New play at The Strand brings meaningful message, spurs on conversation about race
Published 8:44 pm Friday, February 2, 2024
A couple of weeks ago, I went to the Strand Theatre to do some prep work on a story I would be doing for an upcoming Westside Theatre Foundation production.
I typically do this, but on this particular occasion, Jack Burns, who is the foundation’s fearless leader, was insistent that I come and sit through the entire show. I don’t normally watch a full production of a performance before I write my story, but he was adamant and I thought I heard him say it would only be 40 minutes long. So, because I like Jack and appreciate all he does for Vicksburg, I said I would stay for its entirety.
Well to my surprise, I had misunderstood and instead of it being 40 minutes long, Jack had said the read-through of the play would last an hour and 40 minutes.
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I began to wonder if I had a hearing problem but figured I just didn’t have the volume turned up on my cell phone.
I really didn’t want to stay at the theatre for that long. It was cold outside, and hubby was home preparing supper. So, I fessed up and told Jack and the actors I had not heard clearly and would have to dip out before they were done.
The group understood and all was cool.
However, as the play moved along, I found myself not wanting to leave and before I knew it, it was over. But not really over.
You see, afterwards, I began to have a conversation with Jack and the actors and somehow even started sharing my experience of desegregation.
I was at Jett school and in the fourth grade when the schools were integrated and there are some parts I remember vividly — from my white perspective it was all peachy keen.
But as I listened to Cathy Sandford, a Black woman, talk about her experience as a schoolgirl, I realized she had not experienced integration the same way I had.
The conversation continued with Cathy and the rest of the group that night at The Strand and when I left, I was so glad I had stayed.
Jack had told me about this play months ago and how powerful it was and how he hoped that he could get a good showing —not because of the financial support of the theatre, but because he wanted Vicksburg to have a meaningful conversation about race relations and to discuss the underlying message of what is at the root of so much hate.
Hate may be too strong of a word for some of us, but “Best of Enemies” certainly opens your eyes to disguised prejudices.
The play opens next weekend and I hope folks from all walks of life — preachers, teachers, bankers, business owners, community leaders — anyone who cares about this community will consider going. I promise you, you won’t regret it.
Terri Cowart Frazier writes features for The Vicksburg Post. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.