Story and photo by Laura Durant of Durant Communications
Black Theatre Troupe will present Black Pearl Sings at the Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center beginning Friday, April 8. Inspired by the story of musicologist John Lomax and music virtuoso Huddie William “Lead Belly” Ledbetter, this production, set in depression era America was written by Frank Higgins specifically for a female cast to celebrate the matriarchal nature of folklore.
Susannah, based on (John Lomax), a researcher for the library of congress, investigates prisons in search for original songs from the past as inmates are less likely to be tainted with pop culture. What she discovers is the spellbinding voice and rich musical history locked in the heart, mind and soul of Pearl. In spite of Pearl’s initial unwillingness to share her treasure, she begrudgingly strikes a deal with Susannah to record her songs for the Library of Congress in hopes of being reunited with her daughter but Pearl holds very close to her heart a gem: a song that goes all the way back to Africa.
A researcher, cultural historian, and poet turned playwright, Higgins brings music of the 1930’s center stage, enchanting audiences with nostalgia and holding a mirror up to social criticism, exploring the distrust, manipulation and exploitation of black Americans rampant in US history.
Black Pearl Sings is directed by David J. Hemphill with musical supervision by Walter Belcher and stars Dzifa Kwawu and Shari Watts.
Show Dates: April 8-24
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sunday matinées at 3 p.m.
Saturday matinées April 16 & 23 at 2 p.m.
Matinée Thursday, April 14 at 2 p.m.
Tickets: Box Office 602-258-8129 blacktheatretroupe.tixato.com/buy
The Helen K. Mason Performing Arts Center is at 1333 E. Washington St. Phoenix, 85034.