Felicia Hunter has a pet peeve. Well, she has several. But there’s one in particular that is especially relevant to “Scenes and Songs from Fannie Lou.”
“I have absolutely no tolerance for people who think that in order to succeed, they have to limit other people,” she said. “The complainers. The naysayers. The perpetual contrarians. The people who can always find something negative to say and do. Who try to impose impediments, always trying to hinder others. If you can’t support, at least don’t try to hinder. But these types of people do. Why? I don’t know. It’s so odd, because many of them don’t have a grasp of their own work and what they should be doing, yet they always have something disruptive to say about things that really don’t concern them. If they’d just put that energy into doing something positive, they wouldn’t have time to try to bring other people down.”
As creator of Fannie Lou Musical and overseer of several of its productions, Felicia has come across her share of such people.
“I try my best to avoid them, but they do seem to seep in from time to time,” Felicia laughs.
So, how does she handle it?
“I don’t even want to try to understand them, because I don’t think like that -- and I don’t want to think like that,” she said. “People like that will just draw you into their negativity and bring you down to their level, if you let them. You waste a lot of time wallowing in their mud, so to speak. I prefer working with good people. I just try to distance myself from the bad ones as soon as possible, and continue on with my work and development in a positive framework.”
Felicia’s current theatrical work, the Oct. 22 production of “Scenes and Songs from Fannie Lou,” consists of selected music and dialogue from Fannie Lou. The original musical was inspired by the life and work of voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer.
“Mrs. Hamer was a very, very brave woman,” said Felicia. “She and people in her community had to face hatred, intimidation tactics, even the threat of death, just because they sought the right to vote, to have a say in their own destiny. And these threats came from people who wanted to limit Mrs. Hamer and others because they didn’t want a level playing field. They wanted the field decidedly tilted towards their advantage. They feared that if circumstances were fair and equal, they would not always come out the“winner.” And they saw
Mrs. Hamer and her efforts for fairness and equality as a threat.”
Creating a musical about Mrs. Hamer and the voting rights struggle brings together a number of Felicia’s interests: music, literature, social science and human behavior, writing and history.
Felicia began her formal music training at age 9. She’s studied viola, piano and cello, and has a working knowledge of several other instruments. She toured Europe and performed in cities along the East Coast as part of national, regional and state youth orchestras. Felicia is an Honors graduate of Syracuse University, and earned two master’s degrees from Yale University. She has performed for film, television and the theater. Performances include being part of the cast of Jack Eric Williams’ Mrs. Farmer’s Daughter, her professional stage debut, and singing backup for pop music’s Michael Bolton and the legendary Ben E. King.
One of Felicia’s original songs, the critically acclaimed “To the Rescue,” was featured in the film “And Then Came Love” starring Vanessa Williams, Ben Vereen and the late Eartha Kitt. While working to bring Fannie Lou to the Broadway stage, Felicia also is writing music and scripts for other original productions. A professional journalist, Felicia has been a staff or freelance reporter and/or editor for a number of daily, weekly and monthly publications. She is a former Connecticut Post newspaper bureau chief, and in that capacity helmed a staff of reporters who covered the state's lower Naugatuck Valley region.
Always open to new experiences, Felicia was excited to cover her first White House event last year.
“I had covered presidential politics before, including visits to Stamford by both President and Mrs. Obama, but I had never covered an event actually in the White House,” said Felicia. “It was an event with President Obama and a group of entrepreneurs. I enjoyed being there and reporting on that.”
Another new experience for Felicia last year was having “Scenes and Songs from Fannie Lou” produced in the DC area, to mark the 50thanniversary of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. And a new experience she would like to have is seeingFannie Lou go to Broadway. She hopes that will finally occur next year.
“That’s always been the goal forFannie Lou,” Felicia said. “Our productions have been so well received by audiences. I’d really love to see that Broadway run happen.”