Monday, March 31, 2008

Boston Theatre - Conservatory Students on Race

The Globe continues its profile of Stephanie Umoh, a Boston Conservatory student:

Stephanie Umoh and her roommate Anich D'Jae have a lot in
common.


They're both seniors at the Boston Conservatory, studying musical
theater. They're both from Texas. Umoh is biracial, D'Jae African-American. They're both crazy about Oprah and share the fantasy that she'll discover them one day and offer them a shortcut to fame.


And recently they both starred in the Conservatory's big spring
production. They played prostitutes in "The Life," a jazzy, edgy Tony
Award-winning musical about Times Square hookers, hustlers, and
scammers.Umoh, 22, played Queen, in love with one pimp and tyrannized by another. D'Jae, 21, was her friend Sonja, tired of servicing three dozen johns a week. They live in a world with "used-up rubbers on the ground," soliciting "horny freaks" by hawking their wares.


By all accounts, the show was a hit. The pair sang masterful solos,
loved their roles, and got standing ovations. They were able to act alongside their good friend and classmate Nic Rowe, who played one of the pimps, and their mothers flew in to see the show.


Still, it was not quite what they expected in answer to complaints
from some students that there weren't enough Conservatory productions featuring African-Americans.


"Of all the plays about black people," Umoh remembers thinking,
"this is the one you pick?"

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