|Greta Oglesby plays Fannie Lou Hamer. (Kevin Berne photo)
“Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer,”
presented by TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, should be a must-see for students.
This one-woman play, written by Cheryl L. West and
featuring Greta Oglesby, details Hamer’s brave efforts to secure voting rights
for Black people in the 1960s.
She was 44, a Mississippi sharecropper with only a
sixth grade education and the youngest of 20 children, when she attended a
meeting of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and became a tireless
advocate for voting rights.
Her activism led to her and her husband being forced
to leave their plantation home, thus losing their home, jobs and possessions. She
received death threats. Nevertheless she persisted.
In one harrowing scene, she describes being arrested and thrown into a cell with five Black men who were ordered to beat her or risk severe punishment themselves.
Her story is interspersed with songs like “This
Little Light of Mine” and “We Shall Not Be Moved” that have the audience
singing and clapping along with her. She’s accompanied by a three-man band
seated upstage. Music director is Morgan Stevenson.
Directed by Tim Bond, TheatreWorks artistic
director, Oglesby’s performance is a tour-de-force of brilliant acting and
Projections by Miko S. Simmons illustrate the events
and people who also were devoted to the cause with photos from that time.
Viewers who are old enough to remember that turbulent period in history will
surely recognize them.
Andrea Bechert’s scenic design includes pro-voting
rights signs adorning the theater’s walls. Costumes by Lydia Tanji, lighting by
Lonnie Rafael Alcaraz and sound by Gregory Robinson add to the enjoyment.
The reason why this play is so important for
students to see is that it has such relevance to events today, when some
political leaders are trying to suppress voting rights, especially by people of
color. TheatreWorks recognizes this and has scheduled a student matinee for 11
a.m. March 30.
Running about 70 minutes without intermission,
“Fannie” will continue through April 2 at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305
Middlefield Road, Palo Alto.
For tickets and information, call (877) 662-8978 or