The Negro Ensemble Company’s Production of "Daughters of the Mock" at Theatre 80 St. Marks, NYC
|From Left to Right: Brenda Crawley, Kristin Dodson, Edythe Jason, Claudia McCoy|
Judi Ann Mason’s riveting play Daughters of the Mock, directed by Denise Dowse, just finished a successful run at Theatre 80 St. Marks in Manhattan. Starring Edythe Jason (“Maumau”), Brenda Crawley (“Oralia”), Claudia McCoy (“Madena”), Kristin Dodson (“Amanita”), and Lynne Michelle (“Gail”), Daughters of the Mock tells the story of three generations of women in the swamplands of rural Louisiana. Maumau, the grandmother, has mastered the use of herbs, roots, and potions to exact revenge on interlopers, and to control and frighten the younger women of her family. Oralia, her daughter, is clearly terrified of her mother, and begs her own two daughters to obey their grandmother’s wishes. The great mystery is, as Amanita’s friend Gail asks, “Where are the men in this family?”
Edythe Jason gives a stellar performance as Maumau, and is a commanding presence as the matriarch of this family. Brenda Crawley evokes sympathy as the obedient daughter who tries to convince her own daughters that their grandmother’s actions should not be questioned. Claudia McCoy is thoroughly convincing in her role as a grieving widow also mourning the loss of her two sons. Her little sister, beautifully played by Kristin Dodson, has fallen in love and wants to marry, thus incurring the wrath of her grandmother.
Playwright Judi Ann Mason (February 2, 1955—July 8, 2009) began her writing career in New York City where she was a member of the Negro Ensemble Company. Daughters of the Mock was originally produced in New York by the NEC at St. Marks Playhouse December 20, 1978 thru January 7, 1979. She joined the Writers Guild of America, West in 1975, and taught playwriting and screenwriting at a number of colleges and universities for over twenty years.
Denise Dowse has directed a deeply moving stage production incorporating voodoo rituals and powerful magic. Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, as an actress Dowse is best known for her recurring television roles as Yvonne Teasley on Beverly Hills, 90210 (1990-2000), and as Judge Rebecca Damsen on The Guardian, from 2001-2004. As a film director, her work includes Requiem for a Dream (2000), Pleasantville (1998) and Coach Carter (2005). As the resident director at Amazing Grace Conservatory, she directed sold-out productions of Annie, Dreamgirls, Footloose, Little Shop of Horrors, West Side Story, Wicked, The Wiz, among others.
We must thank The Negro Ensemble Company for the illustrious careers of such actors as Esther Rolle, Louis Gossett Jr., Sherman Hemsley, and Phylicia Rashad. To quote its website: “With the NEC, many black actors found their first opportunity to play characters with depth and meaning. NEC has been a constant source and sustenance for black actors, directors, and writers as they have worked to break down walls of racial prejudice.”
This year the Negro Ensemble Company is celebrating its 50th anniversary, along with its return downtown to Theatre 80 St. Marks. We look forward to a revival of the award-winning A Soldier’s Play in the coming months, which won both the Critics Circle Best Play Award and the Pulitzer Prize.
|Michelle Shay, Barbara Montgomery, Olivia Williams, and Frances Foster in the original NEC production of |
“Daughters of the Mock.”
by Nina Kennedy