The Women of White Nights, Black Paradise
An excellent look into the social and political conditions that helped to create the Jonestown massacre. While I thought I knew the history of Jonestown I found that I had many misconceptions. The writer manages to portray the complicated, complex innerworkings of African American women in this country against the backdrop of a historic tragedy. The actors made their characters come alive and made me care about them. Rarely have I seen this quality of writing or acting in a small production. I am looking forward to seeing this play again with friends and family.
By Von Hurt
This is a well-thought out play that examines the psychological, social, and cultural enthusiasm AND revulsion for the Peoples Temple, the predominantly black female church (a fact not widely known until this play) at the center of the Jonestown massacre of 1978. Superbly written and acted, the play’s hard realism, critique of organized religion and historical insight force the audience to deal with two main despairing messages: How could this have happened and can it happen again? I highly recommend this play for the great, nuanced performances by many of the actors, in particular, Ms. Rhea, who is ideally cast as Taryn Strayer.
I witnessed a miracle tonight. I spoke with the author, Sikivu Hutchinson after the show. They had 4 weeks to stage a play based on the largest mass murder/suicide in the U.S. history 11-18-1978 Guyana: Jim Jones, a massacre of 918 church and community members. The players had to double as stagehands, which made the runtime longer, but despite this, the play captured the intricate lives of the people who went there in a unique and original and authentic. Funny and tragic, the play captured the undertow of deception and thoroughly researched the events of Jones’s relationship with the poor, mostly black community of men, women, and children leading back from 1956 to 1978. Plays are difficult, and as an actor, published writer of novels, essays, short stories and screenplays, I feel deeply about the amount of work that went into the staging of this play in the time they had to do it. I also think that it should run past the 3 limited days of appearance at Hudson. The entire ensemble worked to produce a glimpse of the horror wrought by Jones. With the right funding, the runtime of the production can in my estimation be cut in half. The individual performances of Cydney Davis, Erin Aubry, Scott St. Patrick, El Piard, Charlotte Williams, Darnell Rhea, Breeana Judy, & Elise Roberson were most singular, but the fact that Hutchinson grafted the play from her novel and produced a depiction of an event of this magnitude and devastation that was staged successfully within the given time frame is in my estimation a miracle. My hat is off to her future efforts. She is truly an artist. Sincerely, Eric John Priestley, author, actor, world traveler.
White Nights, Black Paradise surprised me, disturbed me, offended me, challenged me, educated me, and entertained me. I thought I knew the story of Jim Jones and the People’s Temple: a group of crazy people following an evil leader. I was wrong. Sikivu Hutchinson’s characters showed me the real reasons why this tragedy occurred. Her characters are raw, real, revealing, and compelling. For me, the power of her characters overcame the usual opening night glitches. So I recommend that everyone who (like me before I saw this play) thinks they know why these people did what they did—should see this play. I believe Dr. Hutchinson’s play should be made into a full Broadway production.
“The production “White Nights, Black Paradise” is serious theatre. Kudos to director White and actors/actresses for bringing such a horrific piece of popular history to life. Author and playwright Sikivu Hutchinson succsfully highlights the humanity and complexity of the black women who labored and struggled against their own invisibility. Her characters present a tough, multi-layered response to my question, who were the people that suffered in Guyana.”
Sikivu, has done it again. 🙂 Her writings, lectures and now this masterful yet serious play discusses the Jim Jones massacre of over 900 people of which a majority of the victims were African American women. This play went into some of the social problems that many woman of color are faced with then and even now. It demonstrated and showed how people can be easily manipulated when despair has completely settled in. Finally , I see so many similarities with some of the megachurches that exist today within our community . Hopefully, a play like this could even help prevent something like this from ever happening again. Thanks again for the enlightenment!