The story has it that August Wilson wrote the early versions of Seven Guitars for an all-male cast. Then, Vera arose in his creative consciousness to tell her part of the story.
That August Wilson carefully wrote Vera’s story down inspires Taylore Mahogany Scott as she plays Vera in PassinArt’s production of Seven Guitars.
“It’s easy to create non-complex female roles – just throw a woman in there,” Scott says. “Being a Black male, I think it’s admirable of him to portray complicated women. I like that he makes them complex.”
Scott has appeared in PassinArt’s two most recent productions. She played Neat in the one-woman show NEAT by Charlayne Woodard, and Mona Lisa Martin in A Song for Coretta by Pearl Cleage. Although her role as Vera in Seven Guitars is her first staged experience of an August Wilson play, she brings an up-front intimacy with Wilson’s entire Century Cycle to the project.
Fresh out of grad school, with her master’s in Shakespeare, Scott began acting with the Cincinnati Shakespeare Festival. However, “No one was doing August Wilson. There weren’t any theaters doing African American playwrights,” she says. ” I thought, ‘If I can’t have a seat at the table, I’ll pull up my own table’.”
So, she booked the hall, auditioned the actors, mounted a comprehensive readers series, and, performed in all 10 plays.
The immersion enabled Scott to experience the deep similarities between Shakespeare and August Wilson.
Basically, “it’s the words,” she says. As one of two Black students in a private, all-white school in Texas, Scott spent her lunch hours in the school library.
“I picked up Shakespeare and it was absolutely amazing to me. I loved it. I read as much Shakespeare as possible. Once you find the rhythm, he’s funny, he’s witty, and able to pull emotions from people.”
She says it’s the same with August Wilson’s complex stylized language.
“Once you understand the rhythm and cadence, it becomes more fluid,” she explains. To successfully play dialog from either playwright means “allowing yourself the freedom to relax your own restriction on what grammar and language should be,” she says.
“Shakespeare and August Wilson are meant more to be heard and seen than to be read.”
Scott also sees parallels between Vera and two of Shakespeare’s most famous females.
“Lady Mac! She totally supports her man through everything. She’s 100 percent behind him, no matter what’s happening,” Scott says. And, “I love Juliet because she believes so fully in love. She’s so willing to follow this man.”
“While Vera doesn’t speak her support of Floyd, she is such a supportive female for her man,” Scott adds. “That to me is amazing.”
Of all the characters in Seven Guitars, Vera goes through the most changes. She’s in a relationship, she’s dumped for another woman, then he’s back and wanting her back, and then he ends up dead. Vera withstands waves of grief, betrayal, and love.
“She has so much strength and wisdom, but still she wants to believe in love as any woman under 30 would do,” Scott says. “I recognize her caring, her still being in love. Angry is easy to play. Hate is easy to play. Love takes patience.”