Shaduhs Uh Voodoo Melds Personal Experience and the Spirit World

Shaduhs Uh Voodoo, a play written and directed by Frances Perkins Scholar Cheryl Gittens, is based on her own traumatic life and on the life and death of her brother, Hendy (whose face forms the right half of this image). An earlier version of this play won a James Baldwin Playwriting Prize in Five College competition.

Shaduhs Uh Voodoo, a play written and directed by Frances Perkins Scholar Cheryl Gittens as her senior honors thesis, will be performed by a Five College cast March 26 and 27. This intense drama, which incorporates dance, music, poetry, and multimedia elements as well as acting, is based on the Gittens family's tempestuous experiences in Barbados.

Gittens has used the writing of Shaduhs to transform into art her personal experiences with domestic violence and other forms of oppression, and to explore issues of compassion, reconciliation, faith, and mourning. Though autobiographical--the main characters represent Gittens and her family--the play is based on extensive research as well as soul-searching.

Shaduhs follows a sister as she flies home to Barbados, where her brother is dying of AIDS. Their discussions allow the siblings to reconnect and to examine the effects on their lives of domestic violence and the legacy of slavery and colonialism. Surrounding the family are community members who comment--often humorously--on the family's situation, and mischievous supernatural "shaduhs" who express the unconscious wishes of both family and community. "By bringing our story to life in Shaduhs Uh Voodoo, I hope to show people the importance of family and the necessity to love and forgive each other while we have the opportunity," Gittens says.

Before coming to MHC, Gittens's life was shattered by domestic violence, racism, exploitation, and legal hassles based on her then-illegal alien status. Today Gittens is a senior with a special major in Caribbean women's studies as expressed through the performing arts. She has been recognized for the last two years by USA Today for her research in Senegal and for earlier versions of Shaduhs. Gittens has also won awards for her sculpture and for this play. After graduating, she hopes to work with other community artists to develop works of art through education.

Photograph by Lee Bouse