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Before It Hits Home

Before It Hits Home
Your Price: $17.95 CDN
Author: Cheryl L. West
Publisher: Dramatists Play Service (cover may change)
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 72
Pub. Date: 1999
Edition: Acting
ISBN-10: 0822213222
ISBN-13: 9780822213222
Cast Size: 5 female, 4 male, 1 boy

About the Play:

Before It Hits Home has long been a favourite of acting teachers for Female Monologues and Male Monologues.

Before It Hits Home is a full-length drama by Cheryl L. West. The story takes audiences through the last few months in the life of a black jazz musician who is caught in between two worlds: one which revolves around his lovers, the other based in the home of his family. After a near-death experience, he goes home to regain his strength and find comfort, but his homecoming turns on its head into a tumultuous nightmare and love comes from an unexpected source.

Before It Hits Home centers around a black jazz musician, his lovers and his family. Wendal Bailey, who has never managed to make it big, has just been diagnosed with having the AIDS virus. He has chosen to keep the virus and his bisexuality a secret. These secrets endanger both himself and his loved ones. To a string of questioning doctors, he indignantly denies having had any sexual relations with others but by the end of the first act we see him in two simultaneous bedroom scenes, one between him and his fiancee, Simone, who is pregnant, and one between him and his male lover, Douglas, who is actually a married man and father. In these combined scenes, Wendal's denial and confusion are painfully obvious as he tries to hide the truth about his health from both of his partners; he seems especially intent to hide from Douglas the extent of his undisclosed promiscuity. In the second act, Wendal has drifted away from both Simone and Douglas, unable to sustain the lies that had been keeping his two worlds apart and in balance. He returns home to a family whose beliefs in tradition, pride, and integrity are shattered upon confiding the truth to them. He is abandoned by his mother who, in a wrathful explosion of raw emotion, indicts Wendal for immorality and takes with her his teenage son from a previous marriage. Wendal's father, however, overcomes his facade of masculine pride and takes up caring for Wendal in his final days, eventually enacting a tentative reconciliation between the family members only in time for Wendal to die. The final image of the play lingers as Simone reappears, her own health and the life of her unborn child in question. One of Cheryl L. West's most controversial dramas, Before it Hits Home was the first off-Broadway show about the impact of AIDS on a Black family.

Before it Hits Home was originally workshopped by the Seattle Group Theatre at the Multicultural Playwrights Festival in 1989, then later was given a reading at the Circle Repertory Company in 1990. It premiered in in 1991 at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. and won the prestigious Susan Smith Blackburn Prize honouring the best English-language women writers worldwide. The off-Broadway premiere was in 1992 at LuEster Hall in New York City. Actors still use monologues from the play as audition material and it has been performed in college theatre productions as a showcase of student talent.

Cast: 5 female, 4 male, 1 boy

What people say:

"…relentlessly observant and ruthlessly forthright…Before It Hits Home shows that there are things about AIDS we haven't grasped yet – as playwrights, audiences, and people." — New York Magazine

"Before It Hits Home … is not a play about victimization … It is instead an authentic, at times almost hysterical wake-up call to the black community, sounded from within." — The New York Times

"West … [speaks] only from a center of pure, compassionate rage." — Village Voice

About the Playwright:

Cheryl L. West is an African-American playwright. She worked as a social worker and taught before turning to playwriting. Her plays have been produced in England, off-Broadway, on Broadway, and in numerous regional theatres. She has written TV and film projects at Disney, Paramount, MTV Films, Showtime, TNT, HBO, CBS, and BET.

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