Surrender ROW comes to Richmond

In life, people makes choices, both good and bad, but what is often ignored is how these choices affect family, friends and others in the long run.

The notion of how decisions impact others is explored in-depth through the eyes of an African-American woman, Mary, in Shyla Garcia’s gospel play, “Surrender ROW.”

The play goes on Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Richmond Memorial Auditorium.

The play begins with Mary, a single mother, preparing her daughter for church. Shortly thereafter, the audience begins to see Mary’s blemishes and weaknesses, Garcia said.

From there, Mary experiences a moment of clarity as God takes her through her future, not through the eyes of her, but of her daughter in the years to come.

“As people we don’t think like that,” Garcia said.

Surrender ROW is taken largely from Garcia’s own sometimes-turbulent youth.

“I was exposed to a lot of violence,” she said. “I’ve gone through rape by someone close to our family. I’ve been molested.

“I’ve spent time in a mental institution at 15 years old behind a nervous background when a lot of these events were happening. I suffered the loss of children through miscarriage.”

Despite the hard times in her life, Garcia has a cheery disposition. Her conviction is audible her in voice, as is her passion for helping others.

“It’s been a really hard road, but a good hard road at that, when I look at where all that’s gotten me,” she said. “If it’ll save a person, if it’ll make them change their mind … maybe not all the way, but even if it’s just a baby step, then it’s all worth it.”

Garcia, originally from Columbia, Miss., moved to California at the age of 6, though she spent summers in the South, and describes herself as a “child of God.” Surrender ROW is her first full-length play, and was presented at The Berkeley Black Repertory Group in 2008 and the Fairfield Center for Creative Arts in 2010.

She said she brought it to Richmond because she heard so much about the city’s strife from her husband, who works with the Street Outreach Team of the Office of Neighborhood Safety.

At the end of the play, Mary must choose between herself and thinking of others. Saturday night, her spiritual journey and the decision she ultimately makes will be revealed.

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