From the Mississippi Delta is a hard-hitting and inspiring auto-biographical play, following the life and times of Endesha Ida Mae Holland as she journeys from prostitute, to prominent civil rights activist, to academic and playwright.
The production gorgeously recounts life in the early 20th century segregated South, showing the brutal horrors of racism but also demonstrating the power and resilience of black people living in the south.
The strength of the show comes from the three actors who fill multiple roles, sometimes playing the numerous characters simultaneously. It’s always a powerful experience to see black women telling authentic stories about other black women in history. Jewelisia Fagg, Sarah Lubin and Jessica Raquel Allen can seamlessly slip into various roles and effectively portray their points of view vividly, delivering a fantastic ensemble performance. Through monologue the characters recount the events of their lives, with scenes switching rapidly from comedy to being deeply dramatic, echoing the way danger could present itself at any moment for them.
There are moments that are shocking, and the provocativeness of the scenes does make it at times hard to watch. But the discomfort viewers get from these scenes, especially with the sudden change of tone, accurately depicts how violence was a common and pervasive part of life at the time for black Americans.
The themes of violence are carefully explored, and it is refreshing to see these themes in reference to black people without actually seeing violence against black bodies. In a lot of art showing violence towards black people, seeing horrific scenes of violence perpetuated towards black people (especially towards black women) is common to expound upon the viewer the actual horror of the acts. This production never resorts to this, yet you are shocked. You can feel empathy towards the characters and understand the emotional and physical consequences of these acts without seeing them. In addition to this, the characters in the play are resilient but they are not stripped of their humanity. They are emotionally complex as well as having the ability to be vulnerable, a tricky balancing act to pull off effectively.
In conclusion, From the Mississippi Delta is an interesting exploration for life for black people in the Mississippi Delta during the early 20th century and is held together by incredible ensemble performance.
From the Mississippi Delta
theSpace @ Venue 45 (Venue 45)
Image: Florida A&M University Essential Theatre