Whidbey Playhouse’s virtual production of “Having our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years” takes the audience back in time through the lived experience of two Black women, 103-year-old Sadie and 101-year-old Bessie Delany.
In the play, the sisters reminisce what their life was like during the time of Reconstruction, Jim Crow laws, two world wars, the Harlem Renaissance and the civil rights movement while they prepare dinner in remembrance of their father on his birthday.
The Delany sisters were real women, and the play is based on their memoir published in 1994.
“It’s about two powerful, strong, independent women who were very successful in their own right, in their own time when it wasn’t typical for Black women to be in the career choices they had,” said Sue Riney, chairperson of the Whidbey Playhouse.
The team also chose the play because of the small cast and crew size, and it was also one of the few scripts licensed to be recorded and put online.
The creative team recorded the play and it will be available online to view.
There were only a handful of people, including the two actresses, involved in the production.
“It’s also really timely considering it’s Black History Month and these are real women who lived,” said Oak Harbor resident Allenda Jenkins, who plays Bessie Delany in the story.
“A lot of this rings true today,” she said of the play’s themes of survival and hard work.
Germaine Kornegay plays Sadie and said she noticed a lot of “weird similarities” in her own life to that of her character.
The sisters reflect on the discrimination they faced, how they had to work hard in their respective professions (Sadie was a high school teacher and Bessie was a dentist), and find ways to survive in the world as Black women.
“I lived a lot of that story in my modern life now,” Kornegay said.
There are also sisterly squabbles over things like a burnt pan, and the two discuss how their family was very tight-knit.
The actresses rehearsed for months over the phone and through video calls, and last week was the first time the actresses had rehearsed in-person.
It felt different, the actresses said, but added the show must go on. No one was in the audience except for the small crew.
The actresses stay six feet apart, and the crew all wear masks during rehearsals.
“We want to keep the theater alive and vibrant even in COVID,” Jenkins said.
“It may not be the same feel as being in the theater, but this is kind of how theater has to be during COVID.”
Broadway shows have had to adapt too, she added.
“So we’re not alone in doing this,” Jenkins said.
One of her favorite lines, Jenkins said, exemplifies the sisters’ grit and optimism for life.
“Life is short but it’s up to you to make it sweet,” she said.
Tickets cost $10 and can be purchased online at www.ShowTix4U.com