“Having Our Say, The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years”
I had the pleasure of seeing “Having Our Say, The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years”, at the New Village Arts Theatre in Carlsbad just a few days ago. It is toward the end of the run, but you still have time to get there and see it. Luckily, they just extended the close by a week, and it is now playing through June 18th. I encourage you to RUN…don’t walk to get yourself to this inspiring production. You will be happy that you did!
You may remember when the Delany Sisters’ book came out a number a years ago. Their book came out in 1993,(although, if you had asked me, I would have guessed it being published about 5 years ago. THAT is how out of touch I am with the passage of time!) It told about their life as daughters of a former slave, and the changes they had seen throughout their 100 years. When the book came out it was on the best seller’s list for over 100 weeks, and was quite a sensation. It’s no wonder that it was, if the play is any indication of what made the book so interesting and well received. That book has had over 93 editions of it published, since it first came out.
New Village Arts Theater
If you have not had the pleasure of attending a performance at this charming, small, local theater, this is your opportunity. The venue is small enough (under 250 seats) that there literally is not a bad seat in the house. With only 6 rows, and as wide as the stage, you feel a part of each production there.
For “The Delany Sisters'” the set is perfect and well thought out. You feel as though you have entered Sadie and Bessie’s home, and are sitting down “for a visit.” Every detail of the set is done to perfection, right down to the floor, which appears to be hardwood, but on closer inspection looks like it was handpainted, line by line, right down to the knots in the wood, by a talented set artist.
The whole play is done in the same set, by only 2 actresses, Silvia M’Lafi Thompson, playing “Bessie” Delany, and Milena (Sellers) Phillips, playing “Sadie” Delany. Although they have donned gray wigs, and clothing appropriate for ladies of a VERY mature age, they didn’t go with lines and makeup to pull off the part. Instead, the two use the skill of moving their bodies, and facial expressions in a way that portrays the 2 older ladies, and they do it to perfection!
Listening to a conversation between 2 people on stage for over 2 hours could be monotonus and might be likely to put you to sleep, but not when the discussion is a lesson steeped in our country’s history, and executed by such skilled performers. There is just enough humor and spicy conversation added in to keep you alert and waiting for the next story to develop.
Both sisters definitely have different personalities, which are obvious from the start. As Bessie, herself puts it so aptly, “Sadie is sugar and I’m the spice.”
In one of the scenes, the two women are carrying on their discussion while preparing their deceased father’s favorite meal, in honor of his birthday. They are cooking up macaroni and cheese and ambrosia, all of which looked so delicious we had to go out after the play and grab a bite to eat! The set kitchen reminded me ever so much of my own grandmother’s kitchen that I had a pang, remembering wistfully the times back in Illinois when, as a child, I would watch her cook, as she told me stories about her own life.
Reliving History, Spicy Stories and All!
One of the more interesting – and spicy stories, was that their grandmother and grandfather were never able to marry, due to the fact that their grandmother was 1/4 black, and their grandfather was white. Because of her having a bit of black blood, they were unable to marry, so their grandfather built a home right next to his, with a path they could go back and forth on to be together. The church wanted to kick their grandmother out, but the pastor stuck up for her saying that in her heart they were a committed couple, it was only the law that prohibited them from marriage.
Jim Crow laws, prejudice, strength, humor and courage are all portrayed in this story of two women, both over 100 years old, who had lived together their whole lives. When discussing the fact that neither had ever married, they chuckle that this is possibly the reason for their longevity! They stated that they never married, so they never had husbands to worry them to death!
After seeing this intriguing play, I am inspired to get the book and read each and every detail of the stories shared. I’m sure there is a depth to the history and stories which is skimmed over in the play.
Again, I encourage you to Run… don’t Walk, and get yourself to this provocative production, while there is still time. While you are there, you may want to purchase season tickets, because I have found the quality of plays at this theater are always top notch. You will want to come back, and soon!
New Village Arts is located at 2787 State Street, Carlsbad CA 92008