"In the Blood"

UMSL students Thomas Wiggand and Nicole Keithley act a scene from the university's production of "In the Blood." The play will be staged Oct. 25 through Oct. 28 at the Touhill Center at UMSL. (Photo by August Jennewein)

A new production at the University of Missouri–St. Louis will take a raw, unfiltered look into the world of poverty in the United States.

“In the Blood,” by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks, follows the story of Hester as she struggles to provide for her five fatherless children. Students with UMSL’s Department of Theatre, Dance and Media Studies will perform the play. Jacqueline Thompson, visiting assistant professor of theatre at UMSL, will direct the production, which is described as a modern-day reinterpretation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter.”

The play’s four-day run will get under way with a show at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 25 in the E. Desmond and Mary Ann Lee Theater at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center at UMSL. There will be an evening performance at 7:30 p.m. on Oct 26. That will be followed by two shows on Oct. 27: a 2 p.m. matinee and an evening show at 7:30 p.m. The play will wrap with a 2 p.m. matinee performance on Oct. 28.

“In the Blood,” deals with illiteracy, reproductive rights, government assistance and homelessness. But it’s the issue of homelessness that will take center stage in the production. That’s because Hester isn’t only a single mom to five children on welfare; the family also lives under a bridge.

“My mission as a director was to highlight one of these issues and create awareness in our community,” Thompson said. “I chose to highlight homelessness.”

And she made sure her students did their homework on the issue of homelessness and not come into the situation with negative preconceived ideas about people dealing with those circumstances.

“I contacted social workers, psychologists and women shelters to provide the cast with accurate information to help the actors create three-dimensional characters,” Thompson said.

Cast members also volunteered at Room at the Inn, an emergency shelter for homeless women and families in St. Louis County. Thompson has also invited The Women’s Safe House, Almost Home and Lydia’s House to set up booths during the performance, to distribute information and collect donations for their organizations.

Student Vanika Spencer, who plays two characters in the play, said the production is a call to action.

“You should feel uncomfortable and cringe and whisper. That’s good,” she said. “Let’s start a dialogue and act!”

Visit the Riverfront Times website to read a preview of the play.

“In the Blood” is for mature audiences. Tickets are $5-$10. Call 314-516-4949 or visit touhill.org to purchase tickets.

Myra Lopez

Myra Lopez