By Ariele Vaccaro
In a play that combines song, dance, and monologue, local actresses addressed important issues facing Black women in modern society.
During its Nov. 7 sold-out debut in Milwaukee, “Butterfly Confessions” filled the pews of the Body and Soul Healing Arts Center on 48th St.
The play, created by Yetta Young who runs a Los Angeles production firm, YYP & Associates, delved into the secret thoughts of women who face extraordinary struggles with grace, confidence, and faith.
“It’s highly entertaining,” said Young. “But you’re going to walk away thinking.”
In short, it’s what she calls “edu-tainment”.
During each monologue, actresses told stories about emotional, disturbing, and sometimes heartbreaking situations.
They talked about molestation and rape, love, relationships, and the consequences of unsafe sex.
During one monologue, Eva Juniel played Rae Lewis-Thornton, the woman who became the face of HIV/AIDS by gracing the front page of a 1994 edition of Essence magazine beside a caption that read, “I’m young, I’m educated, I’m drug-free, and I’m dying of AIDS.”
Juniel, as Lewis-Thornton, recited with stinging sincerity the regret she clings to, having not protected her body as she wished she would have.
In another, a young girl, played by Selena McKnight, grapples with confusion, sadness, and fear after being molested by her mother’s boyfriend.
In a number of the scenes, the characters describe a fear of sharing what has happened to them.
Young thinks this is something many Black women and girls face on a daily basis.
“Particularly in the African American community, we’re taught to not air our dirty laundry,” Young explained.
“And so a lot of times we think we’re the only one until we start sharing and we realize that were not.”
Other monologues took on a more humorous tone.
In “I Need an Orgasm”, a middle-aged widow played by Jendora Kelly, admits that she’s willing to reach out to younger men to fulfill her sexual needs.
At first, she’s not sure if her days of feeling sexy are gone, but finds out after talking to a friend that she’s only just entered a new chapter of her life as a woman.
Throughout the play, the audience feels a sense of unity binding the fifteen women together.
Although they all face crisis and struggle of different kinds, they are eager to empathize with each other.
To Young, it was important that women watching the show walk away “feeling a greater sense of community and support with each other.”
It was “Butterfly Confessions”’s first time in Milwaukee, or for that matter, anywhere outside of the play’s birthplace of Birmingham, Ala., where it was first performed in 2010.
Young recently began licensing the piece out to colleges and communities. Catina R. Cole, a Milwaukee stage director and the founder of MPower Theater Company, took an interest in the play and wanted to bring it to her city.
“It’s taken wings and flying without me, and that’s the goal: raise awareness of violence against women and girls, particularly as it relates to women of color,” said Young.
“Butterfly Confessions” also exists as a book and contains a number of extra monologues that were not performed in the play.
To learn more about the book or the stage play, visit ButterflyConfessions.com.