On Jan. 30, the UC Santa Cruz’s Cultural Arts and Diversity (CAD) Center will join with Colleges Nine and Ten to present the play “Zora!,” based on the life of influential African American author Zora Neale Hurston.
Hurston began her literary career in New York in the mid-1920s. She played a major role in the Harlem Renaissance, a period of burgeoning culture in Harlem that witnessed the emergence of many distinct African American artistic voices. Her most referenced work is the 1937 novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God.”
CAD administrative assistant Crystelle Reola discussed the intentions of bringing “Zora!” to the student body.
“Through presenting this play,” Reola said, “we want students to know that no matter where you’re coming from, you’re entitled to do what you want.”
Reola spoke about the struggles Hurston faced in her journey from living in a low-income family to becoming a successful writer.
“People don’t know much about Zora Neale Hurston,” Reola said. “Her life is definitely an inspiration and we want more people to know about it.”
The performance is a one-woman show featuring lead actress Kim Brockington in 15 different roles, including the literary icon Hurston herself. It traces the history of Hurston from her southern roots to her many artistic accomplishments in Harlem.
“This play is an opportunity for people to become more aware of the Harlem Renaissance,” Reola said. “There were lots of amazing African American voices during that time and Kim Brockington will be connecting all of these voices into one solo performance.”
The director of the on-campus African American Resource and Cultural Center, Marla Wyche-Hall, urged people to attend the show and educate themselves about Hurston.
“[Hurston] is a key figure in the scope of African American women,” Wyche-Hall said, “and she still impacts women today … It is critical that all are exposed to her life and have a good understanding of the depth and breadth that her life brings to the present day.”
The event is being presented by the National Black Touring Circuit, a company dedicated to making black theatrical performances more widely accessible. Kim Weston-Moran, the associate producer of the Circuit, said Hurston is an unforgettable presence in American history.
“The play traces her from her humble beginnings to her studies at Columbia,” Weston-Moran said, “where she was the only African American student there. After studying anthropology, she went on to document the rural south of the 30s and 40s. She was phenomenal in capturing a historical perspective of how people interacted and lived in that time period.”
For CAD, these engaging and educational live performances are meant to motivate students to share their own artistic experiences about diversity.
“These shows help students realize that they can be involved with artistic experiences about multicultural diversity,” Reola said. “With this play, we’re trying to embrace femininity and African American culture. When students are offered an opportunity to see these issues portrayed on the stage, it enables them to see a different outlet for them to express themselves.”
Reola added that the show’s subject matter will speak to many students, from literature buffs to cultural anthropology students.
“Hurston’s embracing of Harlem will speak to students’ many academic interests,” she said. “Any female students or female allies will want to see this play. Anyone can watch this show and take something important from it.”
“Zora!” will be presented on Jan. 30 at the College Nine and Ten Multipurpose Room. The event is free for students, faculty and staff of UCSC.