Second-act troubles afflict By the Way, Meet Vera Stark | Theater Review | Chicago Reader
By the Way, Meet Vera Stark Hollywood bio-dram about the demeaning career options for black actresses going back to the s smartly. Synopsis of By the Way Meet Vera Stark. Act One. Inspired by the struggles of actresses like Hattie McDaniel and Butterfly McQueen, By the Way. Meet Vera. I can't find any summaries anywhere online and missing this show is one of my biggest theater-going regrets. I'd appreciate it if someone could.
Josephine Baker found stardom by flirting with scandal en Francais. Musicians like Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald, by inventing jazz.
By the Way, Meet Vera Stark - Wikipedia
Actors like Hattie McDaniel, Butterfly McQueen, and Stepin Fetchit, by simultaneously playing to and humanizing "subverting" is too strong a word white society's standard catalog of black caricatures. The heroine of Lynn Nottage's fiercely ambitious, wildly uneven By the Way, Meet Vera Stark is a black actress who makes the trip to Hollywood in the early s, on a hunch that "maybe, just maybe times was ready to change," only to find herself employed as maid and nursemaid to a neurotic white movie star named Gloria Mitchell.
Stark breaks through anyway—cast, ironically enough, as a maid opposite that same Miss Mitchell—in an antebellum costume drama.
The film, The Belle of New Orleans, becomes a classic, while Stark ages somewhat less gracefully and then seals her legend by disappearing. By act two, set inscholars at a colloquium are arguing about her semiotics. Nottage won a Pulitzer Prize four years ago for Ruinedher devastating play about guerrilla war and sexual atrocity in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
With Vera Stark she just as perceptively anatomizes African-American identity—its imposition, construction, and appropriation. The problem is that the script's structure ultimately fails to support its insights.
The first act is a tour de force in this Goodman Theatre production directed by Chuck Smith, taking the traditional comedy of mistaken identity to odd and amusing new places.
Can someone spoil the plot of BY THE WAY, MEET VERA STARK for me?
It'sand, under the social and economic circumstances, nobody can afford to be who they are. Vera gets wind of The Belle of New Orleans through Gloria, who's in a tizzy over auditioning for the Camille-like lead. She shares the information with her roommate Lottie, a fellow black actress formerly known for her shimmying prowess but now eating her way into mammy roles. Meanwhile, another roommate named Anna Mae is busy parlaying her light skin into a new persona: Little is known of these early black actors, so Nottage has created a fictionalized history.
If you are obsessive, she has even created a fictionalized documentary about Vera — should we say mockumentary? In some ways it is much more subtle and better than the actual play.
By the Way, Meet Vera Stark
Act I is set in The movie will be about a prostitute in a brothel and includes her maid. When Vera goes home to her two roommates, also aspiring black actresses, the contrast is stark working class digs. The three black women are supportive and competitive with one another, all in one breath.
Willowy Anna Mae Merle Dandridge is dressed as sexily as Mitchell was in the opening scene because Anna Mae has a date with a director in a Duesenberg. She, too, has aspirations. She is passing as Brazilian to broaden her opportunities.
It is clear she has slept her way into much of her career. She has told Vera to get extra help to impress him. Vera brings Lottie, who is happy to get a little closer to the Hollywood action, and take a nip or two from the ample bar.
Mitchell is barely holding it together when in walks director Maximillion Von Oster Mather Zickel with none other than Lottie on his arm.
The plot thickens and so does the competition between all four women.