[image-1]Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Joy Vandervort-Cobb isn’t just one of Charleston’s best actors, she’s a theater prof at CofC.

Starting tonight, April 14, Vandervort-Cobb and her student actors will be reminding all of us she has a life in the classroom and behind the stage with “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark.” 

Directed by Vandervort-Cobb and written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage, “Vera Stark” is a comedy about an African-American maid who becomes a movie star in the 1930s by passing as white. That may sound weird to some audiences today, but sadly, those were the kinds of choices that actors had to make many, many years ago.

Vandervort-Cobb also notes that blacks didn’t simply pass for white either — if their looks were what would have been considered exotic at the time, they might take on the identity of some other ethnicity, be it a Pacific Islander or an Indian. (The same thing applied to non-WASPy white actors as well; born a Russian Jew, Leonard Nimoy’s early career was built on assuming the identities of various ethnicities, from Native Americans to Mexicans and Italians.)

For the director, the play offers up an interesting exploration of the lengths that some folks go to become a star. “What are you willing to do to get a job? What are you willing to give up?,” Vandervort-Cobb asks, noting that the play focuses on Stark in three different times in her career, the ’30s, the ’70s, and 2000s. 

A word for the wise: Vandervort-Cobb notes that the second act of “Vera Stark” may throw some audiences for a loop since it diverges dramatically from the first act. “It’s a comedy with a twist,” she says. “It’s like two different shows.” Consider us intrigued.

“By the Way, Vera Stark” runs through Tues. April 19. Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. for all nightly performances with one Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. Admission is $20/general admission; $15/seniors, CofC employees, non-CofC students; and $12/CofC students. For more information, visit theatre.cofc.edu.