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 terri.frazier@vicksburgpost.com.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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