Awash in Memories

Playwright Celeste Jennings ’18 explores family dynamics.

Jennings’ new play, ’Bov Water, takes theatergoers through 10 vignettes that represent fragmented ancestral memories of four generations of Black women from 1876 to 2009. The cast’s three actors rotate roles in each scene as they explore family ties and tensions. Through their exchanges, ’Bov Water explores the haze of memory as the women chat, confide, confess, and fold laundry.

Jennings describes ’Bov Water as a “choreopoem.” The dialogue is lyrical, and the women move fluidly around the set’s clotheslines. She calls it a play about “not knowing your family history and honoring what you do know.” 

As both playwright and costume designer, Jennings was involved from the page to the stage in the evolution of the play’s premiere in February at Northern Stage in White River Junction, Vermont—which also staged her earlier play, Citrus, when Jennings was an undergrad. Lexy Piton ’24, a theater student and intern at Northern Stage, saw how Jennings fine-tuned the show during early performances. “We are really lucky because world-premiere plays don’t often get the playwright in the room the whole time,” she says.

A theater and African and African American studies major who grew up in Little Rock, Arkansas, Jennings began drafting ’Bov Water during her junior year, when she worked in the College’s theater costume shop. Theater became a way for Jennings to combine her interests in writing poetry and designing costumes to tell stories. She is currently pursuing her M.F.A. in costume design at NYU and working on several scripts.

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