The Unicorn Theatre’s last play of the 2009-10 season will be And Her Hair Went With Her, a two-person work that delves into the identity of African-American women. The show, opening April 30, will run through late May.

Kansas City native Nedra Dixon, along with Teisha M. Bankston, will portray the wide range of women and personalities that populate a beauty salon catering to black women. In a sit-down interview with Dixon and a phone interview with playwright Zina Camblin, who recently completed a Juilliard School residency, I asked about how the play might also resonate with the gay community.

“I think the gay and lesbian community will connect with one of the characters that I play,” Dixon said. “I play a character that has been jailed. She’s a prisoner on death row for killing a young man who smothered her lesbian lover. … She’s part of a disenfranchised group but has found her inner self. She has accepted who she is completely and makes no pretense about who she is — she puts her real face out there for the world. So I think the gay and lesbian community will be very much interested in seeing her story.”

Playwright Camblin, a lesbian herself, reiterated these comments regarding the character of Felicia, whose story forms a sort of through-line of the play.

“A lot of people, their eyes are opened up by that character,” she says.

But the primary focus of the play concerns the identity of African-American women, a point that Dixon talked about. “Hair [is> a particular issue on how we find ourselves acceptable, how we perceive others are viewing us as acceptable beings,” she said. “Are we more acceptable when we are lighter of complexion and finer of hair? And often, the true psychology is in our community that that has been the accepted norm—that the closer we thought we were to white, the more status you achieved in the black community.”

Camblin says, “I write shows that touch on subjects that are important for people of color.” Although the play challenges African American women to think about why they make particular choices in personal beauty, she said, “Considering the material, it’s a pretty mainstream play, and [explores issues"> in a way that people love.”

The show has been performed in several regions across the country, including the East and West Coasts and the South, and Camblin says that in each region, it has been received extremely well. She said that the design and production team at the Unicorn Theatre is one of the best that has tackled her work.

And Her Hair Went With Her runs through May 23. For more information, visit unicorntheatre.org. "

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