“Shakin’ the Mess Outta Misery,” a play by award-winning author Shay Youngblood, premiers tonight at 7 p.m. at Temple’s Randall Theater.
It is a moving play with a soulful sense of humor that uses innovative storytelling techniques to capture the relationships of several special women. Nine talented Temple actresses bring life to 13 wise, loving, courageous and sassy characters to tell the story of their lives.
“Shay Youngblood writes fascinating characters in a poetic language all her own,” said Peter Reynolds, director of the production. “She tells powerful, moving stories while never forgetting to add wonderful humor and colorful personalities.”
“The joy of working on this show is the opportunity to bring such a vibrant story to life, especially one that has not been seen before in Philadelphia,” he added.
Reynolds explained that the play is made up of the recollections of the main character, making the design possibilities for the set quite flexible. A painting by artist Laura Wheeler Waring was chosen as a point of inspiration for design. Black culture also gave designers insight into their direction for the piece.
“I looked at different African-American artwork, whether it was a painting, clothing, furniture or quilt work,” said Megan Jones, first year MFA candidate who worked on designs for the show. “I then held on to images that really spoke to me. In addition, I focused on several interviews of great contemporary African-American women writers, such as Youngblood and Toni Morrison.”
Also collaborating in the overall stage design for the play are junior theater major Evan Jonigkeit, who worked as sound designer, and first-year MFA candidate in design, Shon Causer, who directed lighting.
The play, which received an NAACP Theater Award nomination in 1991, brings to life the journey of a young girl entering womanhood without her mother but with the guidance and love of all of her “Mamas.” It has a theme of female unity and depicts the strength of its characters like “Big Mama,” “Aunt Mae,” “Miss Corine” and “Miss Tom” with grace and simplicity.
Youngblood, who has authored books such as “The Big Mama Stories” and “Soul Kiss” and the play “Talking Bones,” creates a fascinating portal into the lives of these vibrant women who all carry stories and experiences along with them to impart to their young student in life’s classroom. These strong female figures teach “Daughter” as the character is simply known, the ways of life and prepare her to follow in their footsteps as a strong and independent woman.
It is a tender and inspirational story that is sure to captivate Temple audiences. This piece is perfect for the intimate stage of Randall Theater and will make for a wonderful night of drama. “Shakin’ the Mess Outta Misery” runs through April 24, but tickets are already beginning to sell out. Contact Temple’s Box Office at 215-204-1122 for show times. Student tickets are free with a valid GAF card.
Milli Protheroe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org