Poet’s play comes off Broadway onto campus

Friday night’s performance of “Love, Life and Redemption,” an off-Broadway play brought to the College by the Black Student Union (BSU), begged the age-old question: does art imitate life or does life imitate art?

The play’s central character, Carolyn Bowers, is receiving a lifetime achievement award from her community’s Progressive Arts Committee and is charged with writing an acceptance speech. A poet, not a speechwriter, by nature, Carolyn is starved for inspiration until she stumbles across her muse in the form of a book of poetry she had penned years earlier. Carolyn falls asleep and the majority of the play’s action occurs in her dreams, where each of her poems adopts its own narrative.

Much like her main character, writer, director and producer Setor Attipoe is a poet who has been inspired by the world around her. Before the show, Attipoe explained why college students could relate to her work.

“I wrote the poems on which the play’s stories are based between the ages of 18 and 25,” Attipoe said. “I was coming of age and going through the same things college students are dealing with, like relationships, defining yourself, the pressure that society puts on you (and) experiencing injustice.”

Each member of the dynamic cast delivered a powerful performance, passion dripping from every pore. One scene had an actor performing a soliloquy about escaping his father’s abusiveness with his mother and brother.

“We get in this old, worn cab,” the character said, expressing fear of the world outside his father’s roof, “but we left the real hell.”

Carolyn Bowers’ dream inspires the words of her acceptance speech, which acts as the play’s final scene. Carolyn urges her listeners to make their dreams a realization and live a life of passion.

“Smack the devil with his own fork!” she declares.

After the performance, Attipoe and “Redemption’s” cast participated in a Q-and-A session. Several of the cast members shared their stories of moving to New York City to pursue acting careers, allowing them to identify with the play’s message of the triumphant human spirit.

“It is encouraging to see young people being bold,” Valisha Desir, sophomore political science major and vice president of resource development for BSU, said. “We’re traditionalists here, getting our college degrees and following the path that has been set for us, but they took a different road.”

It is still a mystery whether art imitates life or life imitates art, but what is certain is that “Love, Life and Redemption” succeeds as art as well as a study of human nature.