Teresa Willis in Eenie Meanie. Photo-Bunbury Theatre
Written and performed by Teresa Willis
Review by Annette Skaggs.
Entire contents copyright © 2015 by Annette Skaggs. All rights reserved.
Think back a scant 50 years ago. In suburban America – in big towns and small. What kind of neighborhood did you live in? Did your world, including school, church and friends, revolve around your neighborhood? How diverse was it? Was your town segregated?
Chances are that if you lived in mid-60s Louisville, you did grow up in a segregated neighborhood and that is where we meet 5-year old Teresa. Teresa Willis’ one-woman play is an autobiography of her relationship with prejudice and love. While growing up in middle-class America, Ms. Willis takes us on an emotional roller coaster of affections and self-loathing that strikes chord after chord of realization of self.
This play hit me personally in that I grew up in the same area as she, although a few years between us, I was not immune to the goings on of the Civil Rights movements and the riots resulting from court-ordered bussing across the school district. I remember vividly the hatred that spewed from neighbors’ mouths and the lack of moral compass that humans can have in their interactions with one another. These are all topics that Ms. Willis explores with great clarity.
While we laugh as Teresa the child meets a black man for the first time we are quickly jarred by her innocence and wise-beyond-years acceptance of a person of a color other than the “flesh” from the Crayola box. She identifies the great novel To Kill a Mockingbird as a remarkable vehicle to explain how her views change as she grows older. As she speaks of the empathy that she has found for those around her, one cannot mistake that she is speaking from her heart – from her own experience.
For the next hour Ms. Willis takes us through the various stages of her life and loves, through different cities and careers, all infused with sex, love and yes, violence. She has referenced the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the aforementioned bussing riots, but she also delves into her own firsthand accounts of the Rodney King riots in LA in the 90’s and the election of the USA’s first African-American president, Barack Obama.
Ms. Willis premiered this work in 2003 in California and has found local, regional, national and international acclaim for its forthright and deeply enthralling and heartfelt virtuosic integrity.
Throughout the performance a stream of personal videos and snippets of archival videos play while songs introduce the vignettes. Even though most of the songs did not exist in the time frame from which the vignette was about to cover, each was appropriate to the topic at hand. One could not help but laugh when Smoking in the Bathroom booms over the speakers while Ms. Willis talks about High School.
In the closing scene, set in the Here and Now, Ms. Willis has included the most recent incidents that have shown that America still has some growth ahead but also how much it has grown…. Trayvon Martin to Marriage Equality.
My hope is that should Ms. Willis resurrect this performance again in another 10 years or so that there will be even further growth to share and that she have the same energy and light as she does now.
In my humble opinion, this is an educational piece of theater. Tolerance and acceptance – wouldn’t that be something? One person at a time.
So Ms. Willis, thank you for sharing your life with us on stage. We all aren’t so different.
And thank you to Bunbury and all those involved in this production. Minimalist and simple. Perfect.
February 13 – March 1, 2015
For Tickets go to bunburytheatre.com
Bunbury Theatre Company at
The Henry Clay Theatre
604 South Third Street
[box_light]Annette Skaggs is a heavily involved Arts Advocate here in Louisville and freelance professional opera singer who has performed throughout Europe, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Boulder, Little Rock, Peoria, Chicago, New York and of course Louisville. Aside from her singing career she has been a production assistant for Kentucky Opera, New York Opera and Northwestern University. She has a 25+ year knowledge of the Classical Arts.[/box_light]