Akron actress gives stunning performance

Written by: Heather Beyer and Beau Brown

There is a new show premiering at the UA theatre department that is sure to touch audiences members’ hearts.

The play, “Josephine Baker: The Black Pearl,” written and directed by Dr. Susan Speers, chronicles the life story of Josephine Baker from childhood until her death. It accurately represents the history of this famous African American woman, who pushed boundaries and overcame the obstacles of females (and colored peoples) in the 20th century.

Speers wrote the play with actress Carol Eustey in mind.

“It means more than words that a professor would put this much time into my future,” UA actress Caorl Eustey said.

Eustey said that playing the role of Baker was an honor.

“It ended up changing my life,” she said. “It made me less self-centered and made me look at how I view and treat people. You never know what people are enduring in their personal lives.”

Eustey said she wants the audience to receive the message that Josephine Baker was more than a sex symbol, more than the first black superstar, and more than just a dancer. She was a woman of color who stood through abuse, rejection and racism, but she stood strong, pressed her way, and proved it by adopting and raising 12 children of different nationalities. Baker believed that people “can learn to live together, in peace with one another.”

Eustey said that she had to do a lot of research on Baker to help her prepare for her role.

“It was really emotional,” Eustey said. “I was on an emotional roller coaster.”

After discovering that Baker was thrown out of her own home by her step-father for being “too dark,” had to work as a housekeeper to survive, and was raped by the white men she was working for, Eustey realized how much pain this woman had gone through.

“She may have been dying inside all throughout her life,” Eustey said. “I wonder how much pain was behind her smile.”

On Sunday, it became very clear that Speers had made a strong casting choice, because it is impossible to imagine anyone else playing the role but Eustey.

Eustey gave a stunning performance.

In her first number, she appeared on stage in a beautiful silver shimmering gown. It was at that moment that audience members experienced Eustey becoming the character of Baker.

It was evident that this role was written for Eustey, and that this was the role she was meant to play. This will be a defining moment in her career.

Speers said that Eustey has big shoes to fill in playing the role of Baker. “She was a dancer, singer, actress and comedian, and she had that special energy and charisma that many stars have. We are attracted to them because of their beauty, both inside and out, that inspires all of us.”

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see such an inspiring story told through a performance by a brilliant cast!

“Josephine Baker: The Black Pearl” runs Sept 13-15, 20-22 at 8 p.m. and Sept 16 at 2 p.m. General admission tickets are $12, UA student tickets are $6, and tickets for faculty, staff, alumni, and seniors are $10. For more information or reservations, call 330-972-7895.