IMITATION OF LIFE
: adapted and Directed by John Ruffin / Hosted by Deanna Brown (Daughter of James Brown
Friday, Feb 08, 2013 7:00 PM CST
(6:00 PM Doors)
- Friday, Feb 08, 2013 9:00 PM CST
Harold Washington Cultural Center, Chicago, IL
Imitation of Life is a gripping stage play about family, race, women in buisiness and making tough decisions during the 1930's.
A white widow Bea Pullman and her daughter Jessie take in black housekeeper Delilah Johnson and her daughter, light-complexioned Peola exchanging room and board for work, even though Bea is struggling to make ends meet herself. Delilah and Peola quickly become like family to Jessie and Bea. They particularly enjoy Delilah's pancakes, made from a special family recipe. Five years later, Jessie and Peola prove to be challenging children to raise: Jessie is demanding, not particularly studious, relying instead on her charm, and is the first person to call Peola "black" in a hurtful way, making it clear that their childhood idyll is doomed. Peola does not tell her classmates at school that she is "colored" and is humiliated when her mother shows up one day, revealing her secret.
Bea finds it difficult to make a living selling pancake syrup (as her husband had done). Using her wiles to get a store on the busy Atlantic City boardwalk refurbished for practically nothing, she opens a pancake restaurant on the boardwalk (with Delilah cooking in the front window). Later, at the suggestion of a passerby, Elmer Smith, she sets up an even more successful pancake flour corporation, marketing Delilah as an Aunt Jemima-like figure. She gives Delilah a interest in the business but Delilah continues to act as Bea's housekeeper. As a result, Bea becomes a wealthy business woman, but all is not well as the story advances ten years.