The Long Branch, NJ, Equity troupe's production, playing through Feb. 17, is directed by Kamilah Forbes. The cast includes MaConnia Chesser and playwright Camblin, playing a host of characters.
The play opens NJ Rep's 2008 season. The theatre is known for contemporary works and a commitment to world premieres.
And Her Hair Went With Her is a National New Play Network "rolling world premiere." In addition to NJ Rep, And Her Hair Went With Her will be performed at the Phoenix Theater in Indianapolis, Horizon Theater in Atlanta, The Fountain Theater in Los Angeles and the Bailiwick Theater in Chicago. Every engagement is billed as the "world premiere."
In the play, "Jasmine (MaConnia Chesser) owns the beauty parlor and has pretty much settled into her life, while Angie (Zina Camblin), who works there while going to school, is a much more politically active individual. The interchange of their daily routine provides the foundation for this new comedy. We also meet other customers of the beauty shop, played by the cast of two. The parade of patrons includes idiosyncratic clients, such as blond Chrystal, who decided to become white in the third grade, Keisha, a BOC (black obsessive compulsive) who believes germs are part of a plan to kill off black people, and Debbie, a bright-eyed young actress who tries in vain to get in touch with her tough side."
"The play is not just about hair styles," the playwright said in production notes. "It's about the culture, black women and our hair. You can't really separate those two things. The beauty salon is like therapy. You'd be surprised what people tell over the sound of a hair dryer. For a long time in the black community, going to a psychologist, a therapist, was something that black people didn't do. That's for white people. But the hair salon is where black people could talk about their lives, and kind of lay their hurtings down." The creative team includes scenic designer Charles Corcoran, lighting designer Jill Nagle, costume designer Patricia E. Doherty, sound designer Jessica Paz, properties designer Jessica Parks, technical director Quinn K. Stone and stage manager Rose Riccardi.
According to NJ Rep production notes, "The concept for And Her Hair Went With Her began while Camblin was in Los Angeles working on a television pilot. "I really began to notice that something was going on with black women and our standards of beauty," the playwright stated. "It's interesting that we're going back to straight and blond hair. Queen Latifah has straight, long hair. I don't see a lot of sistahs with natural hair in the movies and on television."
As Camblin began working on what would become her second play, she didn't necessarily think it would end up as a vehicle for her own acting. She has fantasized about Whoopi Goldberg one day playing a role, and even got the script to Goldberg.
Camblin recently completed a year-long residency at The Juilliard School under Marsha Norman and Christopher Durang, as a part of the Juilliard Playwriting Fellowship. While at Juilliard, she received the Lecomte du Nouy Prize for playwriting. And Her Hair Went With Her was selected as part of Lincoln Center's Directors Lab play reading series. In addition, the play had readings at The Culture Project, the Tribeca Theater Festival, and most recently as part of New Jersey Repertory Company's Script in Hand Series.
Past productions and workshops of her other work include Memoirs to Live at Brooklyn Arts Exchange; Bedroom Stories at Jon Sims Center for the Performing Arts, in San Francisco; Life's a Drag at UC San Diego; and Bunni and Clyde at Know Theater. As a consultant for NYU's Creative Arts Team, she helped create several interactive theatre scripts for young audiences. As an assistant writer, she contributed to The Jonestown Project, a commission by Berkeley Repertory Theater. She is a native of Cincinnati and received her MFA in acting from UC San Diego, where she was also a recipient of a San Diego Playbill Award.
Performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 8 PM, Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM and Sundays at 2 PM. Specially priced previews are Thursday and Friday Jan. 17-18 at 2 PM and 8 PM.
Opening night is Jan. 19 at 8 PM. Tickets are $35 with discounts for seniors, groups and full-time students. Opening night, which includes a reception, is $40. Previews are $30.
NJ Rep is located at 179 Broadway in Long Branch, NJ. For more information call (732) 229-3166 or visit www.njrep.org.