The Kirsten Childs musical was directed by Julio Matos and choreographed by Keshia Wall, with music directed by Dan Gibson, all faculty members within the Department of Performing Arts.
It has been almost one year since Broadway shows were shut down due to COVID-19 restrictions, and in-person productions have been put to a halt across the country.
Yet Elon’s Music Theatre program continues to be ready and resilient by keeping the theatre alive and running – virtually, that is! One of these productions was “The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin” directed by Julio Matos, choreographed by Keshia Wall, and music directed by Dan Gibson, all faculty members within the Department of Performing Arts.
“The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin” by Kirsten Childs is a humorous and pointed coming-of-age story about a young Black woman (Viveca) who blithely sails through the confusing worlds of racism, sexism and Broadway showbiz until she is forced to face the devastating effect that self-denial has had on her life.
Matos found it important that the cast be educated on historical events mentioned in the show, like the Civil Rights Movement and the dearth of black female representation in the media from the 1960s through the 1990s. He sought out professional theatre-artist and dramaturg cfrancis blackchild, who provided weekly Zoom discussions about what effect these events had on the characters in the musical.
In addition to their in-depth dramaturgy work, cast member Giselle Watts ’23 worked with Tammy Cobb, associate director for community partnerships at the Kernodle Center for Civic Life, to create a community outreach program that includes the Burlington Boys and Girls Club, CityGate Dream Center, and others.
Performers taught participating elementary, middle, and high school students the stories and dances co-choreographed by students Faythe Kelly ’23 and Renell Taylor ’23 while also having important conversations about racism in and out of the arts. Watts has been working with the Kernodle Center to facilitate an experiential/service-learning experience credit for the cast members participating in the community outreach.
“I’ve always been interested in non-profit work and organizations and getting involved in the community, which is one of the reasons why I came here to Elon. Theatre is not just about studying ‘the craft’, but is also about the communities that we build and reach through the stories that we tell,” Watts said.
Theatre is not just about studying ‘the craft’, but is also about the communities that we build and reach through the stories that we tell.
-Giselle Watts ’23
“The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin” is being filmed live – complete with masks and social distancing protocols – with a release date of March 5, 2021.
For more information, please visit elonperformingarts.com.