One Comedy, One Drama, Both Based in Reality: New Rep’s Showstopper Virtual Play Series

Showstopper Virtual Play Series
Presented by New Rep Theatre
Premieres by Alexis Scheer and Miranda Austen ADEkoje

November 21 – December 13, 2020
Performances will be audio described by Cori Couture on Saturday, 12/12 at 7:00pm and Sunday, 12/13 at 4:00pm.
Over Zoom
New Rep on Facebook

“A Very Herrera Holiday”
By Alexis Scheer
Directed by Sarah Shin
With Amanda Figueroa 

“[keyp-ing]”
By Miranda Austen ADEkoje 
Directed by Dawn M. Simmons
With Jasmine M Rush  

Review by Kitty Drexel

ZOOM — New Rep’s “A Very Herrera Holiday” and “[keyp-ing]” are two plays about women who have had enough. In the former, Emma Herrera (Amanda Figueroa) uses her DIF crafting Youtube stardom to celebrate the holidays with a family recipe for coquitos. “[keyp-ing]” chronicles Monica Jenae’s personal fight against white supremacy as Boston-area freelance commercial producer.  

Emma Herrera is a woman who channels her emotions through crafting. When someone upsets her, she doesn’t throw a tantrum; Emma gets creative. Creativity can lead to exciting adventures and new friends! Why hurt yourself when you can hurt the people who deserve it the most. The holidays are about giving after all. 

Stand-up comedian Taylor Tomlinson had a bit about how men say that a woman “went crazy” when what he actually means is that a woman went crazy at him. Tomlinson references a hypothetical situation in which a man poops in his now ex-girlfriend’s sink while they were still together. The ex-girlfriend reacts reasonably by breaking up with him. He thinks she’s crazy.  

Tomlinson posits that men misconstrue justifiable behavior as crazy because men assume that they are entitled to their misbehaviors, sink pooping, or otherwise. Her feminist humor was on Youtube until a deluge of sexist comments prompted its removal. I’m not surprised because a man who calls a woman crazy for reasonable emotional responses also hates being called out for his unreasonable responses to not-crazy responses.   

“A Very Herrera Holiday” runs approximately 30 minutes. During that time, Figueroa leads us on a merry chase through the psyche of a woman programmed to be chipper for her fans. Figueroa seems kind, loving, and frugal as Emma. Remember, women don’t just go crazy. They go crazy at someone. Emma’s sociopathic tendencies aren’t Figueroa’s fault. You’ll have to watch the play to discover whose fault it is.   

The recording device used for “A Very Herrera Holiday” needs to be placed higher during streaming so Figueroa can look up at it rather than down. Her face isn’t square with the screen. It looks like she’s looking down at us, psychologically and physically. Zoom tech neck is real and should be avoided. 

Figueroa could cheat her body out to the camera when she’s at the counter so we know she’s still talking to us. Giving us her profile during this moment doesn’t look like a conscious choice.  

 [keyp-ing]: Miranda Austen ADEkoje defines this term as the act of blindly defending someone no matter how wrong they are. In the play, we see the term in use. White supremacists on Instagram blame Monica Jenae for the racism she experiences while Black and female. The more Jenae defends herself, the more the bigots dig in their heels. It’s the same “if only” dialogue Black people face when the police kill a Black person.    

There is a lot to process in this one-act play. As a critic, I keep running into brick walls trying to explain what I saw. I’m not the best person to explain “[keyp-ing]” but I know that it can take a white person to explain racism to another white person. 

Miranda Austen ADEkoje, Dawn M. Simmons, and Jasmine M Rush have created a piece of living art that terrifies me. Rush plays with aching verity a character that faces the everyday-fear of living while Black in a society that wants to punish her with death. She’s a wife and a mother so her fear is tripled.   

“[keyp-ing]” doesn’t start a dialogue. It explains why the dialogue is not sufficient. Society doesn’t believe Black women. It appropriates their bodies and culture but rejects their minds. 

Here are some of the organizations working to fix this (in no particular order):
https://blackgirlmagik.com/
https://aawic.org/
https://www.massbailfund.org/
https://www.bamsfest.org/
https://www.joincampaignzero.org/#vision
http://lucyparsons.org/collective.php
https://www.aclum.org/en
https://www.nlg-npap.org/
https://www.artsbusinesscollaborative.org/fiscal-sponsorship/okra-project

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