Lacks’ life dramatized in ‘page-to-stage’ production on campus

Dylan Burke

Dylan Burke
Dylan Burke

GROSSMONT COLLEGE– The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks has been spawning numerous projects and events on campus, including “page-to-stage” on Thursday night, Oct. 27, during which a local theater group gave a dramatic performance of excerpted material from the book.

The dramatization began with Rebecca Skloot, author of the book on Henrietta Lacks, learning about cells from her biology professor Donald Defler (Brian Rikel). Erika Phillips portrayed Skloot and Rikel played four roles during the performance.

After learning about cells Skloot does some research on her own and finds out about the cells of Henrietta Lacks. She attemps to contact the Lacks family several times before finally getting in touch.

Skloot eventually was able to engage with the Lacks family, learning how unethical the medical industry was by not sharing any of the profits from the “immortal” cells that grew to be a multimillion dollar industry. Another themeis how the African American families have been used for unethical experimentation throughout their history.

The conclusion of the performance showed the Lacks family emerging from under their burden getting on with their lives.

Alyce Smith Cooper gave an incredible performance playing the Henrietta Lacks’ fourth child, Deborah “Dale” Lacks, who became Skloot’s chief source and informant. After the performance, Cooper confided that she “was only given a week and a half” to learn the script and rehearse. She said she was appalled by the treatment of the Lacks’ family by the medical industry. “It was absolutely unethical, if that happen to your family you would think that too,” she said.

Cooper played her role so energetically and convincingly that the audience interrupted with applause one scene in which she was pouring out her grief over her mother’s immortal cells.

Abner Genece who played the role of Joe Lacks also gave a strong performance; the actors were good in this act, making this observer actually feel he was inside the Lack’s home.

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Burke is a student in Media Comm 132. He may be contacted at [email protected]