Play looks at African-American actresses in 1930s Hollywood
GAINESVILLE, Fla.— “By The Way, Meet Vera Stark,” a recent comedy by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage, chronicles 70 years in the life of Vera Stark, a determined African-American maid and would-be Hollywood actress. The comedy is being presented at the University of Florida June 12-15 and July 9-12 in the Black Box Theatre of the Nadine M. McGuire Theatre and Dance Pavilion.
Vera and her friends overcome scarce film opportunities and stereotypically demeaning roles by using clever means to get noticed and earn their break in the movie industry. Beginning with her role in a 1930s Southern epic, Vera Stark’s film portrayals and persona pave the way for future generations of black actresses and leave film critics arguing for decades about her motives and legacy. The play is more than another tale of the rise and fall of a film actress; it is an original account of the civil rights movement as seen through Hollywood’s lens.
Nottage has taken unusual steps to imbue her fictional heroine with authenticity. She launched two websites, www.meetverastark.com and www.bythewaymeetverastark.com/about-carmen, that are hosted by other characters in the play. The websites offer a rich backstory to the character, including accounts of her early life, stage and film roles, photos and autobiographical excerpts. Although fictional, the online documents appear authentic and further the play’s theme of how a celebrity’s self-made, invented life can easily be perceived as legendary truth.
“By the Way, Meet Vera Stark” is directed by UF assistant professor Tim Altmeyer, whose most recent directorial credits include “Angels in America: Perestroika” at the UF School of Theatre and Dance and “Other Desert Cities” at The Hippodrome Theatre. Altmeyer’s acting credits include the Broadway companies of “High” (2011) with Kathleen Turner; “Looped” (2010) with Valerie Harper, and “Oscar Wilde’s Salome” (2003) with Al Pacino, Marisa Tomei, Dianne Wiest and David Strathairn.
Performances are at 7:30 p.m. June 12-14 and July 9-12 and at 2 p.m. on June 15. Tickets are $13 for UF students, UF faculty/staff and senior citizens, and are $17 for the general public.
Tickets are available through the University Box Office located at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center, by calling 352-392-1653 or at www.ticketmaster.com.
The Nadine M. McGuire Theatre and Dance Pavilion is located at 687 McCarty Drive. Parking is available across the street from the UF Bookstore & Welcome Center on the University of Florida located on Museum Road.