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Whole Sky Fans Whirlwind of Dialogue

Have you ever seen a scary movie and found yourself screaming at the characters to avoid the imminent danger, or felt enraged enough at a broadcast commentary or radio talk show to shout your views into thin air?

The cast of "The Whole Sky" regroup for a photo op.

Then you should have seen the world premiere of "The Whole Sky," a reality play written by Yolantha Harrison-Pace and directed by Shan Ayers that blatantly discusses the racial tension between black and white women.

This play produced gusts of controversy and enlightenment since its conception. "I have learned to listen. I encourage you to ask yourself the questions you hear the characters ask each other. Ask the questions of your friends. Begin to talk to each other and not around each other…Until we all can sit face to face to communicate and endure whatever joy or pain ensues, we will not heal the deep scars left from years of denial, prejudice, and racism."

This past summer, at the Artist's Collaborative Theatre in Pike County, KY, this play was the only one not cast. Ayers, who was present, saw the reading for the play and "was completely taken by the power within [it]." Ayers, in spite of already having a full schedule of classes, design responsibilities, research projects, and conference presentations decided he must direct the play- fully staged at Berea College. "I believe that God put me in that seat, in that theatre, on that night, so that play could pick me to give it the voice it was denied there in Eastern Kentucky."

"Whole Sky" produced much more than just controversy, but dialogue among cast members, audience, and the general public. The play, filled with touching moments and laugh-out-loud one-liners, made the point that women of all colors should stop cutting each other down with words and actions, but uplift each other and unite the power each woman possesses. In Harrison-Pace's words, "This play is based on an ancient Chinese proverb that says, 'Women hold up half the sky'."

At the end of each performance the cast regroups onstage for a talk-back that includes the playwright and director. Yolantha's straight-forward approach to the issues brought up in her play provokes the audience to dialogue. At the end of the play, the audience decides who is the "winner" of the characters. After a heated discussion, one audience member stated her position plainly by voting for neither of the finalists, "I think we're the winners. We will take this experience with us."

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