‘Vera Stark’ raises awareness of African-American actress’ plight

Darrington Clark, junior in mass communications, and Daijah Porchia, sophomore in theatre, showed dazzling chemistry as the leads in K-State Theatre's comedy production of "By the Way, Meet Vera Stark." (Nicholas Cady | The Collegian)

Thursday was opening night for K-State’s Ebony Theatre production of, “By the Way Meet Vera Stark,” written by Lynn Nottage and directed by Hannah L’abri Miller. The play is to be the last performed in the Purple Masque Theatre before it’s relocated to the west side of Memorial Stadium.

“By the Way Meet Vera Stark” is a satire of race in the glamorous days of Old Hollywood. The titular character, Vera Stark, is a budding actress in an era where the only roles for African-American women are maids. During the first act, the audience follows the story of how Stark went from playing a real-life maid to movie star Gloria Mitchell, to playing a role alongside Mitchell in the play “The Belle of New Orleans.”

The second act of the show consists of a forum where guest panelists and the host discuss what happened to Stark.

“Vera and I are very alike; we both are working-class and strive to reach our dreams,” Daijah Porchia, sophomore in theater and the actress playing Vera Stark, said.

Porchia said that she feels Stark was based off of countless black actresses’ stories and how they were confined to stereotypes and identity traps.

One thing Miller said she wants the audience to take away is perspective. She said she feels that the tale of Stark opens a conversation as to what it really was like back then and even now for African-American women in the film industry.

“I hope audiences learn to think about how identities affect women of color fight for today versus what has become the norm,” Porchia said.

“By the Way Meet Vera Stark” seeks to bridge the gap and allows open discussions of what audiences do and do not know about African-American actors and actresses, according to Miller.

“The struggle between races runs deeper than we can study and is made more real,” Madison Plouvier, freshman in theater, said.

The cast of By the Way Meet Vera Stark” strives to introduce a topic most are unfamiliar with or are unaware of discussions being had. Miller said she hopes they can bring light to the struggle African-Americans face and that it is still prevalent and has not faded within the industry.

“By the Way Meet Vera Stark” runs from until Sunday in the Purple Masque Theatre. Ticket prices are $8 for adults and $5 for students, and can be purchased at McCain Auditorium box office or online.