‘Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”
This schoolyard rhyme has a point, but in his play, “Words,” Jonathan S.E. Perkins says words can hurt. Perkins wrote “Words,” and is directing and producing it at the Liberty Theatre for two weekends.
It’s about a woman, Darlene, played by R.Nell Feagins, who owns a diner and is not a nice person.
“She was cruel and heinous before being diagnosed with cancer,” Perkins said. “She is every employee’s worst nightmare for a boss.”
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When Darlene was being treated for cancer, no one came to visit her. Not even her own pastor. No one called. She received a few get-well cards.
That was a wake-up call for Darlene.
The ‘old’ Darlene
The play begins just after Darlene gets out of the hospital. She has been reading her Bible and “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books, Perkins said.
Darlene returns to work with a new attitude. She’s a new woman.
“The employees don’t really believe she’s changed,” Perkins said. “Her return is met with skepticism.”
“By the time the audience sees me, she has had the revelation,” Feagins said. “I don’t have to play that (mean) person.”
Feagins said she thought it would be fun to play a mean character. The play has also kept her busy since she’s on leave, due to a bad back, from her job as a clinical nurse.
“I love being busy,” she said. “This role came along at the perfect time for me. Instead of being at home very bored and depressed, I’m at the theater every night. I’ve spent most of the time sitting.”
After someone goes through a serious illness like cancer or heart trouble, Feagins said many people do change for the better. She even knows one man who was “really crotchety, mean, but worked very hard. People came to help him and be there for him. He’s softened up.”
For Darlene, the words on the get-well cards got to her. “Even if the person who sent it didn’t mean it,” she said. “The words spoke volumes to her. It was very healing.”
What words can do
People often say things that are meant to sting, Feagins said.
“People get our intent,” she said. “Words are incredibly significant. They can cause deep wounds and you don’t have the power to heal them once you’ve said it. You can say you’re sorry. But that can’t take away that wound.”
It wasn’t just Darlene’s words that hurt, said Darryl Ham, who plays Victor. Darlene’s actions were also hurtful. For example, she evicted Victor’s family, including his pregnant mother.
Darlene was also hard on young Rosetta, played by Vanessa Lundy, who was having financial problems.
Starring in a new play
Chiara Richardson, who plays Trisha, the diner’s manager and head waitress, has known Perkins for a long time, she said.
“For me, it’s very special,” Richardson said. She is starring for the first time in a play that Perkins has written.
Tanya M. Hill, who plays Tanya, gets to sing a song that Perkins and Dionne Daniels wrote.“It’s too exciting,” Feagins, who is a playwright herself, said. “Jonathan did such a good job to write something that everyone can connect with. I feel very fortunate.”