Loyola Theatre students take on the stage for the first time in 2021


Photo credit: Kyle Encar

Brooklyn Joyner

In honor of the forgotten leaders who blazed the trail for desegregation and women’s rights, students of Loyola University’s Theatre Department put on the production Cadillac Crew.

The production was performed in Marquette Hall from Jan. 28 through Feb. 6. Cadillac Crew is about four activists: Rachel, Dee, Abby and Sara who go on a trip through southern states to integrate them and advocate for voting rights. This play explains how Black women have been erased from the narrative that they wrote, led and organized themselves.

Chair and Professor of the Theatre Department, Patrick Gendusa, engaged Lauren Turner, producing artistic director of the No Dream Deferred Nola Theatre company , and other members of Turner’s organization to allow this production to reach its full potential.

Lauren Turner was the director. Gendusa said Turner is a trained equity, diversity and inclusion facilitator who can provide expert advice and counsel the creation of a more diverse and inclusive environment within the department. Turner is known to be driven by her interest in equitable, place-based, culturally relevant theatre especially as it pertains to the global south.

Students and faculty began working on Cadillac Crew in late September with intentions of it being performed in November but the coronavirus, constant hurricanes and many other complications postponed the debut of the production for almost three months.

Second-year theatre student, Aria Jackson says she is proud of the entire ensemble for making art in the middle of a pandemic.

Jackson was the understudy of the character Rachel. Jackson says that Rachel shows a lot of passion, courage and determination to pave the way for herself in a field where women are consistently ignored. Jackson said that Cadillac Crews’ message of valuing the Black woman’s voice and taking action on a collective initiative that works toward a more equitable society for black women is essential.

“This production was very inspiring and empowering for me as a black woman to make a path for myself and not wait around for others to make accommodations for me,” explains Jackson.

Other members of the ensemble feel the same as Jackson, including third-year theatre student, Jada Williams. Jada Williams plays the role of Dee who wants to create a world where her daughter Debra can have better opportunities. Williams says that Cadillac Crew gives black women hope and motivation to seize their own destinies in their hands.

“This play shows the people of Loyola and even the cast and crew itself that black women not only need a seat at the table but have more than earned it. We deserve a seat,” states Williams.

To practice social distancing, the seating in Marquette Hall for the production was extremely limited, being capped at 10 people each night. Many were not able to see the performance live but a link to the production will be available to the public soon.