Students and alumni of UNF plan to merge the past and the future together in the play “North Star” to present the idea that racism can either tear a community apart or bring it together.
The cast meets for rehearsals for at least three hours six days a week, and UNF alumna and director Ronica Arntzen said she is excited to see their six weeks of rehearsal on the stage.
“North Star” is set in the 1990s with a young African American mother named Aurelia, who has a flashback to her childhood when a cab driver calls her six-year-old daughter a racist term. Throughout the play, Aurelia relives racial discrimination and participating in sit-ins and demonstrations.
Cherrelle Fant, UNF English major, plays the role of Aurelia’s mother and is also the project coordinator. “North Star” is funded by the Dean’s Transformational Learning scholarship Fant received through the Department of English.
Dr. Pam Monteleone approached Fant about putting together a project that reflected the African American experience. After reading through at least 20 plays to find the one with the right message, “North Star” was chosen to help people see beyond race and dig deeper into who people really are.
Fant researched North Carolina in the 1960s, the Civil Rights movement and dialect to depict the time period as accurately as possible. To have a smooth transition between time periods throughout the play, there will be light sequences and special effects, Fant said.
This award-winning play by Gloria Bond Clunie explores racial discrimination and how a community can be torn apart when people can’t see past color or race, Fant said.
The play deals with racism and segregation and how to resolve the conflicts inside and outside yourself. The main character has to deal with the trauma she experienced when she was a child: sitting in at lunch-counter demonstrations, having racial slurs thrown at her and being spit on while she was growing up, Arntzen said.
After the play Saturday there will be a panel discussion to discuss the religious references and whether we live in a post-racial world. Although there has been progress made in civil rights, there is still a long way to go, Fant said.
“I’ll think we live in a post-racial world once there is no unfair treatment. That’s why this play is relevant, it brings racism from the past to the present,” Arntzen said.
“North Star” includes members of the Jacksonville community as well as UNF students like Diana Williams. Arntzen said she is filled with nerves but is confident that the play will go well.
“I just want people to realize if you’re White, Black, Asian or Hispanic, we all bleed red at the end of the day. Everyone has their own stories to tell and their own hurts and scars, “Fant said. “We can learn from one another. It doesn’t matter what color you are.”
“North Star” plays Friday, July 20 and Saturday, July 21 at 7:30 pm in the Combined Gospel Christian Church at 1951 Blanding Blvd. The doors open at 7 pm and the play is free to an open audience.