As the saying goes, art imitates life, and life can be abstract.
That’s what this fall’s main stage production is bringing: moments that will make you laugh, others that will make you cry and, ultimately, some that make you think.
The Department of Theatre and New Dance presents “Southern Girls,” a play written by Sheri Bailey and Dura Temple, based on the novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God” by Zora Neale Hurston. “Southern Girls” runs Nov. 14-23 in the University Theatre.
The play follows the lives of six girls as they grow to adulthood, managing life in the South from the 1950s to the ’90s.
Each of the six girls has a different journey, so audience members should find something that resonates with them, director Linda Bisesti says.
Although the play’s beginning is set in the 1950s, Bisesti and her cast agree that issues in the play are still relevant today.
One of the common themes is racism, something that Bisesti says needs to be talked about.
“I think people are afraid to talk about race. As a professor, when I bring up race in the classroom, everyone starts to shuffle their books and say, ‘I have no problem with race’ or ‘I’m not racist,’ ” she says. “I think that we think everything is OK and sometimes we just don’t want to talk about it because it’s too hard, and pushes too many buttons.”
She believes that the play will give the issue prominence, and encourages others to talk about it on campus.
Ashley Tello, who plays Dolly, says that her character — the most racist of the bunch — is opposite to her personality, which presents a challenge.
“I have had parents that are racist. I remember growing up, they told me that if I ever dated a black guy, they would disown me,” she says. “I didn’t understand then, and I still don’t now. Racism is still alive, even in Southern California.”
She says that people don’t take racism as seriously as they should.
“Racism today is mocked, overlooked, made into a show, and it’s masked. We’ve come to accept it, these stereotypes, but I think that it’s important to make people aware that they shouldn’t use words loosely, even in jokes.”
Each character has a unique story, so cast members have been doing research so that they can accurately portray their roles.
Kapri Margary, who plays Wanda-Sue, says that she relates to her character in some ways but not in others.
“Wanda-Sue is of mixed heritage, and so am I. But she’s a dancer and I’m not, so that’s been a challenge,” she says while laughing.
There are many topics presented in the play, and Samantha Girod says that’s one of the reasons she was drawn to the production. There’s a lot that people can connect to, beyond the issue of race, such as broken families, she says.
The all-female cast hopes that the play will inspire people to stand up for what they believe in, and fight for injustice.
“I hope people walk away with a higher awareness of prejudice, be it towards race, gender, or sexual orientation,” says Ajouraye Jefferson, who plays Ruth.
“If you see something wrong, try to fix it.,” Margary says. “Stand up for it and don’t let people convince you otherwise, when you know it’s wrong.”
Performances will run at 8 p.m. Nov. 14-22 and at 2 p.m. on Nov. 23.
Tickets are $15 for general admission, $10 for Cal Poly Pomona students, staff and faculty, and seniors. Tickets can be purchased either by calling 909-869-3962, or online.