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Love: New Orleans style

UM play “The Quadroon and the Dove” premiers tonight

By Melissa Wray
On November 30, 2012

  • Charisse Norment embodies her character of Sage-femme while Willie Derrick portrays the character of Charlie Smith in the play “The Quadroon and the Dove.”. photo By Jonathan Jenkins | staff

"Fatal Attraction's" Alex Forrest may have met her match when it comes to allowing one's love to turn into an unhealthy obsession.
Tonight at 7:30 p.m. and tomorrow at 2 p.m., the University of Memphis Theatre Department will give its visitors a close-up look at not only the lengths people will go to attain their heart's desire, but the obsessions that drive them there in the premiere of "The Quadroon and the Dove" at the studio theater.
In the play, Clarice, a freed black woman living in New Orleans in the 1840s, obsesses and schemes to have her married French-Creole lover Lucien committed only to her in a life that is not bound by repressive laws and intruding paramours.
When the Quadroon Ball approaches, Clarice sees her life spinning out of control as she bears witness to Lucien's aspirations for new love and family intertwining with a growing slave uprising.
It is this tendency to create scenarios in which her protagonists feel as if they are torn between two worlds that inspired playwright Charlene Donaghy to create "The Quadroon and the Dove."
"As a writer of New Orleans, I tend to look for inspiration in many places," she said. "I took both the end of a New Orleans ghost story and the relationship between two people in that story, and I created a world in which the characters are in conflict with society and themselves."
Senior theater major Mandy Martin said it was the play's sense of exposing basic human needs that won her over.
"It is a raw, emotionally driven show because of that sense," she said. "The idea that everyone loves, fears and obsesses over everything they desire is one of the ways this show highlights humanity."
Martin, who plays the role of Clarice, said there are some similarities and differences between herself and her character.
"Clarice and I are similar in the sense that we have both wanted something so badly, longing and desire have clouded our judgment, causing us to lose sight of the right path," she said. "However, the differences between us are that we have experienced life in different times, and I am not as good of a liar as she is."
Though the actors may tell the story, Paul Revaz, second-year master's theatre directing candidate and director of the play, said the color palette, set, costumes and the lighting play a more significant role.
"They reinforce the mood of the scenes and the individual natures of the actors," he said. "They add a new level of texture to the play and bring it to life for the audience."
For Donaghy, performance is not about teaching; it's about feeling and touching the audience at their core.
"I want them to enjoy the show in their own definitions of the word enjoy," she said.
Revaz hopes people who attend both one of the performances go home talking about it and the story it tells.
"This means they have related to the characters and the play has made them think," he said. "For me, it's not about what they think, but knowing that they do think about it."

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