One concern of many parents and grandparents is that their children will lose sight of family history. A Change Gon’ Come, by Kashi-Tara, dramatically ties together the civil rights issues of today and the plight of slaves in the rural south. Though the play could casually be called ‘All About Harriet Tubman,’ its importance is the context in which it sets Tubman’s life and those of her generation.
The production kept me spellbound. It is a must-see for young adults (13 and over) and their parents.
The vision of Writer, Director and Choreographer Kashi-Tara and Director/Choreographer Kelly Chauncey is brought to life through the work of Digital Media Director Phaaedra McKesson and music/sound direction of Chauncey. There was plenty of fine acting, singing, and dancing front-stage.It was all brought together through digital edia in the background and the songs selected for each scene by Chauncey. Digital media was used for wide variety of scenic backgrounds, to show transitions from the days of slave labor through the election of President Barack Obama, and provide action videos that condensed periods of time such as the video portraying Tubman’s many years leading slaves to the North.
Linaé Bullock, as Harriet Tubman and Helen Taylor, a present-day reporter, was a standout whether she was clearly the center of attention or part of the ensemble of men, women and children seeking freedom. Harriet’s sister Nellie, played by Kashi-Tara, and older and wiser Bess (Shemika Berry), worked seamlessly with Bullock to provide the backbone of the production. None of the other actors and actresses on stage seemed extraneous.
Overseer Bishop, played by Scotty Beland, was a cringe-worthy character. His presence led to fear even before he started to hassle and threaten the slaves. The anger portrayed while whipping, and eventually killing Bessie, was worthy of the devil himself. Kelly Chauncey, (William Still) embodied both the calming nature and the fiery oratory of a preacher.
Approaching the end of Act I and throughout Act II, Gabrielle Dubose’s choreography blossomed. She choreographed an exquisite solo illustrating Harriet’s anguish about leaving her husband and fellow slaves behind as she escaped north. There were also ensemble dances showing both joy and sorrow. Lighting design by Karen Rawlins and Chauncey, including strobe lights to show a feeling of panic amongst the dancers, was always on point.
Though the program shows no elocution coach, it was clear that the cast had worked on the production’s dialect and its enunciation. It was appropriate to the setting and did not fall into heavy southern drawl or other stereotypical speech patterns.
Karen Rawlins designed a few props that were easily moved on and off stage. Particularly striking was a thicket of corn in front of which the slaves talked of freedom.
Kelly Chauncey, founding Artistic Director of ANKH Reperatory Theater and Kashi-Tara, founding Artistic Director of The Finest! Performance Foundation, Inc., clearly put their all into A Change Gon’ Come. Their efforts, and those of the cast, crew, and volunteers, melded into a deeply touching, educational, and cultural experience.
Running Time: Approximately 90 minutes with a 15-minute intermission.
A Change Gon’ Come plays through January 24, 2016, at ANKH Repertory Theatre Company, The Finest! Performance Foundation, Inc., and Arts on the Green performing at The Gaithersburg Arts Barn – 311 Kent Square Road, in Gaithersburg, MD. For tickets, buy them at the box office, call (301) 258-6394, or purchase them online.