ROSWELL, Ga. – Georgia Ensemble Theatre is teaming with the Roswell Roots Festival to bring to the stage “Having Our Say, The Delany Sisters First 100 Years,” the story of two centenarian sisters who reveal their remarkable views on life, race and gender.
GET Artistic Director Robert Farley says the play, which operates on several levels at once, is remarkable because the Delany sisters were real people and the play is told in their words.
“‘Having Our Say’ praises the human spirit and the enlightening lives of two truly American heroes that people of all ages will appreciate,” Farley said.
The sisters, 103-year-old Sadie and 101-year-old Bessie, were the daughters of slaves. They rose to prominence in their communities and are considered pioneers in the civil rights movement.
Their story first saw light as a feature interview by Amy Hill Hearth in the New York Times. Hearth then expanded it into the book “Having Our Say,” which was on the NYT’s Best Seller List for 105 weeks.
It was turned into a successful Broadway play, and now it has come to Georgia Ensemble Theatre.
Actor/director Andrea Frye is directing the show. She sat down for an interview about the production and her delight to be part of it.
“Bob Farley and I go back 20 years. I was so pleased he asked me to direct this play,” she said.
“What drew me to it was it is so contemporary still today – like all good works the story has appeal today,” Frye said.
The two-woman play is simply told by Sadie (Brenda Porter) and Bessie (Donna Biscoe) as they are preparing a dinner in remembrance of their father’s birthday.
“It’s just two women onstage having these conversations, getting the giggles and talking about the things that moved them.”
It turns ironic when they speculate if there would ever be a black president, and decide no – there would be a woman president before that would ever happen.
“But through the dialogue, you hear the philosophy of these two women, truly American women, black women.
“And these were women who were born into impoverished circumstances, yet both of them rose to be professionals – Bessie was a dentist in Harlem and Sadie a teacher. They grew up to be the kinds of people they were because of the principles that were instilled in them. Their father was the first black Episcopalian bishop in the U.S.
“Their stories speak to us all. That is what makes them so special.”
Frye said the sisters have different personalities, one is militant and one is non-confrontational.
“But they are close. They finish one another’s sentences. But one is certainly Daddy’s child and the other is Momma’s child.”
Asked what she liked best about the play, Frye said she was grateful for the chance to be in the company of these two sisters.
“Their story was one that is universal and righteous. They came from a tradition of service – to make the world a better place,” she said. “They had a servant’s heart, but they were not subservient. They fought for their place in the world and that place was to help others.”
Frye was also ebullient about working at GET and with Bob Farley.
“He gives you full rein to present your vision. Bob was always respectful and supportive of my vision for the play.
“They are doing exciting work here.”
And that should be the bottom line for any theater company.