Who are the characters audience members met when they came to see "Scenes and Songs from Fannie Lou" on Oct. 22 and for other Fannie Lou productions? Well, there's Fannie Lou Hamer, of course. But there also are several fictional characters who help tell Mrs. Hamer's story and give some insight -- from various viewpoints -- into the mindset, thinking and culture of the time period. You can get a glimpse below of some of the characters in "Scenes and Songs from Fannie Lou." Looking forward to seeing you at the next production, to find out more about these characters and further explore their impact!
Fannie Lou Hamer
Voting Rights Activist
Fannie Lou Hamer, the central character in the musical Fannie Lou, is a leading figure in the voting rights movement. She decides to vote, for the very first time in her life, at the age of 44 after attending a local meeting. However, when she and a group of 17 other local residents travel to the county seat to attempt to register, they are turned away. The action in Fannie Lou picks up after this rejection. During the course of the musical Fannie Lou displays her faith, her stalwart determination, and her dedication. At one point she also reveals a lighter side, which is needed to survive the chaos her community faces as it marches towards change.
Fannie Lou's Friend
Laura is a bit more timid than Fannie Lou and she's not quite as sure as Fannie Lou is about the African-American community's pursuit of voting rights. She believes that in time, with less pressure, voting rights will eventually come. Perhaps that is because Laura, a widow, has the futures of her sons, ages 17 and 12, in the forefront of her mind. She's more of a "go along to get along" type. Nevertheless, Laura is a God-fearing woman, and she stands up for what she believes is right. Because of that, she offers her home to Fannie Lou as a place to stay after Fannie Lou loses her job and is kicked out of her own residence because of her voting rights activities.
Laura's 17-year-old son
Junior has a problem. In fact, he has several. He doesn't like where he lives. He doesn't like his circumstances. He doesn't like the restrictions placed on his existence. One would think that he'd be all for activities that attempt to lift those restrictions -- such as voting rights. But he's not. Junior is steadfastly against the grown-ups' attempts to register to vote. Why? Because he doesn't think they have any chance whatsoever of succeeding. He believes they're wasting their time. Because of a tragedy in his past, his own vision is restricted and he can't see that the community is trying to ensure he has a chance for a better future.
Pamela is one of several college students who travel South from the North to help with the voting rights movement during the summer. But Pam, who is from Pennsylvania, was so stricken by the circumstances she's seen in Missisippi and so impacted by the people she's encountered, that she's decided to take some time off from school and continue working with the movement beyond her original one-summer commitment. She is caring, she is idealistic, she is exuberant. But while in Mississippi in the early 1960's, she learns that pursing goals also must incorporate being realistic.
Local Voting-Rights Leader
Unquestionably the leader of the local voting rights movement, Rev. Hill is looked up to as a pillar in the community. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have his faults. He can be arrogant. He can be classist. He can be sexist. He doesn't stop to think how such prejudices can further create fissures in a community already torn by racism. But he loves his community, and he will do anything for it -- even lay his own life on the line, if necessary.
Being the wife of the wealthiest, most powerful man in the county has its perks,
but that is of little concern to Mrs. Richards. She loves her husband dearly, and her most important task is keeping him happy.
And right now, he's not happy. All of the voting-rights nonsense going on has gotten him rattled, and Mrs. Richards wants to try to help calm him. She does that the best way she knows how, by confronting one of the participants in the movement -- unbeknownst to her husband. Will her intervention be successful?
Newspaper Reporter Covering Local Events
The Reporter considers himself an objective professional. When he first received the assignment to cover voting rights activities in Sunflower County, Mississippi, the Reporter thought it would be cut and dry. Area residents would stir things up for a few days, maybe a week or so, then they'd go home. He hadn't yet met Fannie Lou Hamer. When the Reporter does meet her, and learns a little bit about her life, he's forced to reconsider his stereotypical assumptions.
Expectancy, disappointment, encouragement, tension, camaraderie, enmity, unity, division, setback and hope are all part of the fabric of Sunflower County, Mississippi, during the early 1960's. The setting for "Scenes and Songs from Fannie Lou" reflects a tumultuous period when change was on the horizon, but it wasn't always clear how, when, or even whether everyone working towards that change would realize it. To the left are some of the characters who take you on the journey towards that horizon, guiding you through it from their points of view.
Through selected scenes and songs, these characters bring to life the voting rights struggle and the challenges people affected by that struggle had to face.