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Tapestry Theatre Company Having our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First One Hundred Years

By • Feb 19th, 2007 • Category: Reviews

Listen to our review of Tapestry Theatre and their production of Having our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First One Hundred Years [MP3 4:46 1.4MB].

Laura: This weekend we saw Tapestry Theatre and their production of Having our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First One Hundred Years in Alexandria, Virginia.

Mike: Having Our Say is a play written by Emily Mann. It was adapted from the book by Sarah Delany and A. Elizabeth Delany with Amy Hill Hearth. This story deals with the trials and tribulations that the sisters faced during their century of life.

Laura: I thought it was an interesting show. There were just two people, Sadie Delany and Bessie Delany. They talked for two hours or so about their life and upbringing. Their parents and grandparents and the history of America and all that went on with racial segregation and discrimination and that kind of thing. I thought it was an interesting show.

Mike: The show opened with the sisters inviting you into their home so you could sit down at the table and just chat with them. That’s what the whole thing felt like. They moved around the two rooms of the house, the kitchen and the living room area. They talked out to the audience and made eye contact. It felt like a chat one on one. It was a very nice conversation.

Laura: The oldest Delany sister was Sadie Delany played by Lolita-Marie. She was 103 years old, I thought very good for her age. She was the calmer of the two sisters. A little more laid back, not quite as feisty or firey.

Mike: And Dr. Bessie Delany was played by Rhonda Gayle Carney. She was the more outspoken, less reserved sister. The two of them got along really well as if they were sisters. I liked how she got a little feisty when she was telling some of her stories. She seemed to be a little more melancholy about some of the things, tough. Other than when they were talking about their mother’s death, she was a little more in tune with her emotions and how things impacted her. She was easily able to share with what had happened to her.

Laura: The set for Having our Say was a simple set, but very detailed. It was interesting. The sisters did talk about the fact that there was no phone. They did things the old fashioned way by writing letters. The younger sister, Bessie did have tabs on everyone in the building. She knew what was going on. She was kind of her own neighborhood watch program. I liked how the two areas were very detailed and looked like a living room in a 1960’s home.

Mike: At several points in the show the ladies would share photos from their photo albums. The way they did that was on the back wall of the kitchen and the back wall of the living room were two screens that had a scene set such as the window from the kitchen, but then they would change to show the pictures they were talking about. That was actually quite effective. The pictures were of New York City in the 1920’s and 1930’s. They went on up through the 1950’s and 60’s with some photographs. I liked how that was used to share the photographs with the audience.

Laura: The Friday night performance benefitted the Alexandria Black History Museum. Their current exhibition is From Slavery to Freedom, Africans in the Americas. They do have a website if you would like to learn more about it.

Mike: One of the awkward things during the second act was the Delany sisters were sharing about their struggles during the Civil Rights movement. They started singing one of the protest songs. People in the audience stood up and started singing along. I didn’t know the song so that was a little awkward. I didn’t want to be rude and stay sitting, but I didn’t want to stand and not know the words. That was a little weird.

I don’t know enough about Black History and about the struggles of the civil rights movement. I know broad pieces of it, but I don’t know everything that went on. That’s one reason shows like this are very important to share. It’s also a reason why we should be talking with our grandparents and our great grandparents if they’re still around. Talk about what happened back then. Our family’s lives, our friend’s family’s lives are very important. We need to not forget the history that has helped shape this country.

Laura: Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years is playing February 16th through March 4th. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 and Sundays at 3 at the Lee Center in Alexandria Virginia.

Mike: And now, on with the show.

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started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.

2 Responses »

  1. I saw this production 2/18/07. I greatly enjoyed, “Having Our Say.” I would encourage anyone to see it. You won’t be bored. It is a spendid production that gives a cursory lesson in American history where the ‘sisters Delany’ talk about everything from heritage, race relations, and problematic laws, to growing up, good eating habits, the benefits of exercise, the importance of voting, and overall thanksgiving. Dialog is lengthy, but is worth every minute. There are parts that are warm, funny, sad, and reminiscent. The audience was so engaged. Many rose to sing along with the ‘sisters’, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” The set looked realistic. Even the clock on the kitchen wall worked. The kitchen window and a picture in the dining room (the Delany Rose) served an additional purpose as screens to project family pictures and other historical documentation for the audience to see. The ‘sisters’ talked to us while they prepared dinner, set the table, and perused photo albums. The actresses, Miss Carney and Miss Lolita-Marie were fabumagnificent. They were convincing as they entertained us in their ‘home’ with wit and straight forwardness. The only problem that I saw as a distraction was during curtain call. As Miss Carney and Miss Lolita-Marie acknowledge the audience’s applause at about the same time as Miss Lolita-Marie is coming back onstage to join Miss Carney a woman appears from backstage followed by another woman who has flowers in both hands. As the audience is appluading the actresses I could sense the confusion (including my own) when these other people appeared on the stage. It was like somebody crashed the party. This was the actresses moment, and was not the time for anyone else to appear on stage who was not part of the act. It was distracting to me in that it put a damper on my ability to savor that wonderful ‘visit’ with the Delany sisters. BUT, with that gripe aside, I must tip the proverbial hat to director Peggy Jones, and the whole production crew for a job WELL done.

  2. Thank you for your review. I would just like to add clarity to one point: ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing’ (also known as the African American National Anthem) is not a protest song but rather a poem, written by James Weldon Johnson (who is mentioned in the play as being a friend of the Delany’s), that was set to music by his brother J. Rosamond Johnson. It was created in response to a request for James to speak during a program celebrating Abraham Lincoln’s birthday in February 1899. Little did they know the lasting effect this song would have in the lives of African Americans! The words of this song speak to Africans Americans continued feelings of faith and hope, and their quest for harmony, peace, and liberty despite Americas’ violent, terrible, struggle with racism at that time. The words of this song still resonate with me today. The first verse, which we sing during the show, is as follows:
    Lift ev’ry voice and sing,
    Till earth and heaven ring,
    Ring with the harmonies of Liberty;
    Let our rejoicing rise
    High as the list’ning skies,
    Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
    Sing a song full of the faith that the dark past has taught us,
    Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
    Facing the rising sun of our new day begun,
    Let us march on till victory is won.