Review: Play drew its inspiration from research at KCK Library

Nedra Dixon, right, plays Pearl Johnson and Vanessa Severo, left, plays Susanna Mullally in “Black Pearl Sings,” being performed at the Just Off Broadway Theater in Kansas City, Mo. (Photo by Jeff Rumans)
Nedra Dixon, right, plays Pearl Johnson and Vanessa Severo, left, plays Susanna Mullally in “Black Pearl Sings,” being performed at the Just Off Broadway Theater in Kansas City, Mo. (Photo by Jeff Rumans)

by William Crum

“Black Pearl Sings,” a play now being performed at the Just Off Broadway Theater in Kansas City, Mo., drew some of its inspiration from the author’s research at the Main Kansas City, Kan., Public Library.

A heartwarming and emotional experience, the play was written by Frank Higgins, an adjunct playwright professor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City. Higgins got some of his influence from a VHS tape that he checked out in 2005 at the Main Kansas City, Kan., Public Library.

In late 2005 the first draft of the play was written, and in the spring of 2006 was the first reading of the play.

“I came across the video called, ‘Language You Cry In,’” Higgins said. “This was in early 2005. I have always wanted to write a play about this particular subject, but when I came across this video it was fate that truly made it happen. The first reading was in the spring of 2006. It wasn’t until 2007 the play first debuted in Houston, Texas.”

The play is about a prisoner named Pearl Johnson, played by Nedra Dixon, who is rescued by a young librarian, Susanna Mullally, played by Vanessa Severo.

In the play, two women of different cultures work together in a unique experience. The librarian is researching songs from the days of slavery, while Pearl Johnson is an inmate who sings and seeks her freedom.

A third actor, Jeannie Blau, who played a prison guard, also did a fantastic job.

If you want to see a play that is heartwarming and well done this in the play that everyone should definitely see. The acting, the set design and production is truly phenomenal. Personally after seeing the play, I think that people can learn about what it is to be a slave and how music affects us all, music that is handed down from our forefathers.

The play will inspire viewers to think about the world around them and how things are affected by different cultures. Theater-goers will feel the heartache that Pearl felt, and may even laugh and cry at the same time.

The play was produced by Spinning Tree Theatre Co., and it will end its run on March 22. Remaining performances are at 8 p.m. Saturday, March 14; 2 p.m. Sunday, March 15; 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 18; 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 19; 8 p.m. Friday, March 20; 8 p.m. Saturday, March 21; and 2 p.m. Sunday, March 22.

I highly recommend this phenomenal, emotional and educational experience.

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