By Maddie Stagnaro – Staff Writer – firstname.lastname@example.org
Christy Hall, an actress and Arkansas native, performed an one-woman show, which followed four black women of the 20th century. An ensemble of three musicians accompanied Hall with Southern African-American music from the times.
Through dramatic and vocal interpretation, Hall expressed the views of four oppressed but strong women in history: Zora Neale Hurston, Clementine Hunter, Sojourner Truth and Fannie Lou Hamer.
“I was expecting songs, different music from black culture, and I definitely didn’t know it was going to be like a play,” said Josh Sales, a junior computer science student and Hendersonville native. “Initially I was turned off by the character, I thought she was self-absorbed, but then it took a direction of really showing what life was like for black women, especially back then.”
Zora Neale Hurston, best known for her novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, wrote many other novels, short stories, essays and plays. Hall played a short scene of Hurston talking to the audience as if they were guests at a party.
Sari-Rose Brown, a freshman at UNC Asheville, said she knew she was coming for a performance but was surprised to see a one-woman show, which she said was beautifully impressive.
“I think it’s important that we remember powerful women – powerful black women – in our history, and I found myself crying at one point. I think it’s incredibly important to not forget because it’s so relevant,” Brown said. “If we can keep looking at the themes here, hopefully we can do something now in the present.”
Brown also said it would be important for students to research the women that were represented, and even if the program were disseminated throughout class rooms, students would gain a little a knowledge just from that.
Clementine Hunter was a painter, who was very proud of the fact she sold paintings to buy the things she owned. She was far different from Fannie Lou Hamer, who retold stories of being arrested and beaten by police simply because of the color of her skin. Each piece Hall presented told a unique and specific story.
The Core Ensemble comprised of Ju Young Lee, a cellist, Michael Parola, a percussionist and Hugh Hinton, a pianist, aided Hall with their musical accompaniment.
Hinton, who is also the script editor and musical adviser, said they chose music that would reflect the different characters and different places and times.
Hinton said it is a collaborative process in putting everything together.
“We drew from the rich body of African-American music,” Hinton said. “The story is set in the South, so there’s a lot of music from the South – blues, gospel, spiritual and those kinds of styles.”
Brown said she really enjoyed the music along with the performance. She said Hall and the musicians worked well together.
Throughout her performance, Hall directed the audience’s attention to the music, expressing how much she loved the song they were playing.
Hall read a ballad from The Spirit of the Sojourner Truth, in which the message of her performance was clearly stated.
“Man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman?” Hall said during her performance as Truth.
“I thought her message was excellent about how violent history has been about some of these things and the part where her children were sold into slavery and she had to watch that, so her human rights were violated over and over again,” Sales said. “When she was in the prison and they were beating her, she actually prayed for the officers because they didn’t know what they were doing, so my first thought was: It can be easier to find yourself in the shoes of those officers than you think.”
Hinton said these are some powerful women and powerful stories still relevant to people today. He said especially through Fannie Lou Hamer and her story about voting, viewers and readers can see how relevant and timely these stories are as society continues to face these issues today.