Play brings a true child-abuse story to stage at Rickards

The cast of performers in Winifred Banks’ book turned into a stage play begins their performance in “Big White House on the Hill” next weekend.

By James Thomas
Outlook Writer

Don’t try searching the internet for anything more than the basics about Winifred Banks’ troubled life growing up.

Apart from bits and pieces of what she endured as a victim of child abuse, there aren’t too many details. The source of that has to come from her memoir that she titled the “Big White House on the Hill.”

Unless you’ve purchased the book, folks who live in Tallahassee also have the option of seeing a stage version of Banks’ story when it opens a weekend run at Rickards High School. It opens Oct. 11 and runs for three days at the auditorium.

For several weeks now, a cast from So City Entertainment Group, a division of the Southside Arts Complex, has been rehearsing the play, but director/play writer Cameron Jones has been mom on much of Banks’ struggles.

Banks first let others into what had been her private world of dealing with child abuse when she released the paperback in 2015. Jones has since found it inspiring enough to write the play that is making its debut in Tallahassee.

Apart from the “big white house” being a major part of the setting, this much is known about Banks:

For years, the woman she thought to be her mother, Ella, was actually an aunt.  Banks was made to believe that because her biological mother, Frances, couldn’t take care of her.

Romance entered her life at age 15. She became pregnant from a much older man.

Joy Broadway is the one who gets to play Banks on stage. Banks endured the abuse in fear of her aunt.

It’s a story that has to be told, though, because of its familiarity, Broadway said.

“It’s an honor to be able to be Winifred,” Broadway said. “Being forced as a teen to become promiscuous is all too real.”

So City Entertainment Group got the rights to stage the play after Banks met with executive director Marcus Rhodes.  Not long after, Rhodes began to put the cast together and Jones added his skills to the play.

“It is definitely for mature audiences only because of some of the scenes in the play,” Jones said. “If there are minors going to see the play, they should be accompanied by an adult.”

The issues that affected Banks makes her story worth telling, Rhodes said. It sheds light on emotional, physical and mental abuse – topic not usually discussed in urban community.

It uses uncut images, promiscuity and shines light on religious hypocrisy, illustrating the philosophy that “what happens in this house, stays in this house.”

“I think it will inspire people who have been in domestic abuse and give them something to relate to,” Rhodes said. “We are hoping to pack the place out.”

After the play debuts  in two weeks, the producers plan to make stops in Louisiana, other Florida cities and Atlanta.

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