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Review: Syracuse Stage Presents a Free Virtual Production of a New Play A GATHERIN' PLACE

A real and raw original play.

Review: Syracuse Stage Presents a Free Virtual Production of a New Play A GATHERIN' PLACE

Syracuse Stage and their re-imagined 20/21 season brings a real and raw original play beautifully written and directed by Dr. Juhanna Rogers titled A Gatherin' Place. The show highlights local Black women telling their own stories. It was filmed at Syracuse Stage's Archbold Theatre and is available for free streaming. The emotional and powerful play is performed by members of the Auburn based community theater, The Harriet Tubman Troupe. Each woman delivers her role with such real and raw emotion in this intriguing story of being unapologetically, a Black woman.

The virtual now available production, filmed and edited by Black Cub Productions, is the third production of A Gatherin' Place. The play originated at the Auburn Public Theater and later performed at Salt Space in downtown Syracuse. The play is based on personal stories of local Central New York women who all helped in developing the script. The inspiration for the play originated with a poem by Dr. Juhanna Rogers called, "It's Hard to Tell a Black Woman's Story." With Rogers poem and the stories of all these enchanting women, a script came to be.

The play A Gatherin' Place is composed of numerous monologues of different Black women telling their stories of what exactly it is like to be a Black woman. All the Women in the play live in the same Brooklyn apartment building and are responding to the death of a beloved author. However, they just find out that the writer had something in common with all of them. The beloved writer had lived in the same apartment building as them for many years. The women in the apartment building knew her as Miss Paulette (Dr. Juhanna Rogers) a wise, strong, and compassionate neighbor. Miss Paulette's support, conversations, and advice left changed the life of each woman in that building. As their stories unfold, the audience learns of what exactly it is to be a Black woman. Stories of racism, death, abuse, and so much more unfold in these emotional monologues. Each woman has her moment in the spotlight (lighting design by David Bowman) to tell her unique story. Over monologue pulls you in as you hear struggles, memories, and much more of the everyday Black woman.

It was emphasized that these women are not theater professionals but are truly committed to telling their stories. The chilling monologues are truly captivating and those women on stage delivered memorable and powerful performances some "theater professionals" would only dream of. The dynamic cast features Vanessa Campbell as Joy, Nakeia Chambers as Angela, Cari Clark as Shirley, Simeon Etta as Security Guard, Newscaster, Arlaina Harris as Maya, Dr. Tanisha Jackson as Michelle, Melody Smith Johnson as Zora, Dr. Brandiss Pearson as Ida, Dr. Juhanna Rogers as Audre Page/Ms. Paulette, and Gwen Webber-McLeod as Alice.

Each performer delivers their monologue with such eloquence and passion. The simplistic staging and set allow the viewer to focus on the story and individual character taking center stage. The production opens with Dr. Juhanna Rogers portraying writer Audre Page addressing a crowd at Lincoln Center with the poem "It's Hard to Tell a Black Woman's Story". Rogers and her words are truly captivating.

This empowering, real, and raw play is without a doubt chilling. The voices, the stories, the performances are not to be missed. Syracuse Stage has once again brought a new production with a local focus that is relevant, real, and raw. Theater may look very different as we watch streaming productions from our homes, actors with facemasks (as seen in this production), and want so badly to applaud a well deserving performance. However, this play just goes to show that a story is what pulls the audience in and I certainly felt every emotion from those performers in this beautiful virtual production. The cast, writers, and all involved deserve a standing ovation for this play. We may not be sitting in the Archbold Theater in Syracuse Stage but that does not stop the creativity of this re-imagined season highlighting the work of local artists. Syracuse Stage's choice for a presentation of a play once again does not disappoint.

Running Time: 68 minutes

This virtual production presented by Syracuse Stage of A Gatherin' Place is available for free from now through October 25, 2020 by clicking here.

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