The Nebraska Repertory Theatre and the St. Louis Black Repertory Company will launch their two-year partnership at 6 p.m. Oct. 2 with the virtual event “The Continuum: Civil Rights to Black Lives Matter.”
The event will feature a St. Louis Black Rep performance of “Fannie Lou Hamer: Speak On It!” written by Cheryl L. West, and “A Conversation with Sonia Sanchez.” Tickets are available here.
“Speak On It!” tells of an activist who spoke out about voter registration and civil rights in African-American communities. It showcases songs and speeches that inspire and chronicle the story of Hamer’s experience. The production will feature Thomasina Clarke in the title role, with accompaniment by Dennis Brock on guitar. The production is directed by Ron Himes, producing director of The Black Rep.
“I’m really excited for the Nebraska Rep and The Black Rep audiences to join together to experience this play about Fannie Lou Hamer,” said Andy Park, Nebraska Rep artistic director. “This powerful show really speaks to the moment. It deals powerfully with voting rights, civil rights and the need for #realchange.”
“Speak On It!” was originally set to premiere at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre this year as a full-length production. With the combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming election, the playwright decided to create a 30-minute version for various organizations to produce.
Sanchez — a poet, activist and scholar — was the Laura Carnell Professor of English and Women’s Studies at Temple University. She is the recipient of both the Robert Frost Medal for distinguished lifetime service to American poetry and the Langston Hughes Poetry Award. One of the most important writers of the Black Arts Movement, Sanchez is the author of 16 books.
Himes serves as coordinator and planner of three events associated with the #realchange racial justice initiative, working in close collaboration with Nebraska Rep Executive Director Christina Kirk and Park. The Oct. 2 event also will include discussions with actors, scholars, activists and audience members. Guest panelists include activist Kristian Blackmon; Jonathan Smith, The Black Rep’s board chair; and Michael Simanga, who serves as the moderator.
“I am so excited to launch this initiative with this group of artists and panelists and especially honored to present ‘A Conversation with Sonia Sanchez,’” Himes said. “She has been at the forefront of real change for decades.”