The late scholar and dramatist Endesha Ida Mae Holland, Ph.D., moved from poverty and prostitution in Jim Crow-era Mississippi to become a prominent civil rights activist and, eventually, a Professor of American Studies at the State University of New York, Buffalo. She was a Lorraine Hansberry award-winning author, a Drama-Logue Theatre Award winner, and a Pulitzer Prize nominee.
Dr. Holland chronicled her compelling journey in articles for the Michigan Quarterly Review and, significantly, in her play “From the Mississippi Delta,” which opens at WSU’s Studio Theatre (downstairs from the Hilberry Theatre) on Thursday, January 17 and runs through Saturday, January 26, 2013.
Initially conceived as a memoir, Dr. Holland’s extraordinary life journey is dramatized in a way that expands her personal narrative and gives testimony to a whole generation of African-Americans who embraced the Civil Rights Movement at terrifying personal cost.
Live music underscores “From the Mississippi Delta” in a way that helps audiences engage with and enjoy the serious issues presented. Director Phillip Barnhart explains, “The art of a true story, the art of acting, the art of performance, the art of forgiveness, and the art of compassion – all of these will lead us to a deeper understanding of ourselves, of our history, and of our present, daily interactions with one another.”
Barnhart also adds, “Things have certainly gotten better for everyone whose rights were withheld, African-American or otherwise; however, Holland’s play reminds us that the work is not nearly finished. Issues of race, as well as socio-economic and gender positions, still undercut most of the disparities that continue to exist in the United States, keeping us from the privileged position to which we hold ourselves to the world, and to ourselves: a truly democratic nation.”
The cast of “From the Mississippi Delta” includes Katrinia Carson as Woman Two, Bridgette Jordan as Woman One, and Laurice White as Woman Three. (Carson and Jordan have appeared at the Bonstelle, where both were wonderful in the Bonstelle’s production of “Hair Spray”, and Jordan had many fine moments singing in “Intimate Apparel.”)
The production team includes Phillip Barnhart (Director), Maggie Beson (Production Stage Manager), Michael Hallberg (Lighting Designer), Clover Rushing (Scenic Designer), Melissa Hall (Costume Designer), Ryan Koprince (Sound Designer), and Felix Li (Publicity Manager).
The play runs January 17 – 26 with performances on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Tickets are $10 - $12 and are available by calling the Studio Theatre Box Office at (313) 577-2972, reserving them online, or by visiting the box office in the Hilberry Theatre located at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Hancock.