Melanol: A Reflection

Kyora Wallace "Melanol"

Kyora Wallace, Staff Writer |

It’s still show season in the Hamblin and the department is on a roll. After the closing of Love/Sick directed by Drew Kahl, it was time for a new show to take the stage. On Thursday, Apr. 7, Melanol opened in the Hamblin Theatre.

Melanol is a student show that was written, directed, and starred by yours truly, Kyora Wallace. I wrote Melanol in my senior year of high school as part of a workshop hosted by This Is Us star, Susan Kalechi Watson. It was first performed in May 2018 and was later published in December 2020. Writing the show was one of my biggest accomplishments until now.

Melanol is about a black girl named Ebony Warren, a high school senior and Captain of the Robotics Club. For as long as she can remember, she would get called “white girl” by her friends and family. She then sees a commercial for a pill called Melanol, (played by me) that’s supposed to make her a better black person. After receiving the pill, the show is a constant push and pull between who Ebony thinks she should be vs. who she really is. She also has a best friend named Dexter who is struggling to balance the relationship between his race and sexuality.

I wrote this piece as a way to make sense of an issue that I’ve always struggled with. I could never really put into words how upset and isolated the comments made by my peers made me feel. It wasn’t something I thought I’d ever be able to put into words, let alone write about. One of the things that really threw me off while writing the play was feeling like nobody would understand what I meant. After putting up the show 3 times now, I can confidently put that fear to rest. I’m so surprised by the number of people who have come up to me saying they felt the exact same way.

My set design was simple. The show used a giant projection screen on stage and the floor was painted black with rainbow paint splatters all over. The projection screen was the best choice because the scene shifts were easier to show on screen rather than having people run on and off stage trying to change it. As for the floor, I had a few different ideas. I liked the paint splatter look that was used for Love/Sick, but I wanted to make it more unique to my show. The main takeaway from the show is that there is no one way to express blackness. The idea that there is such a way to “act white” and to “act black” is rooted and white supremacy and that isn’t how we should approach conversations around identity. Black is meant to be a mix of all different colors and to imply that there is one way for it to look is wrong. So, I wanted rainbow colors on the black background to show just how dynamic black can be.

I had the most fun putting together the group scenes. There are multiple scenes where the whole cast is on stage doing things and it keeps the audience engaged. Those scenes were fun to stage, and the actors had fun doing them as well.

 The process is putting up this show was a wild one. There were times that were incredible, and I was totally confident in what I was doing. There were other times that were less incredible, and I almost quit doing the show entirely. Although writing, directing, and starring in a show is not a combination I would recommend for a college senior, I’m proud that I did. I learned a lot about myself, my leadership style and working with others. And I wouldn’t trade those lessons or the people I learned those lessons with for the world.

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