OSKALOOSA – The William Penn Fine Arts Department is bringing the story of Sojourner Truth and her family to the main stage this weekend.
Stamping, Shouting, and Singing Home by Lisa Evans was written in the ’80s and is based the lives of Sojourner Truth’s great-great-grandchildren and the struggles and hardships they faced in the “deep south” as young, black women with four African American women as the lead characters.
“The script came from a group called ‘Plays for Young Audiences’ and they are the ones who write the scripts for the Minneapolis Children’s Theater and the against the Seattle Children’s Theater. So this was written in the ’80s by Lisa Evans and produced for the Minneapolis Children’s Theater, back at that time, so it was originally for four women black performers.”
While the story line doesn’t have a specific plot or timeline, Director Andy McGuire, who is also a Fine Arts Adjunct Instructor at William Penn and the Education Director at the George Daily Community Auditorium, said the majority of the play takes place in the 1950s.
“If you look at the script, the only description of time and place it gives is the deep south. That’s all it says,” McGuire said. “So when looking through the ‘Narrative of Sojourner Truth’ and just trying to plot out where children were having children, we kind of landed initially at anywhere in between the 1950s and the 1980s. We kind of settled for something that’s closer to a ’50s aesthetic, but we don’t really stick with any one thing, so time is maybe not the most strict setting that we go with.”
The cast and crew of the play consists of eight students, plus McGuire and his wife, Allison McGuire.
Opening night for Stamping, Shouting, and Singing Home will be at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 22 , with a second 7 p.m. showing Saturday, Nov. 23 as well. Both showings will be held at the theater in the McGrew Center for the Fine Arts on William Penn’s Campus.
Senior Mya Washington said the play gives a “very good idea” of what African American families went through during the Civil Rights era. Washington said being a part of this play also gave her the opportunity to talk about her experiences as a black woman with other black women.
“I feel like it gives a very good idea of what it would be like to be in a [black] family’s – back in the day – shoes,” Washington said. “You get to follow a little girl and she gets to watch her sister grow up and learn from her sister and her mom, hear stories of her great grandma, and it’s really, really informative actually. I feel like I’ve actually learned some things just going through the play and it’s actually really cool because we’ve all sat down together and talked about our experiences which is like really nice because I don’t get to do that a lot with people.”
The inspiration to bring the play to William Penn’s campus came when sophomore Audrey Uwimana and Kiara “KiKi” Davis asked McGuire if they could have the opportunity to be part of a play more reflective of their culture and the things they have gone through.
The ladies originally wanted to produce a version of the movie “The Hate You Give,” as it best told the story of issues the ladies face today, but because of copyright laws and financial reasons, they were not able to.
“Is very important for me because it highlights some of the issues that we go through, that we have went through, and that we are still going through,” Davis said. “To be a part of delivering this message is a big deal because black people, especially black women, don’t get their say. Or like if it’s a show they don’t get to play a big part, so I definitely gave the idea to Andy to do something like The Hate You Give, the movie, just to kind of get that message across.”
For Uwimana, who plays the role of Mama, the great-granddaughter of Sojourner Truth, it’s important for the people that come to the show leave aware and more understanding of what African Americans go through and the role they could play in it.
“There’s a lot of rudeness and disrespect that goes on. I want that message to go out into the public because a lot of people are not aware of this,” Uwimana said. “A lot of people haven’t had this situations like this happen to them, a lot of people keep doing this and are ignorant. I want all those people, different people to be aware of this, that this is offensive. If you’re doing this, please stop, if you were in the same situation and you was being mistreated, you would not appreciate it.”
Playing the role of Sojourner Truth, the teacher and the preacher in the play, Briana Ridgway said having the opportunity to embody each of these roles makes her feel stronger as a black woman.
“We [Andy and Ridgway] both came to an agreement that Sojourner wasn’t just a black activist,” Ridgway said. “She wasn’t just a black woman fighting for her rights; she was teaching people, she was preaching about her rights, she was literally doing everything. So by me embodying not only Sojourner, but the teacher and preacher really helps me become like a stronger black woman in the sense of, we all could do it. We all can just empower people.”
McGuire said they chose to have the play in the McGrew Fine Arts Center because they wanted a closer connection with their audience.
“When we read through some preliminary versions of this script with my acting one class, we talked about how it should be there because you’re closer to the stories,” McGuire said. “We want people who are coming to see it to be close to our characters.”