior registration is required for access to the livestream. And donations, of course, are gratefully accepted.
As SF Playhouse reminds: “Our programming throughout the Coronavirus crisis is only possible because of the incredible support of our community. Since we closed our doors in March (2020), hundreds of patrons have stepped up to ensure that our ghost light remains on. Thanks to people like you, we are able to:
-Pay more than a dozen full-time staff members and artists
-Keep 13 playwrights on commission, writing the plays of the future
-Maintain our lease on our theatre and rehearsal spaces
-Prepare for the day that we will welcome you into our theatre again.
Upcoming Zoomlets include:
-Monday, February 22 at 7:00pm: Perfect Numbers by Diana Burbano
-Monday, March 1 at 7:00pm: River’s Message by Conrad A. Panganiban
For further information please visit here: https://www.sfplayhouse.org/sfph/zoomlet/
Text ©2021 Michele Caprario
Screenshots by Michele Caprario, used with permission of SF Playhouse