Nov 11, 2015

Lessons Of Carefully Taught

Rehearsal scenes from Carefully Taught, coming to Astoria Performing Arts Center.

Cheryl L. Davis’ Carefully Taught is the story of a friendship that is put to the test. It challenges us to examine perceptions of “the other” in both our professional and private lives. It leaves us asking questions about loyalty and what fosters prejudice. It doesn’t give easy answers. Rather, it encourages us to feel empathy and to examine our own experience of identity.

Longtime friends Claire, played by Sheila Joon, and Alice, played by Latoya Edwards, are teachers in the same school. They have shared personal and professional triumphs and hardships. Alice is black and Claire is white, and, when Claire is terminated seemingly because of her race, unspoken preconceptions and feelings are brought to the fore. Their bond is shaken in a way they have never experienced as Claire brings a lawsuit against the school, and both of their teenage daughters (played by Joon and Edwards as well) are thrust into the local media spotlight.

Davis uses a fascinating storytelling device within Carefully Taught to further her commentary on perceptions of race. As mentioned, Joon and Edwards not only play Alice and Claire but also their daughters – not their own daughters but each other’s. By having a black actress play the daughter of a white actress and vice versa, Davis asks us to delve below the surface and recognize the common themes of humanity and the bonds that unite us.

Rounding out the cast of Carefully Taught are Bristol Pomeroy and Esther Chen. Pomeroy portrays all the male characters – a school official, a local politician, and a well known African- American minister – and Chen plays Cindy, a reporter, and Cie, an assistant teacher, who delivers a monologue concerning the themes of the play from the experience of a character, who, like the audience, is looking in on the situation and reacting.

Carefully Taught is an important new work that should be seen by audiences of all ages. Of working at APAC, Davis said, “The wonderful thing about watching this play take life here is that everyone is not only willing to go with me on this wonderful risky racial ride, they’re pushing me to go farther. The actors and director, Pat Golden, ground things with great specificity and humanity.”

Astoria Performing Arts Center is proud to be presenting the world premiere of this play as the first mainstage production of their 15th anniversary season. The show runs until November 21. For tickets and more info, visit: www.apacny.org or call 888-596-1027. APAC is located in the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church 30-44 Crescent Street (at 30th Rd). Take the N or Q to 30th Avenue.