Producers of “Decades of Day Work” at USF Department of Theatre and Dance

The University of South Florida, Tampa School of Theatre and Dance joins forces with Guest Artists, Dr. Lillian Dunlap and Jaye Sheldon, co-artistic directors of Your Real Stories in St. Petersburg to bring a week of activities designed to showcase the power of personal stories. The week begins Saturday, February 7, with a day-long storytelling workshop. Dunlap and Sheldon will then work with faculty and students in classes throughout the week and end with a free public performance, “Real Stories, Real Power,” on Friday, February 13 at 7:00PM in the Black Box Theatre (TAR 120).

Dunlap and Sheldon are co-creators of the popular theatrical series Decades of Day Work that typically uses professional actors to present the real life stories of Black maids, white employers and the sometimes contradictory and frequently complex family relationships that develop between them. Friday’s performance features students from the Laboratory Workshop: Solo & Duet Performance course, taught by Theatre Professor Fanni Green. The student-actors will perform their own authored stories, stories from the Decades of Day Work series, and memoirs written by students in Literature courses taught by English Professor Dr. Gary Lemons. Your Real Stories began in 2011 with the launch of www.yourrealstories.org, a story-sharing website. When the movie version of the book The Help was released, Your Real Stories directors decided to invite people to share their own real life stories about domestic day work, the limited job opportunities available to black women across the decades, and the effect of the institution of ‘day work’ on the families of workers and their employers. Your Real Stories partnered with The Studio@620 in St. Petersburg to present the stories of sixteen people in a three-part series. Then, Decades of Day Work IV at freeFall Theatre in St. Petersburg treated audiences to special guest storyteller Dr. My Haley, widow of author Alex Haley and collaborator with him on the iconic book and television mini-series “Roots.”  Each “Decades of Day Work” is presented in two parts: a dramatic reading of the stories by actors and a moderated panel discussion that includes the original storytellers and reaches out to the audience. Theatre goers have described the series as, “Very special and enlightening.” “Powerful …extremely well told… (an) important contribution to social healing.”

Inviting the Your Real Stories directors to USF is the brainchild of Professor Green, who was one of the professional actors in Decades of Day Work III. ” I began then to think about ways to share this fresh approach to storytelling with my own theater students,” she says.  Prof. Green also reached across campus to enlist Dr. Gary Lemons and his students to participate in the week long residency.

Your Real Stories uses storytelling and the magic of theater and other media to challenge people to talk and listen to each other across perceived differences of identity, experience and opinions. Come and see USF student-actors present “Real Stories, Real Power”, Friday Feb. 13, 7:00PM in the Black Box Theatre on the Tampa campus (TAR 120).  There is no admission charge.