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Blessed Woman

August 22, 1993|ERIN J. AUBRY

Although her name means "blessed woman," Ghana-born actress Akuyoe said her first experiences in the United States made her feel anything but.

"It was a painful experience, but necessary," said Akuyoe. "Here I was, claiming to be African, yet my hair was straight and I spoke with a British accent. The black kids woke me up, in a way."

The massive culture shock prompted Akuyoe to script "Spirit Awakening," her autobiographical one-woman show that has played in and throughout Los Angeles since last year. The show begins a five-week stint at Watts Towers Arts Center on Saturday.

The 70-minute show takes the audience from Akuyoe's royal beginnings in Ghana--she was born a princess--to her struggles to assimilate in upper-crust London as a child, to her even greater struggles in the United States as a young adult. Though the narrative is often sobering in its portrayal of societies that measure personal worth by skin color and hair texture, Akuyoe never loses her sense of humor nor her steadfast determination to be simply who she is.

Through the many characters she takes on, from a snooty high school teacher to her proud, outspoken mother, she finally evolves into a confident adult who "knows the strength of each tight curl upon my head."

Performances will be followed by workshops in which Akuyoe helps children tell their own life stories through written and spoken words.

"I've discovered that many children here are in a lot of pain about who they are and what they look like," she said. "Before you go start changing yourself, you have to give yourself the opportunity to bloom."


"Spirit Awakening," 10 a.m. Saturday and for the next four Saturdays; Watts Towers Arts Center, 1727 E. 107th St.; free; information: (213) 569-8181.

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