‘The Bluest Eye’ to open Dominion Stage’s 72nd season

Lydia R. Diamond's adaptation of the acclaimed Toni Morrison novel explores the legacy of racism for a community, a family, and an innocent girl. 

Dominion Stage returns to live, on-stage performances August 6 to 21, 2021, with The Bluest Eye, an adaptation by Lydia R. Diamond of the acclaimed Toni Morrison novel. Directed by Eleanore Tapscott and executive-produced by Rebecca Harris, The Bluest Eye is Dominion’s first production since COVID restrictions were eased and the first show of Dominion’s 72nd season. 

The cast of ‘The Bluest Eye’ — back row: Melvin D. Smith, Crystal Arful-Addoh, Tia Berry, Robert Freemon Smith; middle row: Bri Houtman, Brooke West, Cyprina Stokley; front: Simone Jackson-Charles. Not pictured: Khalia Muhammad. Photo/graphic by Matthew Randall and Dave Moretti)

Set in Lorain, Ohio, in the early 1940s, The Bluest Eye tells the story of 11-year-old Pecola Breedlove (Simone Jackson-Charles), who wants nothing more than to be loved by her family and schoolmates. Instead, she faces constant ridicule and abuse. Pecola blames her dark skin for how she is treated and prays fervently for blue eyes, sure that love will follow. With rich language and bold vision, this powerful adaptation of an American classic explores the crippling toll that a legacy of racism has taken on a community, a family, and an innocent girl. 

‘The Bluest Eye’ adapter, Lydia R. Diamond

“I first read Toni Morrison’s debut novel when I was in college and was struck by the passion, poetry, and beauty of her prose,” says Tapscott. “I wondered if this work would be adapted theatrically, thinking at the time that film was likely the best medium to visualize the power of Morrison’s language. Lydia Diamond’s adaptation brilliantly captures and depicts the psychological damage racism wreaks across generations.” 

The Bluest Eye, published in 1970, may track very closely with Toni Morrison’s own life experience. Born and raised in Lorain, Ohio, Morrison would have been close to her protagonist’s age at the time in which the story is set. Later Morrison novels included Song of Solomon (1977), for which she won the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Beloved (1988), for which she won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. In 1993 Morrison was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. She died in 2019. Playwright Lydia R. Diamond, whose other works include The Gift Horse, Stick Fly, and Smart People, has received the Lorraine Hansberry Award for Best Writing, an LA Weekly Theater Award, a Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award, and the 2020 Horton Foote Playwriting Award from the Dramatists Guild of America. Diamond adapted The Bluest Eye in 2007. 

“With this production, we celebrate the 51st anniversary of the novel,” says Tapscott. “Despite the darkness and heartbreak in the novel and its play adaptation, I find this story to be a compelling reminder of not only the beauty of Black women but of our power and resilience.” 

The other members of the Bluest Eye cast are Cyprina Stokley (Claudia), Khalia Muhammad (Frieda/Darlene), Bri Houtman (Maureen Peal), Crystal Arful-Addoh (Mrs. Breedlove), Tia Berry (Mama), Brooke West (Little White Girl), Melvin D. Smith (Daddy/Soaphead), and Robert Freemon Smith (Cholly). 

The Bluest Eye presented by Dominion Stage plays Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays August 6 to 21, 2021, at Gunston Theater Two, 2700 South Lang Street, Arlington, VA. All performances start at 8 pm. Tickets may be purchased at dominionstage.org or at the door. 

The performance Saturday, August 14, will be ASL interpreted and will be followed by a talkback with the director and cast.

After The Bluest Eye, Dominion’s 72nd season continues in November with Five Women Wearing the Same Dress, a comedy by Alan Ball (HBO’s Six Feet Under), followed by the Stone Age musical Firebringer debuting in late January 2022 and [title of show]—the ultimate musical-comedy of the creative process—in May 2022. 

‘The Bluest Eye’ director Eleanore Tapscott and Simone Jackson-Charles, who plays 11-year-old Pecola Breedlove. Photo courtesy of Embracing Arlington Arts.

Director Eleanore Tapscott and Actor Simone Jackson-Charles on the “Embracing Arlington Arts Talks” podcast, interviewed by host Janet Kopenhaver. talk about their lives in theater and Dominion Stage’s production of The Bluest Eye.


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