( 1965- )
Cheryl L. West was born in Chicago and lived for years in Markham, a black working-class suburb of that city. She holds three academic degrees, one from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. Before giving herself permission to write, West supported herself by teaching and social work because those were professions she could "fall back on." After completing her first play in 1986, she was determined that if she was not making a living by writing by the time she was thirty-five, she would relegate it to a hobby. Her subsequent success assurred West that she did not have to give up writing when she turned thirty-five. To date her best known play, Jar the Floor, has had over fifteen productions since 1991 and has won numerous awards.
Her screenwriting is equally promising. Her play Before It Hits Home is under option by Spike Lee. She is also doing a film adaptation for Home Box Office and an original screenplay for Paramount Studios.
Cheryl West makes her home in Champaign, Illinois, where she is able to live on her "own terms." West feels that it is important to maintain her Mid- western sensibility, since it is the heritage from which her voice springs.
Cheryl West's family plays have an intensity reminiscent of Lorraine Hansberry. Her dialogue and characterizations simultaneously create uniquely distinctive families and evoke universal emotions. In Before It Hits Home, she explores the timely issue of AIDS and its effect on a black family. Wendal, a bisexual in his early thirties, must deal with the personal repercussions after he is diagnosed with AIDS. In the first half of the play, Wendal struggles with his