‘Hoodoo Love’ features magical realism and power in desires


Photo courtesy Michael Brosilow

Cast members rehearse “Hoodoo Love.” The show opened on Oct. 31 at the 56-seat Raven Theatre’s Schwartz Stage in Chicago, and will run through Dec. 15.

Vy Duong, Arts and Entertainment Editor

When actor Martasia Jones decided to return to the stage after two years of being on screen, it was more than just a turn on the road. As Jones read the script for “Hoodoo Love,” she was instantly drawn to the story’s “richness,” but more so, to the drive and strength of a woman.

“To play a character like this, it’s a real dream come true,” Jones said. “She has so many different levels and she’s so human.”

Presented by Raven Theatre, “Hoodoo Love” is a spellbinding drama that follows Toulou, a young woman who ventured to Depression-era Memphis in hopes of becoming a famous blues singer. When Toulou fell for a musician named Ace of Spades, she turned to a Hoodoo practitioner for help of casting a spell on the man, which comes with a price. The show opened on Oct. 31 at the 56-seat Raven Theatre’s Schwartz Stage in Chicago, and will run through Dec. 15.

Jones said “Hoodoo Love” is more than just a love journey and “magical realism.” Through Toulou, the actor added, the show shines a spotlight on women’s ambitions and the power they can manifest to accomplish those desires.

“It’s a beautiful love story that blossoms, but it’s also a story about a young woman who’s very ambitious, who has dreams and goals at a time where women weren’t allowed to pursue such things or weren’t celebrated in such a way when the patriarchy took control over everything,” Jones said.

Director Wardell Clark said when he first saw the script, he instantly came up with many ideas to help tell this powerful story. Although he approached “Hoodoo Love” like he normally did with other productions, Clark said the show has a lot of intense moments, including a two-minute scene where two actors simulate sex on stage. Clark said he worked closely with the intimacy designer Rachel Flesher to create a safe and comfortable space for the actors.

With his dance background, Clark added that being able to craft and choreograph the show with the cast members has been fulfilling. As a director, he said he wants to do the characters justice.

“I try to make sure that all the characters are very much three dimensional people, and that the complexity they have on the page is even much deeper on the stage,” Clark said. “They’ll have a deep level of emotion that allows the audience to not write off people, but to understand that it’s about humanity.”

Scenic designer Sydney Thomas (Communication ’19) said she designed around 15 shows during her time at Northwestern. After graduating last spring, Thomas said she had the opportunity to collaborate with Clark first in “His Shadow” on 16th St Theater before becoming the scenic designer for “Hoodoo Love.”

Thomas said while many people may view hoodoo as a “dark, evil and disruptive” energy, she wants to portray the often overlooked potential of hoodoo through her set for the play. She added that it’s important to showcase the possibility that lies within the practice as well as the spirit of the practitioners themselves.

“We have this physical piece of a railroad that somehow becomes disrupted by Toulou’s shack and go haphazardly into the distance,” Thomas said. “That would be early physical objects at this disruption, and this magic and derailing that come from the way the women try to save their faith.”

Working with Thomas and other production members, Jones said, has been a humbling and fulfilling experience that she hadn’t felt on stage for a while.

She said she hopes the audience find the courage to explore and manifest the power inside them.

“You have everything inside of you that you need to be what you want to be,” Jones said. “I would love for them to understand that dreaming is something that’s necessary. That’s what makes life worthwhile.”

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