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Arts and culture: Theater
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by:Janelle Jemmott

Recently, the Griot festival showcased a series of plays pertaining to “women and trans people of color”. The festival opened with “Three Short Plays” by playwright Ira Jeffries. This production explores the personalities of three different women and the many hardships they have encountered. One character in this short play is Martha Redding played by part- time actress (outside of acting she is an inventory manager) Sharon Bonaparte- Diop.

Sharon Bonaparte- Diop has been acting for almost twenty years. The art of acting has caught her interest since she attended City College, where she majored in Theater. Some courses she was required to take are Theater History, Famous Playwrights, and Speech.
Most actors and actresses have to go through multiple auditions to receive a part. Sharon, however, skipped the nerve- racking auditions and callbacks. “I didn’t go through a regular process to get the part of Martha”. From her college days Martha was already acquainted with Ira Jeffries. The original actress for the part was a professional and demanded to be paid. Since Sharon didn’t work full time she was able to play the part for free. Jeffries sent her a copy of all three scripts. “I was really interested in the part of Martha so I called back immediately and said I would do it”.

The character of Martha Redding lived through some very traumatic experiences and acts very dysfunctional. She is eccentric, but still likes to remain to herself. This character is forced to deal with the death of her beloved husband and losing her baby, Cenie. As an effect of these experiences Martha makes conversation with ants and her dead husband.

Sharon seems nothing like her character; she is calm and quiet. Although they don’t have similar personalities, Sharon believes they are alike to some extent...“I had an immediate connection to Martha Redding. Not because I’m dysfunctional, but I’ve been married before and know what that’s like. I didn’t lose my son but, I had to send him away for a while and that was hard. It’s all a part of life’s challenges”.

So what does Sharon do when her character’s personality, views, and experiences have no relation to her life? “That comes with knowing the character inside and out, and reading the script over and over to get a feel for the character”. She told me of a role in a play where she played a prostitute. At first she was uncomfortable and didn’t know how she was going to pull it off. People often asked her how she would manage to play the part, because they see her as an introverted person. “But when you’re acting you can’t see anyone in the audience so you forget about everything else…I want to get across what the character is feeling”.
Other productions Shan was featured in include Yerna by Frederico Lorca, and a play by Charles Gordon.

Scottie Davis (Delilah Brown and The bag Lady)
Scottie Davis has been in love with acting for her entire life. From the age of eight, Ms. Davis was enthralled with movie stars such as Bill Bojangles and his student, Shirley Temple.
Scottie Davis is a professional actress and mime. She founded the Salt and Pepper Mime Company, which is located in Fort Greene, Brooklyn. While attending Adelphi University, she received a B.A. in Theater and Magna Cum Laude. Davis is also associated with the Educational Theater Association and the Alliance of Resident Theater Producers.

In Ira Jeffries production, Three Short Plays, Davis plays two characters. She plays Delilah Brown, a woman who during World War II enlisted in the Woman’s Army corps. Ms. Brown was forced to live through numerous acts of racism and sexual discrimination.
During her monologue, she informs the audience that she always had a fatal attraction to woman and constantly received criticism for her unorthodox preference.

The second character played by Davis was The Bag Lady. In this monologue the audience is introduced to an elderly woman enclosed in a cell. While speaking to an
invisible social worker, the Bag Lady describes her search for a friend. This search caused The Bag Lady to meet up with a neurotic woman who she believes is her friend. During the interview with the social worker, the Bag Lady describes a relationship with her “closet friend,” Ole Becky. When the neurotic woman turns on the Bag Lady, Ole Becky comes to her rescue. The Bag Lady and Ole Becky have no choice but to commit a criminal act. It is through this physical interaction with the two women that the audience finds out Ole Becky’s real identity.

Scottie Davis says she is related to neither of the characters. “I’m not gay, I’m not a WWII veteran, and I’ve never killed anyone”. However she does share a strong personality like Delilah Brown. Davis also shared that she did not favor one role over another. “The characters are all related in the sense that their black woman trying to confront the obstacles within their lives… they all have a lack of support from men”.

To get in tune with a character Davis always does breathing, vocal, and stretching exercises. She believes it is important to become the character physically at first and then develop the character’s voice. Outside of acting, Davis does mime and strongly believes the two art forms are very much alike. “Mimes communicate with gestures while actors communicate physically and verbally… The greatest of characters are mimes”. In addition once Davis gets into character she prefers to be addressed by her character’s name.
Davis believes the performance of Ira Jeffries’Three Short Plays was a success. “Overall it went very well.”

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