Having Our Say' at Paul Robeson

Annette Adams-Brown and Karin Franklin King as sisters Sadie and Bessie Delany. Photo (c) brantleycarroll.com, used with permission.

When Sonita Surratt completed her MFA in theater at Syracuse University earlier this year, she headed for Chicago, her plan being to put herself in the thick of African American dramatic production. She quickly found an apartment and some of her first messages to friends and family back here had to do with learning to cook for herself. Despite those bulletins of her solo culinary adventures, it's not surprising somehow that much of the action in "Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years" occurs as the two elderly protagonists go about the preparation of what might be a single day's worth of meals. The three act play is set in the Mount Vernon, New York home they share -- late morning, afternoon, and evening -- and the play's direction displays an almost preternaturally sharp awareness of how relationships manifest in the simplest of daily behavior. Watch for that brief but telling tug of war over the bowl of cake batter.

Paul Robeson Performing Arts Company lured Surratt back to Syracuse to direct Emily Mann's play, which Surratt saw in 2009 at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey -- she says she put it on her "dream list" of plays to direct -- after several earlier attempts to produce the play. Surratt has been well-known to Central New York stage audiences for years now, both for her own performing and directing projects. She may not be as well known for work like her private vocal coaching; the Nines Jazz Ensemble's Lauren Johnson Albaroni commented recently that she hadn't had a good lesson since working with Surratt. Anyway, the director wanted to do this play too, so it's a toss-up as to who lured whom.

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