'The Play’s The Thing' For Theatre Major

Speech Communication and Theatre Arts Major Stephanie Ogeleza is on fire. The graduating senior has written her second play and will produce, direct and perform in it at the Small Theatre of the Performing Arts Center at York College.

Bonafide Women is about ordinary women and the myriad challenges they negotiate in their individual lives. There are men in the cast as well; but they serve as supporting characters.

They are the husbands and boyfriends, pastors and doctors and such. For the most part they are the ones inflicting the pain; yet some serve as the supporters overall. But it is the women who are the bonafide stars of this smorgasbord of anguish.

The topics range from blindness to domestic violence, cancer, abortion, prostitution, gender discrimination and homosexuality.

“The characters and topics are diverse,” said Ogeleza. “I wanted to represent all kinds of people and all kinds of topics. I wanted a [multicultural] cast to show that everybody has problems. It’s not just one race or another. The cast is a mirror image of the audience.”

Ogeleza who is of Nigerian parentage, was bitten by the theater bug when in her sophomore year she took TA (Theater Arts) 490, an independent research course and was mentored by Professor Sarah Shilling. She drafted her first play, The Real World, to fulfill part of the requirement. It was a one-woman play in which she starred. Reviews were encouraging and a playwright was born.

This latest effort was first conceptualized as a one-woman show as well. Ogeleza had planned to play all the roles; but friends, classmates and even acquaintances from Queens College, wanted in on the fun. It grew to a cast of 15.

The stories in Bonafide Women are not pretty and they are not tactfully rendered. They represent life in its unvarnished state take ‘em or leave ‘em. The dialogue here is raw and the themes adult. However there is poignancy to the stories; they are desperate yet hopeful and speak to the strength of the human spirit.

There is “Crazy Daisy,” a blind Jamaican with delusions of glamour; Giselle is a Latina caught in an abusive marriage with a man she submissively calls, “Papi;” Kerry is dying of cancer; Vanessa deals with the issue of abortion; Genevive is a young French prostitute who reveals childhood sexual abuse by her pastor; Rashawnduh is an aspiring rapper currently a “video girl” working with a sexist [video] director.

The vulgarian in him reviles her ambition of becoming a performer. He takes the rap genre as the sole province of his gender; and harasses her with lewd sexual invitations. It may be the twenty first century, but old habits die hard for this guy.

Ogeleza, a graduate of Francis Lewis High School, came to York in 2007 with plans to major in Occupational Therapy; but she found herself drawn to the Performing and Fine Arts Department and declared her major there. 

She quickly revived the Drama Club, renaming it, The Drama Royals, and is empowered with Professor David Jones as advisor. It is under the auspices of the Club, that Bonafide Women is being produced.

Ogeleza has excelled at York and is completing her degree on time with plans to start a management business in the entertainment industry.

Bonafide Women opens on Thursday March 3, for two performances only, from 12-2 and 7- 9 pm.

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