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Prophesy to the Bones: Staging a Powerful Story

by | Jun 21, 2022

Davidson Community Players logo

Stories. It all boils down to Stories. Stories are the way to share and get to know each other. No argument from me. I am a storyteller. I’m writing my own.

(Matt Merrell photo)

After the tragic death of George Floyd in 2020, the directors of Davidson Community Players, Matt Merrell and Sylvia Schnople, decided to find a way to use Art as a vehicle to affect change and understanding between Black and white folks in their town. Charlotte writer Nichole M. Palmer was commissioned to write a play about the disparity of life among Blacks and whites in Davidson.

Great decision to use Art! I remember thirteen years ago, when the Community Development Study Group for the Town of Davidson Comprehensive Study Plan recognized Art, in part, to be “a strong economic and social component of the community.”

Recently Charlotte Writers’ Cub North staged an event called Seeking Refuge, How Stories Can Save Us. Multi-cultural, multi-national speakers discussed the promulgation of Stories for a better understanding among people.

(Matt Merrell photo)

When asked to illustrate the power of Art in the community, I challenged high school students to create a story of their own—it might even become a script. Then, most importantly, share it. As President Barak Obama said in his farewell address to the nation, “Don’t argue over the Internet. Go out and talk to each other.”

For two learning, often tearful years, that’s exactly what Nichole Palmer set out to do. She read books and accounts about Davidson’s history and interviewed Black and white folks throughout town. She heard the reverberating, silent voices from the past. Prophesy to the Bones and other stories black folx whisper became an intense, powerful dramatization of what she learned.

“It was Stories, always Stories,” Nichole said. “And that’s what Black people didn’t tell, not even to each other. Had they shared back then, Davidson would have become a different town—it wouldn’t be what as it is today.”

I understand. My Latino upbringing urged me not to “hang out my dirty laundry.”

Nan-Lynn Nelson directed a talented cast of ten actors with strong, sensitive voices to dramatize the clever script Nichole developed to unravel her findings. The storyline unfolds around an African American couple with grown children, at temporary odds within their marriage.

Martin Ingram, played by John Harris remained up North devoted to his work, “pursuing the American Dream,” while Deborah Ingram, played by Christina Franc, returned to Davidson, where she grew up, to work as a celebrated professor at Davidson College. Christina inherited valuable Davidson property left by her beloved, strong Great Aunt portrayed by Cassandra O’Neal, who urges her niece to overcome the silence of the past. She weaves critical Stories.

(Matt Merrell photo)

An intriguing manner of stagecraft is implemented to clutch Davidson’s present story, while attempting to choke the past. Most remarkably are six Ancestral Choral voices who inform and declare issues from places beyond the established attire required in times gone by. Actors interpret letters Christina reads with anecdotes from the town’s history, at times staged by opposing lawyers, Aleshia Price who is Black and Alan Martin, representing white townspeople. (Bill Reilly alternately, plays the white lawyer.) While intense, the staging methods are remarkable.

Gentrification. Major improvements in town, at whose expense? Prohibited interracial romance. White selfishness vs. Black survival. A Black barber’s ultimate loneliness. Children who witness a burning cross at Ada Jenkins want air. Isn’t that what George Floyd asked for?

Prophesy to the Bones is a strong show with a substantial message. Every performance played to a full house, even after a two-week Covid-related interruption. Davidson Community Players is to be commended for bringing this momentous issue to the forefront. Well done.

(Matt Merrell photo)

A standing ovation goes to the gifted, mostly Black, cast. Hopefully, you’ll perform on DCPs boards again. Congratulations, Nicole Palmer. I can’t wait to see your next play. Nan-Lynn Nelson deserves a hearty round of applause for her direction, projection, and sound design. What a gift! Bravo, Davidson audiences who loved the honesty of such an important play.

So now, what’s next? Will stories continue to be shared beyond their legendary whisper? How will Davidson make sure that Black Lives Matter?

Connie Fisher

Connie Fisher, neé Consuelo Carmona, is a Davidson resident who grew up in Mexico City where she became a journalist and acquired a taste for the theatre. Her preference for work behind the scenes led to an interest in writing reviews—Yale Rep among her favorite troupes. Connie is the author of Doing it the Right Way, the biography of an Italian hatmaker. Her prose appears with 87 other international writers in The Widows’ Handbook. An active, founding member of Lake Norman Writers, Connie just released her latest book, "The Mongrel, Bi-cultural Adventures of a Latina-Scandinavian Youth," a memoir about her years growing up in Mexico.​

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