Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

BWW Review: FANNIE LOU HAMER SPEAK ON IT! at Arena Stage

Article Pixel

West’s tightly woven yet insightful and brilliantly smart script brings to life one of the most exceptional voices in the civil rights movement: Fannie Lou Hamer.

BWW Review: FANNIE LOU HAMER SPEAK ON IT! at Arena Stage
Felton Offard (Music Director-Arrangements) and E. Faye Butler (Fannie Lou Hamer) in Fannie Lou Hamer, Speak On It! by Cheryl L. West, directed by Henry Godinez. Photo by Liz Lauren.

Live-outdoor theatre, an incredible view of the water at the Wharf, and E. Faye Butler are all we could ask or hope for at the moment. Arena Stage has delivered big with its limited engagement of Cheryl L. West's timely Fannie Lou Hamer, Speak On It!.

West's tightly woven yet insightful and brilliantly smart script brings to life one of the most exceptional voices in the civil rights movement: Fannie Lou Hamer. Its style is unique and includes a stellar combination of Hamer's speeches and civil rights messages of hope and freedom, together relevant words for our current election, coupled with poignant and engaging music arranged, directed, and performed by Felton Offard.

Above all, it is through the impassioned and exceptional performance of the great E. Faye Butler that you are able to wholly experience all of Fannie Lou Hamer and her important words and journey fighting for equality. Butler's engaging energy, infectious enthusiasm, and fighter's spirit breath bounds of life into Ms. Hamer and her messages for folks of today's time. Considering the 50-minute performance includes only Ms. Butler and Mr. Offard onstage, outside, you can imagine what she must do to keep the outdoor audience captivated. Butler never falls short of a note or line and encompasses every aspect of who she is representing and the messages she's conveying. E. Faye Butler understands every ounce of Fannie Lou Hamer and both educates and engages the socially distant audience on what it means to stand up for your voice to be heard.

West's important piece chronicles the life, struggles, activism, and triumphs of Fannie Lou Hamer. She understands the importance of Hamer's work and life and marks her incredible legacy. Being we are so close to our election this unique theatrical experience encourages the audience to vote while providing a pertinent example of a woman who was beaten down for wanting her voice to be heard, but nonetheless stood taller each time and persevered to become one of the most influential civil rights freedom fighters in history.

Henry Godinez's superb attention to detail and the concept of creating a personal yet important theatrical experience showcases a masterful directing accomplishment. David Naugton's well-crafted sound design adds a great sense of both vibrancy and functionality to the script and to the music.

As the show expertly showcases, it is because of Ms. Hamer and her unending spirit to fight for freedom that paved the way for others to come, allowing their voices to be heard, proving the importance of casting your vote. As Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer said herself, "If I fall, I'll fall five feet four inches forward in the fight for freedom. I'm not backing off."

Audiences can expect to walkway feeling empowered, inspired, educated, and reminded when we recognize something inconsistent with equality and humanity we must indeed "speak on it!"

Fannie Lou Hamer, Speak On It! Runs 50 minutes long with no intermission. The show is currently running at the Transit Pier Floating Stage at the Wharf now through October 30. More information including ticketing information can be found here.

It is important to note that Arena Stage follows all safety guidelines regarding Coivd-19. Safety guidelines and information can be found here.

BWW Review: FANNIE LOU HAMER SPEAK ON IT! at Arena Stage
E. Faye Butler (Fannie Lou Hamer) in Fannie Lou Hamer, Speak On It! by Cheryl L. West, directed by Henry Godinez. Photo by Liz Lauren.

Related Articles View More Washington, DC Stories   Shows

From This Author Brandon Horwin