BWW Feature: Lyric Theatre Celebrates the Famous Delany Sisters in HAVING OUR SAY
Having Our Say is the true story of Sadie and Bessie Delany, two sisters who were born to a former slave and lived through the Jim Crow south and the Civil Rights movement. In their own words, and while cooking dinner on stage, the sisters recount the 100 plus years of their lives. With honesty, humor, and heart, Having Our Say gives voice to an important time in history, told by those who lived it.
Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma will stage the play at their cozy Plaza Theatre, and they've assembled a team of venerated Broadway artists to tell Bessie and Sadie's story. Terry Burrell is Bessie, and Julia Lema is Sadie. Burrell's Broadway credits include Dreamgirls, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Into the Woods, and Swinging on a Star. Lema has been seen in the Broadway productions of Guys and Dolls and Lena Thorne: The Lady and Her Music. Both are making their Lyric Theatre debuts.
Having Our Say is directed by Monique Midgette. Midgette is a Helen Hayes Award nominated actress and singer, and has been seen on Broadway in The Civil War, Marie Christine, and Seussical: The Musical. Midgette took some time out of her busy schedule to answer some questions about directing Having Our Say. Her Q&A is below:
AP: Tell us about Having Our Say! What are you excited for audiences to experience?
MM: Having Our Say is an afternoon with Bessie and Sadie Delany sharing stories from their lives in their own words. At the time of the play, they are 101 and 103 years old respectively. The most amazing thing is that these women experienced all the major events in our American history firsthand! I'm excited for audiences to see this show because Terry Burrell and Julia Lema are phenomenal in the roles, but also because hearing about world events from an individual perspective reminds you that ACTUAL PEOPLE contributed to the growth of our country, one action at a time.
AP: Having Our Say features the Delany Sisters. These real-life sisters were born to a former slave and lived through the Jim Crow laws and the Civil Rights movement. What do you think is so important about showcasing their unique perspectives on stage?
MM: We have the luxury of reading about those events in a book or watching a documentary on tv. Bessie and Sadie, LIVED through Jim Crow personally. They experienced having to drink from the "Colored" water fountain. They heard the stories from their father about the days of slavery. They marched to uphold Civil Rights and their friends got thrown in jail defending them. These weren't stories to them. The struggle was real and Bessie, Sadie and their peers helped to change the laws of this country.
AP: Let's talk about female voices in theatre. We're still fighting for more representation in the arts. Why do you think it's so important that women are represented and given opportunities both on stage and in leadership roles in theatre?
MM: Without a healthy presence of female directors and designers, and directors and designers of color, our stories aren't told, or if they are, they aren't told with as much thought and care as they deserve. More diversity and women in theatre leadership will ensure that all points of view are represented in the stories we share onstage.
AP: Cooking on stage must be a feat!! What has been challenging about this particular aspect so far?
MM: HA!! a FEAT is an understatement!!! Thankfully, We have a great support team from the Lyric to organize the shopping lists and make sure we don't burn the place down! It's really just about finding the choreography of preparing a meal. The Delany sisters have created meals together for years. We only have two weeks to find that ease onstage. That's why it's wonderful that Julia and Terry were friends before the show so their friendship and comfort shows up and helps create a sisterly bond in the kitchen.
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Having Our Saying features lighting design by Fabian Garcia, set design by Debra Kim Sivigny, sound design by James Grigsby and costume design by Jeffrey Meek. Laurena Sherrill serves as Stage Manager. Eli Bradley is Assistant Director.
Having Our Say opens February 19th and runs until March 8th at Lyric's Plaza location, 1725 NW 16th St in OKC. For tickets, visit lyrictheatreokc.com or call the box office at 405-524-9312.