Dec. 22, 2014
Venice Theatre’s Stage II season continues with By the Way, Meet Vera Stark
Lynn Nottage’s comedy explores African American life in 1930’s Hollywood
(Venice, Florida) After a well-received production of Lynn Nottage’s Intimate Apparel in 2012, Venice Theatre is excited to produce another play by the Pulitzer Prize winner. The comedy By the Way, Meet Vera Stark will open in the Pinkerton Theatre on Thursday, Jan. 8 and run through Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. Performances are at 8 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $28 for adults, $13-$15 for students and are on sale now at the theatre’s box office located at 140 W. Tampa Ave. in Venice, online at www.venicestage.com or by phone at 941-488-1115. By the Way, Meet Vera Stark is generously co-sponsored by Joan Lino, Premier Sotheby’s International Realty and Joseph Giglia & Bill Cosentino of The Salon of Venice.
In her newest play, Nottage draws upon the screwball films of the 1930s to take a funny and irreverent look at racial stereotypes in Hollywood. By The Way, Meet Vera Stark is a seventy-year journey through the life of Vera Stark, a headstrong African-American maid and budding actress, and her tangled relationship with her boss, a white Hollywood star desperately grasping to hold on to her career.
When circumstances collide and both women land roles in the same Southern epic, the story behind the cameras leaves Vera with a surprising and controversial legacy scholars will debate for years to come.
Nottage conjured up the fictional character of Vera after stumbling across the 1933 film Baby Face. Barbara Stanwyck was the star, but Theresa Harris, a supporting actress with a substantial role, caught Nottage’s eye. “Later I realized I’d seen her on screen any number of times, playing a maid or a nightclub singer, often uncredited. And I didn’t know who she was,” Nottage said in a 2013 interview with the Chicago Tribune.
The playwright started asking questions about what life would have been like for Harris and other African Americans trying to make it in 1930’s Hollywood. (Hattie McDaniel, Dorothy Dandridge and Hazel Scott, to name a few.) The ultimate result was the 2011play By the Way, Meet Vera Stark and a character that the New York Times called “… fully and intriguingly drawn.”
Candace Artim, who directed Intimate Apparel in 2012, directs Beatrice Fletcher-Miller in the title role, Samantha Centerbar as Gloria Mitchell, and Kristofer Geddie, Andrea Dictor, Lisa Richardson, Paul Mullen and Jerry Zezas in multiple roles.
Much like the lead character in Intimate Apparel, Vera is fictional, but based on historically accurate information. There are even two websites dedicated to her imagined life story: www.meetverastark.com and www.findingverastark.com.
Again, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark runs in the Pinkerton Theatre Jan. 8-25, 2015. Venice Theatre is located at 140 W. Tampa Ave. Box office hours are Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; Saturdays from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m. and one hour before all performances.
Attached photos (Credit, Renee McVety)
3952: Samantha Centerbar plays Hollywood starlet Gloria Mitchell. Vera Stark (played by Beatrice Fletcher-Miller) is Mitchell’s maid at the beginning of Act 1, but soon becomes her co-star.
3964: Vera (Beatrice Fletcher-Miller) attains some recognition in Hollywood, but is limited in her opportunities, often playing maids, mammies or cooks.
4008: Vera’s headshot.
By the Way, Meet Vera Stark
By Lynn Nottage
Director – Candace Artim
Stage Manager – Rich Schmelke
Scenic Designer – Pete Sayer
Costume Designer – Nicholas Hartman
Lighting Designer – Ryan Mueller
Sound Designer – Dorian Boyd
Vera Stark – Beatrice Fletcher-Miller
Gloria Mitchell – Samantha Centerbar
Leroy Barksdale/Herb Forrester – Kristofer Geddie
Lottie McBride/Afua Assata Ejobo – Andrea Dictor
Anna Mae Simpkins/Carmen Levy-Green – Lisa Richardson
Mr. Slasvick/Brad Donovan – Paul Mullen
Maxmillian Von Oster/Peter Rhys-Davies – Jerry Zezas
140 W. Tampa Ave
Venice, FL 34285
Venice Theatre’s mission is making a dramatic impact on all stages of life. The second-largest out of 10,000 community theatres in the United States, it is located at 140 W. Tampa Ave .on the island in Venice, FL. Its MainStage offers seating for 432 patrons and features musicals, plays, concerts and special events. Its Yvonne Pinkerton Theatre seats 90 patrons and is home to the theatre’s “Generations”, Stage II and Cabaret Series. In addition to providing entertainment to the community, Venice Theatre has a wide range of education and outreach programs for children and adults.