TSU student Celeste M. Cooper's senior project automatically gains a high grade for ambition. This is in fact the Nashville premiere of Lydia R. Diamond's stage adaptation of Toni Morrison's first novel, a project originally commissioned by and produced under the watchful eye of Chicago's famed Steppenwolf Theatre, where it debuted in 2005. The Morrison book, first published in 1970, gained new momentum when it achieved coveted status as an Oprah Book Club selection in 2000. The setting is 1940s Ohio, and the main focus is on a young black girl named Pecola Breedlove, victimized by her family's insidious--and often very violent--dysfunction and yearning to be what she is not: white, pretty and blue-eyed. Themes and events are strong across the board: incest, rape, poverty, self-loathing and what playwright Diamond calls the "damaging trickle-down effect of a rather crippling societal racism." Cooper not only directs the play but also portrays the critical leading role. Her cast is a mix of other students and locals, but among those are major Music City stage veterans Barry Scott and Elan Crawford.
Thu., May 7, 7:30 p.m.; Fri., May 8, 7:30 p.m., 2009