Huntington examines race and beauty through the lens of ‘The Bluest Eye’
For decades, school boards and community groups worked to ban Toni Morrison’s 1970s debut novel, “The Bluest Eye.” Set in Lorain, Ohio — where Morrison grew up — the book follows Pecola Breedlove, a girl 11-year-old black girl convinced that blue eyes will make her beautiful. It also deals candidly with race, violence and incest.
“As a black woman, it’s very difficult for me to overstate the importance of this story, and so many people, even if they’re not black, see something important in this story,” said actor Lindsley Howard at the Herald. “The reason it’s been banned and banned and banned is because it activates something in people.”
The Huntington bet Howard was right.
Adapted by playwright Lydia Diamond and directed by Awoye Timpo, “The Bluest Eye” – from January 28 to March 13 at the Huntington Calderwood/BCA – aims to activate audiences around a story that asks tough questions: why and how do we define us the beauty? Who is allowed to tell their story in our world?
“Toni Morrison has given us such a gift by letting the narrators of this story be young women,” Howard said. “We often label young women as not serious or definitely not the people we should tell our stories to. (Morrison) was really brave, making her narrator a young woman, putting the reader and (now) the viewer in the position to see how a young girl perceives beauty, how she perceives value.
Howard plays Maureen, a light-skinned woman who considers herself above her darker-skinned peers. The character is complex, often difficult to connect with.
“I am mixed-race and Maureen is a light-skinned, potentially bi-racial woman living in 1941,” Howard said. “I grew up in Texas, I grew up in the South, so in many ways I feel prepared for the complications (of playing Maureen). … My parents were an interracial couple in rural Texas in the 70s. . »
Parts of Maureen resonate with Howard. Parts of many characters resonate with Howard.
“There’s something bigger here, something that relates to all the young characters in the play,” she said. “It’s the search for community, the search for a place where you not only see yourself, but where you feel safe to explore yourself.”
“The Bluest Eye” is an essential work of art, as vital and important as it was when it was released. It’s also not the easiest thing to come back to after the pandemic put most theater actors out of work for months. It’s not “Mamma Mia!” or “Newsies”. That’s why Howard was so grateful to a creative team that kept rehearsals quiet while never losing sight of the power of the piece.
“The Huntington, our director, Awoye, and the production staff did a great job keeping the room safe, transparent and bright,” she said. “The work is so heavy, but the group of people together injects so much buoyancy into the room and it’s so needed during tough jobs.”
“I’m so grateful to be back in theater with this material,” she added. “It’s very useful.”
For tickets and details, go to huntingtontheatre.org.