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CSULB presents ‘The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin’

University Players presents a musical time piece about civil right.

Kip I. Polakoff

Kip I. Polakoff

Zulema Suarez, Staff Writer

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In 1963, with a life surrounded by racism, police brutality and misogyny, Viveca Stanton prefers to see past all the hate in the world and pretends she is a white girl with straight hair, blue eyes and a great life.

The gripping musical “The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds her Chameleon Skin,” presented by Cal State Long Beach Theater Arts, opened March 10 at the University Theater. The book, music and lyrics are by playwright, lyricist and actress Kirsten Childs and the musical is directed by Jaye Austin Williams, assistant professor of Theater Arts at CSULB.

The rollercoaster of emotions is told through 21 songs, over 34 characters and 15 cast members. A live band adds soul and feeling to an already heartfelt musical.

Early in life, Viveca, played by Timanii Meeks, is faced with a troubled mind when a little boy, Gregory, played by Malik Proctor, gets angry at Viveca for rejecting him. He then hurts her even more when he compares her physical appearance to one of the girls who died in the 16th Street Birmingham Church bombing — a racially motivated attack on a predominantly black congregation that killed four young girls a month after MLK’s 1963 “I have a dream” speech. Viveca is forced to see the reality of being a little black girl, no matter how bad she wants to be white.

Gregory’s disrespectful comments toward Viveca early in the musical gave Malik a bad rapport with the crowd.

Viveca’s parents faced a challenge when it came to their daughter’s unrealistic mindset. Her mother, played by Ruby Morales, is seemingly the realist of the two. She wants her husband, played by Ramon Edwards, to stop trying to keep the truth about racism away from Viveca, and help her accept that she will have to face discrimination throughout her life because she is a black girl.

Regardless of the troubles she faces as an adolescent, Viveca decides to take her father’s advice and smile no matter what, denying the fact that the prejudices she encounters actually hurt her. She even responds to being called an Oreo, or someone who is black but acts white, by saying “What’s wrong with being an Oreo anyway; it’s a damn good cookie to me.”

Her lack of negativity toward the insults she received added a new element of innocence to the musical, making the audience laugh and also support her more.

Viveca’s journey of denial continues throughout her early adulthood, but she gets a taste of reality once again when she is riding on a bicycle with Gregory and they get stopped by policemen, who approach them with their guns facing the two, ready to fire. They are set free once policemen realize that Gregory is not the man they were searching for.

As Viveca blames the reason for their arrest on “thugs,” Gregory informs her that innocent people get stopped all the time, and sometimes they don’t get to walk away from the scene.

The intense scene reminds audiences that the civil rights issues of the time were never fully resolved. I think of recent occurrences where Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, Sandra Bland and many other unarmed black people faced police brutality and didn’t make it out alive.

A few years go by and Viveca moves away to “the city where fucked up people make their dreams come true.” In other words — New York City.

She meets Lucas, played by Tommy Nguyen, and falls in love without realizing their difference in skin color might have an impact on their relationship.

Viveca has the last straw when Lucas informs her that they could never be a real couple, because his grandmother told him to never marry a black girl.

Lucas’ grandmother seemingly comes out of nowhere and sings a song, “Granny’s Advice,” about how Lucas can’t be with a black girl. The song added an upbeat sound to depressing news, and Viveca ended up choking the grandmother at the end of the song, so the audience got a good laugh from that, regardless of the news Viveca was just given.

Heartbroken, disillusioned and angry, Viveca finally realizes who she is and discovers that no matter how hard she tried to deny the truth, she will always be black.

“I can’t change who I am, and I don’t want to,” she says.

She faces the reality of her skin being black, and accepts how she cannot shed her skin because she isn’t a chameleon.

Though the ending scene may have been a little confusing and misinterpreted due to Viveca’s actions, the musical shed a lot of light on many ongoing problems the black community is currently facing, regardless of its 1963 setting.

The problems of sexism, police brutality, racism etc. all contribute to why a little black girl would prefer to be white.  The musical did a great job of making you want to laugh, cry and put life into a whole new perspective.

“Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin” is showing Wednesday – Saturday at 8 p.m. until March 25.

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