Pros: The opportunity to see, as a part of the Fringe Festival, productions that come from different cultural and geographical backgrounds.
Cons: The frantic delivery, which spoils the dramatic intensity of the play.
Endesha Ida Mae Holland was born in 1944 in Greenwood, on the Mississippi Delta. She never knew her father, whilst her mother was a well-respected midwife called ‘Ain’t Baby’ by everyone in town. Nobody knew her real name.
Raped at the age of eleven, Holland was later expelled from school and became a prostitute as a means of financial independence. Hearing that members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) had come to Greenwood, she approached one of its male members to offer him her services but was, instead, invited to join the movement.
Thanks to their support, she obtained a high school equivalency diploma and enrolled at the University of Minnesota, where she received a BA in Black Studies, followed by a Master’s and a PhD in American Studies. She was arrested thirteen times for her civil rights activism, before becoming a professor at the State University of New York, in Buffalo.
Her life is celebrated in this production – promoted by the Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University – which offers a theatrical version of her autobiographical memoir From the Mississippi Delta.
Partly narrated and partly enacted, ten distinct episodes of Holland’s life are squeezed into 65 minutes by a cast of three who cover several roles with little or no variation in their costumes and props. The delivery is frantic and one of the performers seems to have only two volume settings, loud and super-loud. The outcome is a mash-up that leaves no room for the events to sink in.
The continuous movement around the stage makes the performers’ heels clatter on the wooden boards and doesn’t make allowances for the two wings of audience sitting on each side of the stage. Little help comes from the layout of the room, where three rows of chairs are set out on the same level as the stage, inevitably affecting the sightlines.
Director Anedra Small could have troubleshooted some of these issues beforehand, trimming the script where necessary, and creating more appropriate conditions for the dramatic tension to build and this empowering story to thrive.
Author: Endesha Ida Mae Holland
Director: Anedra Small
Producer: FAMU Essential Theatre
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run