Playwright Cheryl West’s award-winning drama, “Before It Hits Home” will run Feb. 23-March 11 in California State University, Dominguez Hills’ Edison Studio Theatre as part of the university’s Black History Month celebration.
Set in Midwestern America in 1991, “Before It Hits Home” is a complex and powerful drama that explores the effect of AIDS on charismatic jazz musician Wendal Bailey, his lovers, parents, and even his 14-year old son. The play was the winner of the Helen Hayes Award for best new play in 1992.
Wendal Bailey has never managed to make it big. After being diagnosed with the AIDS virus, he denies having had any sexual encounters with men. However, by the end of the first act we see him in two simultaneous bedroom scenes; one between him and his fiancée Simone, who is pregnant, and one between him and his male lover, Douglas, who is a married man and father. During these scenes, Wendal’s denial and confusion are painfully obvious.
“Before It Hits Home” is being staged and directed by Donis Leonard, professor of Theatre Arts, whose recent productions have been nominated for numerous NAACP theatre awards for excellence in African American Theatre.
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“In my 20 year career at CSUDH, I’ve had the honor of working with many gifted students on some memorable productions. However, never have I staged a play more meaningful to me than this one. Cheryl West’s entertaining and thought-provoking story serves as an important reminder to our African-American community,” Leonard notes. “The research informs us that new cases of HIV are rising fastest among people of color. We must continue to get tested and have honest dialogues with our partners; even when those conversations are very uncomfortable. As we celebrate the beauty of black history, it is my hope that our audiences will be engaged by this raw and candid look into the Bailey family. Although the backdrop is AIDS, ultimately this play is a beautiful story about conditional and unconditional love.”
The cast is led by Tevin Jackson, a junior theatre arts major, in the role of Wendal. Playing Wendal’s lovers are seniors Jessica Simington, in the role of Simone, and Devonta Price, as Douglas. Other theatre arts majors include: Morgan Chancelien (senior), in the role of Junior, and Rebecca Reyes (junior), in the role of the nurse. Notable CSUDH alumnus in the production include Tiffany Cousin (’02, B.A., theatre arts) in the role of Reba; and Karla Pittman (’99, B.A., theatre arts) as Maybelle.
Rounding out the cast includes veteran television and film actor Gregory Thompson in the role of Luke Bailey, and veteran stage actress Rebecca Cherkoss in the role of Doctor Weinberg.
Wendal’s 14-year old son is portrayed by Glenndale Taylor III, a sophomore theatre student at the Los Angeles County High School of the Performing Arts, located on the CSU Los Angeles campus.
Destiny Dennis, a senior theatre arts major at CSUDH, will stage manage the production. CSUDH Lecturer Carin Jacobs designed to costumes for the production, and Technical Director Frederick DePontee served as the scenic and lighting designer.