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MAY 25, 2020.  THE WORLD CRASHED WOKE…

Actor Sherry D. Boone reflects on art and change.

He cried out for his Mama—
the children?—17-year-old Darnella Frazier records:
a child crying out for his mama…

I am grieving.
Marian was grieving.
I write through this grief—
because 1619.  2020.

In 2004, I was given the grace of portraying the regal lion that is Marian Anderson through the glorious insanity that is Michael John LaChuisa and the artistic direction and space of Jack Cummings and Transport Group.  The production: First Lady Suite.

May 25, 2020

The world was crashed.  WOKE with the murder, caught on video, of an African American man named George Floyd, by a Caucasian police officer named Derek Chauvin who kept his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

Silence.

Oooo…kay…  I have to keep it together cause I have kids now and a husband so—

I prayed, how do I…?
What do I do with this cavern of pain?

May 26, 5:12 p.m.—Jack Cummings called and texted: “Hey there—Jack here!  Just left you a message.  Wanted to run an idea by you.”

I’m like… woof.

We spoke around 8:50 p.m.  Jack mentioned he had just watched a documentary on Marian Anderson and was moved to asked me to write about my experience portraying her, such an incredible opera singer and civil rights icon.

I said yes thinking “I am gonna have to find a way outta this one cause I’ma about to… 2-week window…?”

“Oh shit—do I make it a happy write and cite Ms. Anderson’s accomplishments and how wonderful it all was with First Lady Suite?  As if the happy just flowed from honey and flowers?”

historical
ancestral
tragic
regal
messy
art imitating life
artist giving prophecy to life

I first had in my mind I would speak about Marian Anderson—focusing more on her sheer artistry, her otherworldly and seamless contralto, and her being the voice that comes round every 100 years.  Marian Anderson, the first African American to sing at The Met, and to sing at The White House.

Ms. Anderson should have been headlining the roster at The Met in 1939.  Discrimination and the times called her to be a symbol—an icon—a force for change.  Ms. Anderson was a consummate artist: world traveled and lauded as one of the greatest singers of our time.  Her performance on the steps on the Lincoln Memorial in 1939 changed the world in a way that no residency at The Met ever could.

When it comes down to it, we artists are here to change the world whether we like it or not.  So here we are Ms. Anderson.  You have come from Heaven to say, “here we are… what will we do?”  In First Lady Suite—Marian Anderson crashes the world WOKE too.  She crashes Mamie Eisenhower—WOKE.

and today—here we are…

NY Times, May 27, 2020:
George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, died on Monday after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a white police officer’s knee in an incident that was recorded on video and incited large protests in Minneapolis and other cities (around the world) in the days that followed.

Silence.

This package will not wrap and have a bow on top.  This package has erupted with love and mess and murder and beauty and hilarity for sake of dying.  Michael John, Jack Cummings, Transport Group, and perhaps a reluctant Marian Anderson all reside in the midst of this package.  I am thankful that I too, reside here.

I offer up Michael John’s aria “Melba, Gloria.”  Michael John, I hope you are OK that I added in a few names.

“Melba, Gloria”

Marian:
Old rules are old rules.  New rules are better.

Mamie:
What?

Marian:
You haven’t heard the mob.
You haven’t seen their faces, — Mrs. E.
May we call you that?  “Mrs. E.?”

Mamie:
Sure.

Marian:
And while the President waits, the mob grows.
While the President waits, the mob rules.
While the President waits and waits
the hate blossoms.

“Go home, nigger!”
“Know your place, nigger!”
“Kill the nigger children!”

Kill the nigger children…

Mamie:
Children…

Marian:
While the President waits, so do children.

Who will teach them?
Who will speak for them?
Who will make the new rules?
Who will break the old rules?

Melba!
Gloria!
Minnie Jean…
Come to school, children!

We are all learning
as the world’s turning
that the change must come tonight.
There’s a drum beating
where the sun’s meeting
with the stars,
and all the stars, they know that change must come tonight.

Old mansion has to come down.
New mansion has to go up.

New mansion has to rise high and all that’s old get ready to die.
Get ready!
Get ready!
Get ready!
Get ready!

Breonna!!! (Taylor)
Ahmaud!!!!! (Arbery)
Eric (Garner) and George (Floyd)…

Come to school, children.

There’s a new teaching
and the old teaching
has to get the boot tonight.

There’s a drum pounding
and the sky’s rounding up the stars,
and all the stars can’t stop
the change
that’s
coming
tonight…!

About the author:

Sherry D. Boone is the fortunate mom to  6 year old  boy girl twins.  A critically acclaimed Broadway actress, and a classically trained opera singer, Sherry has garnered attention for her performances internationally.  Broadway credits include Ragtime, and the original casts of Jelly’s Last Jam, and Marie Christine.  She is lyricist and book writer for the epic musical Ellen Craft composed by Sean Jeremy Palmer. She is the Lead Soprano and Artistic Director for the organization Opera at Home, whose mission is “to motivate and move mankind through the human voice and to share classical music with underserved audiences.”