A Song for Coretta opens tonight at Spelman College

Pearl Cleage’s new play A Song for Coretta opens tonight in a world premiere at Spelman College in Atlanta. The play (which I haven’t read myself yet) focuses on five characters who share their stories while waiting in line to pay their respects to Coretta Scott King after her death in 2006.

After watching people stand in cold rainy weather outside Ebenezer Baptist Church to honor Mrs. King after her death, Pearl Cleage was inspired to tell the story of how this remarkable woman’s life affected all of us.

“I was very moved by their patience as they stood in all that cold rain and wanted to create some imaginary characters and place them in that line,” said Cleage. “I think I was trying to show what an impact she made on a wide range of people who did not even know each other.

One of the things I’ve loved most about all of her plays is the way that Pearl Cleage makes the historical personal. She frequently uses her plays to explore historical events and characters, but she does so by focusing on ordinary people just on the edge of those events instead of focusing on the historical figures themselves. This allows us, as an audience, to identify on a more personal level with the stories and their importance in the context of human history.

In Blues for an Alabama Sky, the characters are in the midst of the transition from the Harlem Renaissance to the Great Depression, and they interact with Josephine Baker, Langston Hughes, and Margaret Sanger. Cleage explores the issues of this time period and these characters without distancing us from the story by focusing on the larger-than-life historical figures.

I’m looking forward to reading A Song for Coretta, and reading the reviews from the premiere. If you’re in Atlanta, check it out and let us know what you think.

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