“The better memories of my life rose when I came to Spelman,” says actress Jasmine Guy who returns to the Baldwin Burroughs Theatre stage to direct the Spelman College department of drama and dance’s production of “The Bluest Eye” April 1-4. Thirty-five years earlier Ms. Guy, best known for her role as Whitley Gilbert on the TV series “A Different World,” danced her way across the same stage for Spelman’s dance school. Ms. Guy was invited to direct the play by Eddie Bradley Jr., Ph.D., dance and drama department chair, who says he is thrilled that she has returned home to share her special gifts and talent with Spelman students.
“Since her return to Atlanta, Ms. Guy has become one of the most sought-after actor/directors in the area. Her work on recent productions such as ‘For Colored Girls’ and ‘Brownie Points’ has been impeccable,” says Dr. Bradley. “We are very fortunate that she is available to work with our students on, ‘The Bluest Eye.’”
“The Bluest Eye” was adapted by Lydia Diamond from the novel by Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison. It’s a story about the tragic life of a Black girl in 1940s Ohio. Eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove wants nothing more than to be loved by her family and schoolmates. Instead, she faces constant ridicule and abuse. She blames her dark skin and prays for blue eyes, sure that love will follow.
The play, chosen by Dr. Bradley, is Ms. Guy’s third time directing, her first at Spelman. “This piece is an abstractly told story, it’s like jazz music, so we’re going to do it in a modernistic, minimalist way,” explains Ms. Guy. “It’s an old, rural story set in the South. I want to focus on who the people are more than where they are and how poor they are; and let the actors create their environment.”
Ms. Guy’s Spelman ties go much deeper than her performance credits. In addition to her dancing, she also filmed the Spike Lee movie “School Daze” on the Atlanta University Center campuses and most recently held rehearsals for “For Colored Girls” at Spelman, reigniting her relationship with the dance and drama department. Her father, the Rev. William Guy recently retired after 35 years as pastor of Friendship Baptist Church where Spelman College began in 1881. He also taught religion and philosophy at Morehouse College for 30 years. Her sister, Monica Guy, C’86, and several aunts attended the College.
Ms. Guy who says she’s “vicariously a graduate,” is delighted to continue her lifelong relationship with Spelman. “I feel useful, like I have something that somebody can access and call on,” she says passionately, excited to pass on everything that others have invested in her career. “And the students teach me, too. It’s an exchange, and I love the energy of it.” – Lorraine Robertson is an Atlanta-based author, freelance writer, and regular contributor to Inside Spelman.