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Crystal Rae is known to her second-grade students at Kelso Elementary as Ms. Rae, but to the theater world, she is just Crystal. Her new play, “Lamariya,” is having its world premiere at Jewel Box Theatre, part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival in New York City from July 19 to 24, 2016. She is the first Houstonian to have a play produced there.
Rae wrote and performs in the play, along with HSPVA student John Hall III and Whidby Elementary School student Samuel Harvey, who won second place in last year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Oratory Competition.
“Lamariya” is a science-fiction parable set in Jim Crow-era Mississippi. When African people were brought as slaves to America, they lost many of their traditions and stories. In her play, Rae imagines that the slaves’ ancient beliefs not only stowed away on the ships but still walk the earth.
“Writing “Lamariya” was a way of reclaiming some of the mythology that we lost,” Rae said. “When you are orphaned from your culture, you must tell your own stories.”
In the play, characters Zach and Eliza are the only teachers in Lamariya, a small Mississippi town. As they age, their hopes for a child of their own fade, but the storks–supernatural beings who crossed the Atlantic Ocean with the townspeople’s African ancestors–know Lamariya will be the birthplace of a child who will change the world. War breaks out on earth and in heaven as two families, one ancient and one new, fight the ignorance, fear, and violence that are the last acts of a belief system in decline.
Playwright and performer Rae has acted with the Ensemble Theatre, Main Street Theater, Theatre under the Stars, and the Texas Repertory Theatre Company. She is also working on a one-woman show and a musical.
Lamariya director and HSPVA alumna Troy Scheid is a Houston theater educator who has also worked with many of the local theater companies. She works on the Arts Access Initiative with Young Audiences of Houston, a plan to address inequities in arts education in HISD and other districts.
For more information on the play, see their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/LamariyaPlay or visit them on Twitter at @LamariyaPlay. Tickets can be purchased online at www.midtownfestival.org.