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Soul Rep Theatre wraps up season of ‘soul powered’ plays

Special to The Dallas Examiner | 6/11/2018, 4:38 p.m.
The Soul Rep Theatre Company recently closed its 11th season with its final “soul powered” play,
Monique Ridge-Williams, Keith Price, Anyika McMillan-Herod and Esau Price in The Freedmans. Below: Scenes from The Freedmans Soul Rep Theatre

Special to The Dallas Examiner

The Soul Rep Theatre Company recently closed its 11th season with its final “soul powered” play, The Freedmans.

The Freedmans, is comprised of compelling, colorful, and chilling true and imagined stories of the people of Dallas’ Freedman’s Town community. It was homage to Dallas’ rich Black history of the late 19th and early 20th.

“The Freedmans is Soul Rep’s gift to the past from its future,” said Guinea Bennett-Price who also described it as a ritualistic choreo-poem.

Bennett-Price co-directed the play, along with Ed Smith. The production was held at the Wyly’s 6th Floor Studio Theatre in the Arts District.

The celebrated signature production was one of eight featured plays performed during ATTPAC’s 2017-2018 season of The Elevator Project that ran for two weeks in May. The project is a partnership between AT&T Performing Arts Center and the City of Dallas’ Office of Cultural Affairs.

“We [were] ecstatic to be a part of The Elevator Project and to finally share this production in the Arts District that a century ago would have been a part of Freedman’s Town,” Bennett-Price expressed.

Written by members of Soul Rep’s Writing Consortium – nia akimbo, Chris Herod, Anyika McMillan-Herod and Keith Price – the production was first performed 20 years ago to commemorate the opening of Dallas’ Freedman’s Cemetery Memorial. The theatre group re-mounted the play in 2013 at the Margo Jones Theater in Fair Park to mark the company’s return to the Dallas arts scene, after a 10-year hiatus.

The 11-day run of the production was dedicated to the memory of akimbo, who passed just before the production began.

Soul Rep’s current season also included a South Dallas themed New Play Festival: Southside Stories. The 10th annual festival included eight area playwrights that were commissioned to write a 10-minute play that would explore the South Dallas community’s history, myths, folk heroes and present day happenings.

Other performances included an original children’s play Re-Tales, the regional premiere of a Pulitzer Prize nominated drama Yellowman, and a hilarious farce Steal Away.

Re-Tales: The Flyest Fairy Tales Ever Told was a colorful “re-telling” of classic fairy tales and nursery rhymes with an urban and R&B twist. It includes stories such as Little Red Rides the ‘Hood,’ Pinnochi-Toe and Sherry Perry – a revision of Mary, Mary Quite Contrary. The production was originally produced as Rep Tales in 2000 but has since been reworked with new music and characters.

Set in South Carolina, this dramatic two-person play, Yellowman, explores colorism and its effects on the decade long friendship between Alma and Eugene, who mature and fall in love. Through searing poetry and rich storytelling, the play illustrates the beauty and depth of Gullah culture and the destructiveness of self-hatred.

Set in 1930s Chicago, Steal Away evolves around five upstanding church ladies who raise funds to send young Black women to college. The funds are raised through projects such as bake sales. As they aspire to offer more scholarships to promising women in their community, they begin to seek out bank loans for their noble quest. After being turned down repeatedly, they soon grow exasperated with the banks and decide to take matters into their own hands and rob one instead.