Saturday, May 12, 2007
Regina Louise would like you to know that love is never wasted, and the love you give a child can change that child’s life forever.
To raise awareness about issues concerning foster care, Sacramento Theater Company is kicking off “May is National Foster Care Month” with the world premiere of an original one-woman show, “Someone’s Somebody,” adapted from her autobiography of the same name, performed by Regina Louise, a survivor of the foster care system, and directed by Peggy Shannon, who helped Regina develop it for the stage.
“Every pair of shoes tells a story,” begins Regina. The set, designed by Marion Williams, consists of a couple of chairs and two racks of shoes, which the actress removes, one pair at a time, and puts on, to illustrate the various periods of her life.
You begin to think about the simple things most children take for granted — like shoes that fit. On stage is a sign for ShoesThatFit.org, an organization which provides new shoes and clothes to children in need to help bolster their self esteem and enable them to do better in school.
Regina remembers her first shoes were a pair she made herself by cutting up the belt that was used to whip her and nailing sections of it to blocks of wood.
The child of a wannabe singer father and an alcoholic don’t-wannabe-mother, Regina was placed into the foster care system at an early age and passed around from foster home to foster home, each with its own set of problems. She took to running away and boasts that her shortest stay in a foster home was 17 minutes.
“I just wanted someone who smelled good,” she says, wistfully.
In time she was placed with Jean Kerr, a white woman who gave her the first sense of love and stability she’d ever had. She began to gain confidence. The simple task of learning to use a napkin took on great significance for the young girl. More importantly, she received something she had never had before: a sense of belonging.
The two created a strong bond and Kerr petitioned to adopt Regina, but her petition was denied because it was felt that Regina belonged with a black family. She was removed from Kerr’s home and put back into the system again.
She talks about mental health hospitalizations where she was kept doped up for over a year, and sexual molestation which occurred in the home of a minister over a six month period of time, and records which branded her as borderline retarded.
When she turned 18, she was handed all of her belongings in a garbage bag and set out on the streets--she had aged out of the system.
Regina Louise is a remarkable woman of great strength, who never forgot the kindness of Jean Kerr and who says that throughout her life, whenever she needed to fill out an application which asked for her parent’s name, she would use Kerr’s and make up an address. It was the closest thing she had to a real “mother.” The inner strength she gained from her short stay in Kerr’s home taught her that she was better than the system assumed her to be.
She began writing her memoir, “Somebody’s Someone” and following its publication, she decided to quit her day job as a hair stylist and salon owner and become an advocate for the more than 500,000 misplaced children in the foster care system.
Now a strong, successful woman, a published author and lecturer, Regina Louise has racked up over 100,000 rail reward miles on Amtrak, traveling across the country to share her amazing story of triumph in every state of the union.
The translation of her story from book to stage, with the haunting musical accompaniment of Aladrian Elmore makes “Someone’s Somebody” a thought provoking evening whose triumphant finale will bring the audience to its feet with applause.