Black Bear Island”: A Thrilling Tale Presented by the Stage Center Theatre Production

Current junior at NEIU, Xavier Becerra, plays Warren in the play and stands to the side as apart of the dramatics of one of the scenes. Featured in this photo is Becerras silhouette and the spotlight on Stephanie Shum as she reads the written letters on stage.
Current junior at NEIU, Xavier Becerra, plays Warren in the play and stands to the side as apart of the dramatics of one of the scenes. Featured in this photo is Becerra’s silhouette and the spotlight on Stephanie Shum as she reads the written letters on stage.
Marija Kraljevic

Beginning on April 17, 2024, the NEIU Stage Center Theatre partnered with Silk Road Cultural Center to produce their Spring Season show, “Black Bear Island”. The Silk Road Cultural Center, according to their website, “is an interdisciplinary arts organization rooted in Pan-Asian, North African, and Muslim experiences. We embrace the arts as a catalyst for connecting people, places, histories, and futures”. The play is written by Karissa Murrell Myers and co-directed by Jonathan Shaboo and Dan Washelesky.

Pictured is the graphic design cover for the “Black Bear Island” play created by Karissa Murrell Myers. The cover features a giant black bear sitting in the sea with trees spread around on its back. A man wearing a red flannel and blue cap stands next to a women with black hair and bangs together on the top of the bear’s head.
Photo credit: Instagram @stagecentertheatre ( )

The show ran from April 17 to April 27 featuring live in-person and online streaming performances. Tickets are free for current NEIU students, faculty, and staff with a Northeastern ID card and prices for non-Northeastern students vary based on the different donation tiers.

The play is about an island that’s haunted by what everyone believes is a monstrous black bear that tragically kills people living on the island. The main character, Amitra, never believed the myth about her old hometown until her childhood sweetheart, Warren, died mysteriously.

Warren leaves his house and everything he owns to Amitra, despite not seeing her for decades. As Amitra returns to the island for his funeral, curiosity consumes her as she becomes determined to find out what happened to him and who he truly was. Throughout the play, flashbacks of Amitra and Warren’s time spent together on the island help refresh her memories.

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Amitra, played by actress Stephanie Shum, was phenomenal in her role. She expressed the character’s distress at not remembering what happened during her past time on the island and not knowing the source of the continual flashbacks to her relationship with Warren. Her acting was natural and allowed the play to flow nicely such that the audience could connect with the main character and her traumatic past.

Senior at NEIU, Melony Aponte, played Girl, which is the younger version of Amitra. Her frequent scene partner was NEIU junior, Luke Steadman, who played Boy, the younger version of Warren. Aponte’s acting felt like watching a thriller movie in the theater as she brought true shock value with her emotions throughout multiple aspects of the play. I felt as though I was watching “I Know What You Did Last Summer”, the music intensifying and the light switching to colors of red, blue and yellow during the moments of suspense.

The actors’ use of space on the stage was impressive as they moved constantly and took advantage of every inch of the Stage Center theater. Many sound effects could be heard to set the ambiance of various scenes as if you were in a forest, like the sound of crickets, cicadas, and the roar of a bear in the distance.

The set comprised of a living room from inside a house placed on a forested island. An arm chair, bookshelf, desk, and fan are nearly consumed by vines, shrubs, and other plants in the house. Written letters fill the living room after falling through the roof with hidden messages written on them. (Marija Kraljevic)

The set was designed exceptionally well, with prop trees, large rocks and grass all around the house. The house design itself featured Warren’s relics which gave it more character and gave the audience the chance to search the set for any clues hidden that Amitra might discover. Vines, bushes, and plants were placed on the furniture and around the living room of the house to represent how deserted and filthy Warren’s house was, adding to the mystery of who Warren is and what happened to him.

A few honorable mentions go towards NEIU junior Xavier Becerra, Luke Steadman and Alexander Attea whose performances greatly impacted the plot of the play and each added a dramatic element to the production.

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