New Horizon Theater Incorporated’s production of “Front Porch Society” brought back warm family memories for Churchill resident Oedies Williams.
“My great-grandmother on my dad’s side would have her friends come by and they would sit on her porch and talk about the things happening in the neighborhood,” explained Williams, who is originally from Baton Rouge. “The dialogue in the play was so spot on. I sat there crying with the characters and laughing with the characters because the memories were so vivid for me.”
Set in Marks, Mississippi, on the cusp of President Barack Obama’s 2008 election, Front Porch Society, which was written by author and educator Melda Beaty, showcases four elderly Black women’s unique perspectives of the historic event. Town overseer Carrie Honey (played by Karla Payne) is grieving the anniversary of the 1967 death of her son, Ricky, whom Carrie believes was killed by police. While the rest of Marks relishes the possibility of Obama’s presidency, Carrie has grown bitter and is no longer interested in life’s celebrations until a heinous act at the cemetery where her son is buried threatens to tarnish the historic event and leads Carrie to receive the closure she so desperately seeks.
Her loving friends (played by Stephanie “Stevie” Akers as opinionated Alberta; Rita Gregory as the wise 95-year-old Ms. Martha; Tracey D. Turner as the God-loving Sister Stallworth; and Taj Clinton Canada as the helpful neighbor, Winnie) meet faithfully each morning on Carrie’s porch to keep an eye on her and discuss neighborhood happenings. The play also stars Kevin Brown as the lovable mailman, Towner, and Darrin J. Mosley as the impressionable Terrance.
“Front Porch Society” is playing now through Feb. 17 at the Falk School, 4060 Allequippa Street.
For tickets visit www.new horizontheater.org or call 412-431-0773.
New Horizon Theater Inc., is funded in part by The Heinz Endowments, Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, Allegheny Regional Asset District, Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh program, a partnership of the Pittsburgh Foundation and the Heinz Endowments, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts and Chris Moore Communications.
“The idea of having a Black man as president was beyond belief and these women had lived through senseless killings of Black boys and just the idea of a Black president had the town up in a form of celebration,” explained New Horizon Theater Inc., chairperson Joyce Meggerson-Moore. “We decided to go with it because our theme in February has pretty much been Black history month-themed plays. New Horizon had Detroit ’67 last year, and in previous years showcased Emmett Till and Josh Gibson. “we thought this (‘Front Porch Society’) would fit right into our Black History theme.”
The subject matter is why actor, director and writer Herb Newsome agreed to direct “Front Porch Society.”
“As an artist it’s always about the work, it’s always about the relationships. People have to realize there’s always been struggle and we’ve always overcome. Black people are so resilient in overcoming many things in our history.
“People need to come to this play, listen to these women talk, get a sense of what they were going through and walk out saying, ‘what can I do? What’s my part in this? How can we all come together?’” Newsome said.
The viewpoint of the older generation is why Beaty penned “Front Porch Society” in 2010.
“They lived through Jim Crow, they lived through segregation. They couldn’t vote at one point and now here they are not only witnessing the possible election of Barack Obama, but they can also vote in it, and how important that is, “ Beaty said. “We are in a time of divisiveness right now and if we can reminisce and relieve that moment and hold on to the hope of the Obama years, maybe things can get better.”
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