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FANNIE: THE MUSIC AND LIFE OF FANNIE LOU HAMER to Have Pittsburgh Premiere in January

FANNIE: THE MUSIC AND LIFE OF FANNIE LOU HAMER to Have Pittsburgh Premiere in January

Directed by Joy Vandervort-Cobb, the production will be performed at the AWAACC for five performances only, January 13 – 16, 2023.  

The August Wilson African American Cultural Center, City Theatre Company, and DEMASKUS Theater Collective will co-present the story of voting-rights icon Fannie Lou Hamer in the Pittsburgh premiere of FANNIE: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer by Cheryl L. West. Directed by Joy Vandervort-Cobb, the production will be performed at the AWAACC for five performances only, January 13 - 16, 2023.

This project marks the first collaboration between these three local performing arts organizations who are equally sharing in the planning, promotion, and fundraising to present this renowned co-production, first seen over the summer in Atlanta at Kenny Leon's True Color Theater Company and just last month at Actors Theatre of Louisville. It is made possible with support from The Heinz Endowments' "Small Arts Initiatives" program; "Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh" initiative from the Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments; and the Richard King Mellon Foundation as part of the August Wilson African American Cultural Center's B.U.I.L.D. Artists Residency Program.

"When I first read the extraordinary script from playwright Cheryl West, I knew that I wanted to find a way for this show to be seen here in Pittsburgh," said Monteze Freeland, Co-Artistic Director at City Theatre. "I am so grateful to our friends at DEMASKUS and AWAACC, along with our partners at True Colors Theater Company and Actors Theatre of Louisville, for coming together to make it possible. We are all in for a profound experience as we experience the life of Fannie Lou Hamer and witness the incredible artistry of this production directed by Joy Vandervort-Cobb and featuring Robin McGee, who performs so brilliantly the role of Fannie."

The play tells the story, through music and song, of Fannie Lou Hamer (1917 - 1977) who was an American voting and women's rights activist, community organizer, and a leader in the Civil Rights movement. The co-founder of the Freedom Democratic Party and the National Woman's Political Caucus, as well as the organizer of the Mississippi Freedom Summer, she was known for using spiritual hymnals in her activism. Hamer battled incredible injustices and racism in both her personal and public life; and the play celebrates her historic journey - from sharecropper to political force - and the impact she has had on generations. Fannie Lou Hamer was posthumously inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1993.

"It is difficult to advance justice, without a clear understanding of history and a deep connection to the Spirit that guided leaders like Fannie Lou Hamer," said Shaunda McDill, Founder and Producer of DEMASKUS Theater Collective. "We are grateful for this collaborative opportunity as well as the tremendous gift of welcoming Jaqueline Hamer Flakes, daughter Fannie Lou Hamer, to Pittsburgh to witness this special premiere."

"Our mission at The August Wilson African American Cultural Center is to share the stories of champions for justice and equality like Fannie Lou Hamer. We are honored to present this production in our theater," said Janis Burley Wilson, AWAACC President and CEO

The production stars Robin McGee in the title role and features a live band featuring both Pittsburgh and national musicians. The play was first produced as a rolling world premiere by The Goodman Theatre, Seattle Rep, and the Asolo Repertory Theatre in 2021.

There will be a total of five public performances (and one student matinee) of Fannie, beginning with opening night on Friday, January 13. The run will close with a special "Pay-What-You-Can" performance on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (Monday, January 16 at 4:00pm).


Fannie: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer by Cheryl L. West; directed by Joy Vandervort-Cobb and starring Robin McGee. Presented by August Wilson African American Cultural Center, City Theatre, and DEMASKUS Theater Collective, in association with Actors Theatre of Louisville (Louisville, KY) and Kenny Leon's True Colors Theatre Company (Atlanta, GA).

This powerful performance celebrates the indomitable courage of civil rights hero Fannie Lou Hamer-a leader in the struggle for voting rights whose activism was infused with spirituals, protest songs, and the conviction that nobody's free until everybody's free. Inspired by her life story and filled with her music, FANNIE is a hopeful rallying cry that honors the spirit of a true revolutionary.

The creative team includes Morgan E. Stevenson (Music Director); Moriah and Isabel Curley-Clay (scenic design); Jarrod Barnes (costume design); Mary Parker (lighting design); Chris Lane (sound design); and Bradley Bergeron (projection design). Tracy Thomas will serve as stage manager with casting by Clifton Guterman.


Location: August Wilson African American Cultural Center

980 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh, PA 15222

Schedule: Friday, January 13, 2023 at 8:00pm

Saturday, January 14, 2023 at 2:00pm & 8:00pm

Sunday, January 15, 2023 at 2:00pm

Monday, January 16, 2023 at 4:00pmd (Pay-What-You-Can)

Tickets are now on sale and may be purchased through the box offices at both the August Wilson African American Cultural Center or City Theatre.

Price: $40*

Call: (412) 339-1008 (AWAACC Box Office)


In-Person: AWAACC, 980 Liberty Avenue

Contact the box office for current hours

*Contact the box office for discounts for groups or students. The Monday, January 16 at 4:00pm performance is "Pay-What-You-Can," for which tickets may be purchased in advance online, over the phone, or in-person.

Note on Covid-19 precautions: Masks and proof of vaccination are not mandatory at the August Wilson African American Cultural Center for Fannie: The Music and Life and Fannie Lou Hamer. However, these and other safety precautions are highly recommended per CDC guidelines. All Covid-19 health and safety precautions are subject to change based on community spread levels and/or the advice and counsel of science and medical experts.


Cheryl L. West

Playwright Cheryl L. West's plays have also been seen at Minneapolis Children's Theatre, Seattle Children's Theatre, Seattle Rep, Indiana Rep, Arena Stage, Old Globe, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Bay Street Theatre Festival, Syracuse Stage, Cleveland Play House, South Coast Rep, Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park, Manhattan Theatre Club, and Off‐Broadway's Second Stage. Plays include Last Stop on Market Street, Shout Sister Shout, Akeelah and the Bee, and Jar the Floor. She has written TV and film projects at Disney, Paramount, MTV Films, Showtime, TNT, HBO, CBS, BET and is the Webby-nominated writer for the original web series Diary of a Single Mom. The author wishes to thank Charles McLaurin and Victor McTeer who provided stories and valuable insights about Fannie Lou Hamer. 

Joy Vandervort-Cobb

Joy Vandervort-Cobb (Director), Associate Artistic Director at PURE Theatre and Emerita Associate Professor of African American Theatre and Performance at the College of Charleston, began her career in theatre more than 40 years ago as an actress with the Freedom Theatre in upstate New York. Through her work with Festival Theatre USA, Ms. Vandervort-Cobb's work was seen at the Edinburgh Arts Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland, and many of her shows have toured throughout the United States and Canada. Directing credits include national tours of Jackie, Vi, & Lena; My Soul is a Witness; Black Broadway; MAHALIA; From the Mississippi Delta (first national); Dreamgirls; Purlie and for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf. Regionally her work has included productions of FANNIE: The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer at Kenny Leon's True Colors Theatre in Atlanta, GA., Ain't Misbehavin' at The Barter Theatre in Abingdon, VA, the world premiere of Boston-based playwright Patrick Gabridge's Chore Monkeys; Buzzer; By the Way Meet Vera Stark; Stick Fly; Flyin' West; Long Time Since Yesterday; The Story; Some Girls; King Hedley II; Ma Rainey's Black Bottom; Fences; Crumbs from the Table of Joy; Having Our Say; Wedding Band; C.O.T.O: Chocolate on the Outside; Funnyhouse of a Negro; Trouble in Mind; Blues for an Alabama Sky; Angels in America, Part I: Millennium Approaches; The Colored Museum; Red, Hot & Cole; Gospel at Colonus; Hair; and Airline Highway and Oil for Swine Palace.

Robin McGee

Robin McGee ("Fannie") recently made her way from Tacoma, Washington to Savannah, Georgia last year and was last seen as Matilida "Tillie" Binks in Guess Who's Coming to Dinner at Flat Rock Playhouse in Flat Rock, NC.  Robin attended Friends University of Wichita, KS studying Music Theatre and also Wichita State University for Theatre Performance.   Robin's previous roles have been Anne Marie in A Doll's House, Mrs. Dorgan in Laura, Asaka in Once on This Island and the world premiere of Shattering as Dee Dee, all performed in Seattle and Tacoma, Washington.  Her past roles have included Addaperle in The Wiz, Betsy in Big River, Maggie Holmes in the musical Working, Audrey II (the plant) in Little Shop of Horrors, and many more.  Aside from participating in theatre, Robin loves collecting vinyl records of the past, and is currently working on a project she can't wait to bring to theatre audiences.  

Morgan E. Stevenson

Morgan E. Stevenson (Music Director) is a multi-faceted creative who hails from the south side of Chicago. This particular production marks a year since Morgan began working with FANNIE. Prior to her appointment as Musical Director for the Atlanta premiere, she served as its associate musical director for runs at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Seattle Rep, and The Goodman Theatre in Chicago. She holds a Bachelor of Music Education from Tennessee State University, a Master of Music Education degree from VanderCook College of Music, and spent several years teaching music from the elementary to high school level. Morgan is also an accomplished saxophonist and her many musical talents can be heard on her debut EP, a collaborative project entitled "Meeting of the Minds", featuring notable Chicago-based artists. For more info on Morgan's musical projects, as well as her hand-made jewelry and clothing line, go to

August Wilson African American Cultural Center

The August Wilson African American Cultural Center (AWAACC) is located at the gateway of the Cultural District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The Center, named for Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright, and Pittsburgh native, August Wilson, showcases nationally and internationally renowned performing and visual artists, as well as supports and nurtures the burgeoning local arts community. This programming connects the entire community to the rich, substantive artistic content that reflects the African Diaspora. AWAACC offers multiple exhibition galleries, a 492-seat theater for performances in all genres, multipurpose spaces for classes, lectures and hands-on learning, community programs and events.  Offering the community, a distinctive mix of cultural spaces as well as a rehearsal studio, sweeping walkways and ample community gathering and meeting spaces, this bold facility serves as a true "center," a place of coming together where all manner of art, artistic expression and community conversation are welcomed and encouraged. Visit to learn more.

City Theatre Company: Founded in 1975, City Theatre is in its 48th season as Pittsburgh's home for bold new plays. Located in the historic South Side on its four-building cultural campus, the company produces a season of regional and world premieres; its renowned Young Playwrights Festival, now in its 21st year; a season-long reading series of new works in progress; and the annual Momentum Festival. City Theatre's mission is to provide an artistic home for the development and production of contemporary plays that engage and challenge a diverse audience. Its vision is to be the best mid-sized theater in America. Organizational core values are: Community; Collaboration; Equity, Diversity, Inclusion & Accessibility; and Creativity. With a full-time staff numbering 25 and an annual average operating budget of $3.1 million, City Theatre is the largest performing arts organization not located in Pittsburgh's downtown Cultural District.

DEMASKUS Theater Collective

DEMASKUS creates and produces with courage. A Pittsburgh-based national Collective of artists and administrators, DEMASKUS weds passionate and soulful narratives with the highest production values. Founded in 2005, the collaborative cultivates take-no-prisoners, unapologetic, vivid storytelling centering Black and faith-filled work. The organization values traditional theater, while simultaneously pushing through traditional boundaries. We excavate what is unique and atypical, as well as elevate canonized works produced in creative ways. The collective mounts tour-ready productions, develops multicultural curricula and often consults with churches, schools and community groups in the writing and producing of new work. Our vision is to inspire transformation that leads to personal fulfillment, professional purpose, and spiritual upliftment through artistic and authentic voice. We begin every process with GOD as primary collaborator.  We give precedence to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and hope for the future.

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