I am returning to my role as Mother Shaw in the stage production of CROWNS. When I think of what led me to “Crowns” I think of visiting my grandmother when I was three years old and her walking me down the street on Sunday mornings to the McCasland Temple COGIC. She would stand me on the collection table and I would sing before the congregation. I think back to when I was a very young girl sitting and looking with wonder at my great-grandmother who was born a slave. I also think of my other grandmothers who prayed for me and taught me to sing God’s praises. “My crown has been bought and paid for, all I have to do is wear it.”
Presented by MPAACT
Directed by Chuck Smith
Crowns is a moving and celebratory musical in which hats become a springboard for an exploration of black history and identity as seen through 17-year-old Yolanda’s eyes.
After Yolanda’s brother is shot and killed in Brooklyn, her mother sends Yolanda down south to live with her Grandma Shaw where Yolanda is welcomed into her grandmother’s inner circle of Hat Queens. Each woman’s hat holds a story of a wedding, funeral, baptism as the women share their stories of how they moved through life. Yolanda realizes she’s not alone in her challenges; the hats aren’t just fashion statements – they are testimonies of sisterhood – they are hard-earned Crowns.
Besides the 73-year-old salt of the earth Mother Shaw, there is Velma, a 27-year-old mortician who has buried too many classmates; 35-year-old Jeannette, accused of being too flirtatious with other women’s husbands; 40ish, by-the-book, school teacher Wanda, and bigger than life Mabel, the preacher’s wife. Yolanda returns to Brooklyn with new eyes. She can better see where she’s from, who she is, and where she’s going.
Rap, hip-hop, spoken word, jazz, blues, R&B, but predominantly gospel music and dance underscore the story.
This program is generously supported by the National Endowment for the Arts with additional contributions from Arts Midwest’s nine-member state arts agencies and the Crane Group.