Soul Rep Theatre's SOUL-O-SHORTS reimagines historic moments in 'Eulogy for Bessie Coleman'
By Cristee Cook
Continuing their 25th anniversary season, Dallas’ Soul Rep Theatre is presenting SOUL-O-SHORTS. This filmed play series features 6 world premier short solo performances. The project was created by a dynamic team of local playwrights, directors, dancers, and cinematographers, and explores the beauty and struggle of Black men, the gift of children and their imaginations, and even stories about notable historical figures: namely, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Hattie McDaniel, and Nat Turner.
Dallas Art Beat will be featuring a Q&A with each of the artists behind the plays. For the second installment, we spoke with Playwright Camika Spencer about her play, The Eulogy of Bessie Coleman Presented by Ida B. Wells. The short play examines what one powerful Black woman (Ida B. Wells) would have to say about another (Bessie Coleman) were she given the opportunity to deliver a eulogy at her funeral. Bessie Coleman was an Aviator and the first African American woman to hold a pilot’s license both in the United States and internationally. Ida B. Wells was an investigative journalist, educator, and early civil rights leader as one of the founders of the NAACP. The Eulogy of Bessie Coleman is directed by Monique Ridge-Williams and stars Kimberly Williams as Ida B. Wells.
1) What is the inspiration behind this project?
Thinking about the past and imagining what one resilient black woman has to say about another resilient black woman who was not in her generation. I'd read online that Ida B. Wells attended the funeral of Bessie Coleman and gave a eulogy, but no record exists of this actually being true. I thought it wonderful to imagine the moment and write it.
2) What positive changes have come out of the pandemic time in regard to your work - creating what is traditionally live performance for a virtual audience?
Since the pandemic started, I’ve had more time. I decided to leave the classroom in 2020-21 and I’ve used that extra time to write. I've been able to get more sleep, write my first screenplay and complete a manuscript for a fourth novel. I’ve helped a former educator write her memoir, and I’m spending more time outside in nature.
3) Why do you think this is an important story for audiences now?
As a writer, I simply open the door. The story revealed itself to me. As I'm here, the story is here, and here we are together during the pandemic.
4) What’s sustaining you right now?
Imagination, love, truth, risk, and leaving real room for God, family, and self.
5) Is there anything else you’d like to add that you want audiences to know about Eulogy for Bessie Coleman…?
I will eventually extend it into a one act play. I'm super interested in Bessie Coleman and don't feel like she's in our awareness the way she should be. She was a young, black woman who spoke fluent French, was a certified professional manicurist, owned several planes, and had plans to open a school. She was also born in Texas.
SOUL-O-SHORTS -- Written, Directed, and Performed by Soul Rep Theatre company members, begins streaming May 10, 2021.
For tickets, visit: https://www.showtix4u.com/event-details/51010.
View the trailer on Soul Rep Theatre's YouTube channel.
Follow Dallas Art Beat's interview series for SOUL-O-SHORTS here: https://www.dallasartbeat.com/all-news/categories/series