NORFOLK, Va. ( WAVY) – When the war in Europe was over, another war, led by Jim Crow had no end in sight.
The play, Refraction of Light is Jean Klein’s interpretation of 1940s life in Berkley for Jews and Coloreds, as African Americans were called.
“[It] was that confluence, particularly of the Jewish residents and the African-American residents,” said Klein, who worked in the mental health profession in Berkley in the 1970s. “There was an understanding a recognition between them; whenever they met after many years.
“When you are from Berkley, there was a kinship there was a family. It didn’t matter what social status you belonged to or you had attained, but if you were from Berkley, you were part of that family.”
The play’s director, Sharon Cook, also holds Berkley close to her heart. She grew up in the historic Antioch Missionary Baptist Church.
Refraction of Light hits the stage this weekend at the Zeiders American Dream Theater in Virginia Beach. The play addresses how Whiteness opened doors that were closed to Blacks.
“I grew up in a church here, Antioch Missionary Baptist Church,” Cook said. “It was the church of my youth so (I) was excited about that, but I’m also taken by the storyline itself. I like plays that will cause people to think and cause people to be more introspective in thinking about their own lives.
“In this play in particular, thinking about your own implicit biases, those things that stop you from moving forward – how light can be reflected on a person in terms of things they have not resolved in themselves or relationally. It really comes together when it gets toward the end. We see these characters sharing in being accepted; accepting of each other’s faith, each other’s beliefs and finding atonement in all of the conflicts they’ve endured throughout the storyline.”
Perhaps Refraction of Light is the prequel to the story of the dramatic turn the Berkley community is experiencing after decades of neglect. An Apostolic church occupies a former synagogue. Homes, businesses and hope are all under restoration.
“[In the play], we come to a place of resolve of resolution where we can all sit down at the table together and just commune and come together as a community in support of one another despite differences in regard to race or religious affiliation,” Cook said.
Below is a sneak peak of some dialogue from the show:
Want to go?
Refraction of Light opens Friday with performances at 6 and 7:30 p.m. Additional performances will take place at 3 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. The Zeiders American Dream Theater, at 4509 Commerce St., has a pay-what-you-can policy for the play. For more information, call 757-499-0317.