Friday, May 13, 2011

An Evening at the Black Repertory

If you live in St.Louis you still have this week-end to see "Black Pearl Sings!" at the Black Rep theater on Grandel Avenue. John and I saw it Thursday evening and thoroughly enjoyed it. Jazz vocalist Denise Thimes is outstanding as Pearl, a black woman  in a Texas prison 1935. The only other character in the play is Shanara Gabrielle who plays Susannah, a wealthy white woman who meets up with Pearl while searching for prisoners who know folk music dating back to the years before the civil war. The story itself is historical fiction and is not a biography. It is a story of two women from different cultures sharing their passions and ambitions. Pearl is willing to sing the songs which her family passed down, including the one her grandfather taught her while coming over to America on a slave ship.  In exchange for a recording of Pearl's songs, Susannah agrees to search for Pearl's daughter from whom she had became estranged while being imprisoned. Pearl sings all the songs she remembers without any musical accompaniment. A couple of times when she is singing she thumps on the floor with her bare feet, in time with her music.  She does that so well that I thought for sure there had to be drums accompanying her!  Denise Thimes is more of a singer than actress, but in this play she artfully portrays a black woman who has borne plenty of pain in her life, but  remains determined to keep her pride intact at all cost.  What is equally impressive to me is that Denise is able to pull all this off so well, even while grieving the death of a sister who was killed last month.

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