Review: ECHOES OF VOICES OF THE EIGHTH at Sankofa African American Theatre Company At Gamut Theatre

Stories from Harrisburg's Old Eighth Ward

By: Feb. 19, 2022
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Review: ECHOES OF VOICES OF THE EIGHTH at Sankofa African American Theatre Company At Gamut Theatre

Sankofa African American Theatre Company and Gamut Theatre Group bring an unique, uplifting, and thought-provoking experience to audiences with their production of Echoes of Voices of the Eighth: Stories from Harrisburg's Old Eighth Ward. Sharia Benn, Founder and Executive Artistic Director of Sankofa African American Theatre Company, created this play around stories of those who lived and worked in the Eighth Ward. It was a diverse community of artists, activists, and business owners. Echoes of Voices of the Eighth brings to life this hidden history, reminding all of us that knowledge of the past, including those stories that have been silenced, is necessary for moving forward and creating a present and future that are filled with hope, life, and freedom. As Benn states in her Director's Note, "I pray this story gives you hope and inspires you to get to work-because we're not done getting free."

The production weaves together music, dance, and poetry as past and present converge to change the hearts and minds of all who see it. The original music composed by Johntrae Williams is the perfect accompaniment to the stories told on stage. The "Ancestor's Welcome Song", created and performed by the entire company, is a beautiful piece that exemplifies the message of the show while tying the characters and their stories together. While the lovely and haunting harmonies created by the entire cast are delightful to listen to, it is the flawless vocal performance by Kirby Davis, who portrays Jane Chester, that really stirs the emotions and draws the audience into the scene. The vocal performances are complemented by the fluid dance moves of Raeshell Thompson, who flows in and out of the story like a dream.

The ensemble cast includes Jade Jarrell (as Della Carter), Kirby Davis (as Jane Chester), Raeshell Thompson (as Echo Through Time Dancer), Jaymi Horn (as Keeper of the Book), Patricia Robinson (as Esther Popel and Anne Amos), Paula Lewis (as Harriet McClintock Marshall and Hannah Jones), Kelly Summerford (as Thomas Morris Chester), Lisa Leone Dickerson (as Catherine McClintock), Lunden McClain (as Kay), and Lyeneal Griffin (as J., John Q. Adams, and Jacob T. Compton). Every single person in the cast delivers a remarkable and heartfelt performance. The stories and poetry of the past and present come to life in the hands of these gifted performers. It is a show that words cannot encapsulate-it needs to be experienced.

Echoes of Voices of the Eighth is a play filled with history, heart, and hope. Audiences have two more opportunities to catch this illuminating show at Gamut Theatre. For more information, visit https://www.gamuttheatre.org/ or https://www.sankofatheatrehbg.com/. If you miss this one, make sure you catch Sankofa's next production, Crowns, at Open Stage May 28-June 26 and Gamut's next production, Orlando, from March 12-27.



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