The Past is always Present: A theatrical review of The Shine Plays

MIKE McGEE | 5/1/2015, 10:18 a.m.
Alba is also alone and trapped by bitterness, its prisoner since her rape at the age of 13. She is ...
A scene from The Woman Who Was Tampered With In Youth with Linus Spiller and Rhonda Boutte'. Soul Rep Theater Company

The Dallas Examiner

Alba is also alone and trapped by bitterness, its prisoner since her rape at the age of 13. She is a reverent, self-sufficient elderly woman who lives on her own in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. As she looks back at the traumatic event, the path of her existence since, and the general nature of humankind as she sees it, she wonders aloud “Why can’t people let beauty be?”

Perhaps most importantly, Alba is the strong and perplexing fictional character in The Woman Who Was Tampered with in Youth, one of three one-act plays presented by the Soul Rep Theater Company in a showcase collectively entitled The Shine Plays.

The one-acts were written by local playwright Dr. Theodis Shine, directed by Richard Quadri and Guinea Bennett-Price, and presented in The Margo Jones Theater in Fair Park, April 9 through 12 and April 16 through 19.

Like Tampered, the other plays – Contribution and Herbert III – were all written by Shine in the 1960s and 1970s and reflect the concerns of African Americans in the South during that time. Each play references the contemporary issues going in the country during those decades: protests, police brutality, the fears of Black parents raising Black sons, income inequity and sexual assault.

“I think we see some of the problems that were explored in Contribution, we see some of the problems existing today,” said Shine, 84.

The subject of the play deals with the day that a lunch counter sit-in is to take place in a town below the Mason-Dixon Line. There is some friction between the young protester Eugene and his grandmother, Mrs. Grace Love, a seemingly complacent, don’t-rock-the-boat Southern Black woman who has secretly been fighting racism in her own unique way for years.

“I was interested in the relationships between young people and older people,” he remarked. “I think youth today sort of think they know it all and that they know how to do it, how to accomplish things, not realizing that their older people – their parents, quite often – had done the same thing and has made it possible for them to live as they’re living.”

Herbert III takes place in 1970s Oak Cliff and was written with an outsider’s perspective; the audience glimpses the emotional conflict between Herbert and Margarette Jackson, a couple who discover at 3 a.m. that their teen son is not at home.

“In Herbert III we see that problem, too – the worry of a pair of parents about their children, particularly the males in the family. Particularly at night, but it also applies to the day,” Shine admitted. “Are the streets safe, you know? Can you allow your children to go and explore the world as they want to do without getting concerned about their well-being?”

Alba’s lamentation about beauty is especially on point since Tampered was a work by the retired Prairie View professor previously unseen until Bennett-Price selected it to debut as part of the Soul Rep’s season. Had the theater company let the play be, as Alba would put it, modern audiences may have missed out on one of Shine’s more complex works, she acknowledged.