Known for creating a space for underrepresented voices to be heard, Georgetown University’s Black Theatre Ensemble kicks off its 2017–2018 season with an original student work that deals with race, identity and the values with which we align ourselves.
Written and directed by MacKenzie Foy (COL ’19) and Kendell Long (COL ’19), and produced by Abi Vega (COL ’18) with technical direction by Caolan Eder (COL ’18), “The Hand That Feeds You” is a play that invites its audience to reflect on the choices they make and how these decisions define them.
The play follows Nate Martin, played by Donovan Taylor (MSB ’20), and Angie Stone, played by Fatima Dyfan (COL ’21), as they navigate Daniels University, a fictional school where racial tensions are ever-present. Nate and Angie meet after a protest that Nate organizes when a black male student is unjustly arrested by campus police. From that point on, the two maintain a strong bond, which continues even as they become professors at Daniels.
The plot jumps back-and-forth from the present to the future, and the change in Nate’s views becomes apparent as he goes from student activist to reserved professor. Angie, on the other hand, stands by her convictions.
When pressure from the administration intensifies and a chance for a promotion arises, a rift in Nate and Angie’s relationship begins to pull them in different directions. Each is forced to choose between acceptance or resistance, a choice that could very well tear their friendship apart for good.
While Nate and Angie change over time, the racial climate barely changes, if at all, from when they are students to when they are professors. There are still protests against racial injustice and police brutality and the administration is still inattentive. While writing the play, Foy and Long drew inspiration from the current atmosphere and their experiences at Georgetown University.
“Being students writing a play about students in a college campus, the play is naturally influenced by our context and our surroundings,” Long said. “Are there parallels between the characters you see on stage and characters that exist at Georgetown? Yes.”
The main point is that Daniels is representative of college campuses everywhere; these racial problems have occurred across the country for a long time, a theme Foy and Long highlight in their show.
Another running theme in the play is the transformation of relationships over time.
Nate and Angie have known each for a long time and witnessed each other grow. Their visions of the world have changed, which is a driving force of the play’s main tension.
The title of the play itself relates directly to the fostering of relationships.
“The play is very circular,” Foy said. “It’s all about cycles, and there is a lot about who made you who you are, and ‘The Hand That Feeds You’ is direct to that. Who is feeding your mind? Who is feeding you as a person? Are you feeding yourself? It sums up a lot of the questions that are in the play.”
“The Hand That Feeds You” is the first show that Foy and Long have ever written and is also the first time the two have been involved with any theater production at Georgetown.
The idea for the play came to them about a year ago, starting as an informal take on “The Lion King,” and became a serious script with meaning and relevance. Over the summer, the two wrote back and forth, each writing scenes and then revising together, before finally producing the play through BTE.
“We do highly encourage other folks to join BTE, whether it be on the board or future productions,” Long said. “BTE tells very relevant stories for underrepresented populations on campus. It was important for us to contribute to the history of BTE and the larger body of works that they do in the hopes of seeing that grow and seeing other students write plays that are produced here.”
The play is presented as a workshop, and is one of the smaller-scale productions put on by BTE. In addition to the workshop, BTE also has a main stage spring show and several coffeehouse events, both open for people to get involved. In fact, many of the cast members and production staff of “The Hand That Feeds You,” were not previously involved with theater.
“A lot of people you are seeing on stage and a lot of the designers are either not very experienced or completely new to the process. We are always looking for people to join our shows and you don’t have to know theater to do it,” Vega said. “BTE has the reputation on campus of having a really homey feel and being small, but loving.”
“The Hand That Feeds You” shows at 8 p.m. on Nov. 2, 3 and 4 with an additional matinee at 2 p.m. on Nov. 5. All performances will take place in the Village C Theatre. Tickets are $5 for general admission and can be purchased online.