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Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Zuhairah McGill Headlined Hedgerow in Sojourner

A Review by Sojourner Ahebee
How often does a person get the chance to see a play about the person he or she was named after? Well, this past weekend I got that chance. I attended a play about my namesake, Sojourner Truth. Exciting , right? This play, entitled Sojourner, written by Richard LaMonte Pierce and staged at the Hedgerow Theatre, presented the extraordinary life of Sojourner Truth. She was an abolitionist, women’s rights advocate and a confidante to President Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
Sojourner Truth’s example has always been a source of inspiration for me. Her strength and no nonsense attitude have always amazed me, especially since she lived in a time when African-Americans, especially African-American women were thought of as nothing. She stood her ground, preached what she believed and dared to say what others feared to voice. Sojourner Truth was neither conventionally
attractive nor was she literate, but through the force of her personality and audacious spirit, she made known her view of the world. She demanded her rights as a woman at a time when even white women were being told to stay in their prescribed place. But what most impressed me about Sojourner Truth’s life is the fact that most of her children were sold into slavery and she lobbied and used the court system to get every one of them back into her arms.

Sojourner, the play, successfully portrayed my image of Sojourner Truth. I really felt her presence on the stage. Zuhairah McGill, the actress who portrayed Sojourner, did so with diligence and elegance. I did have a few disappointments with McGill’s version of Truth. Throughout the play McGill spoke in a weirdly southern accent, despite the fact that Truth was from the North and her first language was Dutch.

When the audience meets Sojourner Truth, she is very old and she takes us back in time to explore and recall her life. Even as an old woman, Sojourner, in my mind, was regal and commanding. McGill’s portrayal, I felt , did not capture this. Sojourner Truth came off, too often, as infirmed and broken.

All in all, the play captured all of my Sojourner’s important moments in history. I especially liked McGill’s version of the “Aint I a Woman” speech. What a performance!

Seeing the play Sojourner also provided another treat. I had the opportunity to discover the Hedgerow Theatre in Media, Pennsylvania. This theatre exudes a charm and a power that comes from its own history. This theatre was formerly a mill where free African-Americans, many of whom were run-away slaves, worked side-by-side with whites. It was both eerie and affirming to learn that the road right in front of Hedgerow was one traveled by run-away enslaved Africans looking for their freedom up North, in Pennsylvania.

Lastly, I just want to inform my readers that this play, which ended its run at the Hedgerow Theatre last Sunday, can still be seen. The cast is willing to come out to schools and other venues and perform Sojourner. If you are interested in this offer, contact the Hedgerow Theatre. The address and phone number are below:

64 Rose Valley Road
Rose Valley, PA( near Media )


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