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Monday, January 24, 2022

Acts On Stage’s Theatre Returns With First In person Production — Single Black Female

Director Isiah Anderson Jr. stands in front of the set of “Single Black Female.” Anderson Jr. is one of the co-founders of the organization and has over 40 years of experience in the theater industry. Photo by Jean Wong.

By Jean Wong, The Seattle Medium

This weekend, Acts On Stage will present a new live production of “Single Black Female,” a play about the love lives of upper-middle-class urban women.

Acts On Stage is a community non-profit theater and performing arts organization based in Seattle. Founders Michelle Lang-Raymond and Isiah Anderson Jr. started the program in June 2020 with the goal of “centering the creative talents, works, and initiatives of People of Color and People of Faith,” according to their website. The group’s mission is to make a positive impact through productions that spark conversations about racism, classism and justice.

Anderson Jr. is also the artistic director of Acts On Stage, as well as the director of the “Single Black Female” production. He’s been acting since he was 13, moved to Seattle at the age of 20 and worked with Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute. With over 40 years of experience in theater performance and acting in Seattle, he says he now wants to direct and give back the opportunities he’s had through the years.

The Acts On Stage theater is located at 10806 12th Ave SW. With the support of a non-binding grant from the United Methodist Church, the space was renovated and converted last year into a theater from what once was the Mount View Presbyterian Church.

“It was a blessing for Michelle Lang-Raymond and myself. We’ve always talked about starting our own theater,” Anderson Jr. says.  “We wanted to make sure people of color and people of faith had a voice and a place they could go. A lot of times in the church, you are told what you are not supposed to do, and now we have free space and free reign to do what we want to do.”

Written by Austin-based professor and playwright Dr. Lisa B. Thompson, “Single Black Female” centers around two unnamed female Black characters navigating love, life, and stereotypes. Single Black Female 1, “an English professor, and SBF 2, a corporate lawyer, keep each other balanced as they share their fears of rejection and reminisce about black girlhood wounds,” reads a description of the play from Thompson’s website.

As SBF 1 and 2, Arlene Hampton and Janice Spinks, go over lines at the Acts On Stage theater, a few weeks before opening night. “Single Black Female” runs until Dec. 5.  Photo by Jean Wong.

The adaptation by Acts On Stage features lead cast Arlene Hampton and Janice Spinks, who play the roles of SBF 1 and SBF 2, and Sheley Anderson and Tryphaena Singleton in supporting roles SBF A and SBF B. The whole cast is experienced in theater acting, and both Hampton and Singleton have experience acting on TV.

Fifteen years have gone by since the play was published, but the ideas in it remain relevant.

Told through vignettes, the play explores womanhood, self-love, identity, money, dating and aging. The audience is taken through many relatable experiences, from the perils of dating and first dates, to the dread of gynecological appointments. The set adds to the relatability by featuring a living room and a kitchenette–a practical yet functional backdrop that can be seen as the home of anyone in real life.

All the cast members say they absolutely see the resemblance between the characters they play and who they are in real life.

“There are lots of things about the character I play that I can connect with,” says Hampton, who plays SBF 1. “I think anyone who is single and anyone who has ever been single should come. There really is something for everyone. This show can bring self discovery and self awareness.”

“We’re talking about the ladies,” says Anderson, who plays SBF B and is also married in real life to the play’s director, Anderson Jr. “In the play, we’re talking ‘Why can’t I find love when I’m supposed to?’ We’re able to tell a story talking about Black love.”

Anderson says unnamed characters add to the audience’s ability to relate to them. “There’s no names in the show. For my role, at different times in the play I’m playing different roles. Sometimes I’m a 65 year old auntie, sometimes I’m a guy.”

Singleton, who plays SBF A adds:  “For those who might not relate to us as single, Black, or female, they may relate to us on a deeper level because we speak from different perspectives.”

Along with feature productions, Acts On Stage offers a variety of theater programs. The initial goals of Acts On Stage include programs for young people, as well as acting and voice lessons for people of all ages. However, programs have been affected by COVID-19.

Because of the pandemic, Acts On Stage live streamed their first and only other production, 12 Angry Men, in November 2020. But despite the pandemic, the group is working on a production with the drama club at Rainier Beach High School.

“When everything opens back up, we’re going to be able to do everything we wanted to do plus what we’re doing now,” says Anderson Jr. Acts On Stage’s first live production, “Single Black Female,” runs until to Sunday, Dec. 5 at the Acts On Stage theater, 10806 12th Ave SW, Seattle. The play runs at 7 p.m. each night, with additional showtimes at 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and lasts 90 minutes with a 15-minute intermission. Tickets can be purchased on the group’s website. Advanced tickets are available for $22, or tickets can be purchased at the door for $27.

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