“Say It Loud” combined drama, poetry and music to speak volumes Friday night at the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas.
Written and directed by Pine Bluff native Sandra Kay Bennett-Carter, the production had the audience laughing and crying as it tackled some real-life situations. A family secret, sibling rivalry, grandparenting, cancer, infidelity and salvation are just some of the topics taken on by the all-female cast.
“Say It Loud” began with three elderly women and longtime friends, Agnes, Clara and Ida sitting around the kitchen table talking about “The Way it Was.” They were fearful of the gunshots that could be heard in the neighborhood that night and agreed that, “We’ve got to fast and pray.”
“Sin ain’t nothing like it used to be,” one of them said. “They done took sin to a whole other level.” The women recalled a time when young people respected their elders and “when people fell on hard times, we helped each other.”
After the scene, Pearly Stepps delivered a public service announcement that detailed the number of grandparents who are co-parenting. She said 2.4 million of the nation’s families are maintained by grandparents who have one or more of their grandchildren living with them — an increase of 400,000 (19 percent) since 1990.
Grandparents as co-parents often play important roles in young people’s lives, Stepps said.
“It can bring about a balance of security for our children,” she said, adding that “it takes an entire village to raise a child.”
In a whimsical segment titled, “Shades of the Phenomenal Woman,” poet Bennett-Carter talked about the colors red, blue, yellow, green and black. One by one women dressed in black and carrying scarves of the respective colors stepped, pranced or danced on stage. Bennett recited such phrases as “Little Red Riding Hood, Little Red Corvette, Cinderella dressed in yellow, green with envy and pretty little black girls.”
Later during a segment titled, “Girlfriend-Pretty in Pink”, Cheryl Collins delivered a poignant monologue involving best friends who shared so many highlights in their lives. She wished her dear friend had reached out sooner when she began her battle with cancer. “This was not the time to fight that cancer demon alone,” she said.
After the segment, Daryl Taylor presented a public service announcement about cancer, noting that it is the second leading cause of death in women. She encouraged women to get regular exams that can lead to early detection. “We cannot be satisfied with the ways things are,” Taylor said.
A musical interlude featured special guest Darnell Thomas, accompanied by Anthony Royal. Thomas’ rap about a “Virtuous Woman” had audience members clapping their hands as he told them, “Yes, that girl’s so virtuous. She’s my Proverbs 31.”
During one of the most powerful segments of the show entitled, “Covergirls Uncovered,” seven women took turns onstage, detailing struggles and triumphs in their lives. Narrator Donna Mooney told the audience that these were biblical women. “Listen carefully and you may hear the pages of your life being read from cover to cover.”
Twona Frazier delivered a tearful monologue involving a painful family secret. Monica Gaynor portrayed a woman who married the wrong man. “I’m the one who said ‘yes’ to a fool,” she said, explaining that prayer helped deliver her from a bad situation.
Lilnetria O’Neal portrayed a woman who had a good, Christian man but sought attention from another man while Natosha Thompson and LaRhonda Washington played two sisters caught in a bitter sibling rivalry. Shirley Denise Allen portrayed a strong, assertive Christian woman and Dora Jackson-Sanders played a sinful woman who turned her life around.
Many of those who attended “Say it Loud” praised the show for its subject matter and its ability to educate and entertain.
“It was not only funny but it had great meaning to it,” said Teanna Williams. “It was good for your spiritual wisdom and your natural wisdom. All of Pine Bluff needs to come see this.”
Tekesha Gaynor, whose mother-in-law, Monica Gaynor, performed one of the monologues, called the show “wonderful.” “They need to have more of this in Pine Bluff,” she said.
“It was very awesome and very necessary,” said Krystal Woolfolk. “It was modern-day Bible to me.”
Bennett-Carter said the show has been five years in the making. It’s a collection of pieces that have been performed in churches or other locations.
“I decided to make a show of all my writings,” said Bennett-Carter, who works as the administrator at Full Counsel Church in Pine Bluff. “It’s a vision that I’ve had for a while and I decided to put it out there.”
Women have a lifetime of experiences to share and the stories in this production are told by extraordinary women with stories that transcend age, race, socio-economic status and religion, she said.
Bennett-Carter said she hopes the show encourages people to think and act.
“I hope that people will be able to laugh at their mistakes and know that other people make mistakes too,” she said. “I hope they will be able to see the error of their ways and make a change.’
She is pleased at how the show turned out.
“The cast exceeded what I expected out of them,” she said, adding that “we’ll probably do it again sometime soon at a different venue.”
For more information, contact Bennett-Carter at 985-750-8549.