Review courtesy of Lynn Felder/Winston-Salem Journal
The enslaved woman who would become Sojourner Truth endured unimaginable hardship, pain and depravation. Born in western New York in about 1797, she was the ninth child born into an enslaved family.
Eventually, all her siblings and she were sold, and her mother and father set free, but for 40 years she toiled and felt the lash, was raped and abused repeatedly.
But she endured, survived and thrived, living another 40 years after winning her freedom, reborn as the great Sojourner Truth, walking this land and being the light of God’s Truth for all who had the ears to hear and the eyes to see.
Sandra Jones is breathing life into Sojourner Truth’s story in the black box theater at Arts Council Theatre. Jones wrote the one-woman “living portrait,” and embodies the great thinker, orator, abolitionist and suffragette under the direction of Mabel Robinson, artistic director of N.C. Black Repertory Company, which is presenting the show, “Sojourner Truth, a Legacy.”
It opened Friday night, and it is a marvel.
Simply staged with a chair and a few props, Jones invokes the spirit of Sojourner Truth, telling the story of her early hardship and her later triumphs, including her meeting with Abraham Lincoln.
Jones’ face and body express the lows and the highs. She prays with her whole body. She bursts into deep, throaty song, sometimes a cappella, sometimes accompanied by Lael Jones, violin, and Gregory Ince, drum, and often rhythmic clapping by the audience.
Jones and the musicians perform 10 songs in the show, some of them, such as “Pleading for My People,” written by Sojourner Truth.
Jones paints vivid pictures with her rich voice and body: beatings and auction blocks, camp meetings and congresses of suffragettes and abolitionists.
In one wrenching scene, she shifts from a portrayal of her younger self on the auction block to the role of the auctioneer, selling goats and human beings side by side. It is a terrible reminder of the inhumanity humans are capable of but so skillfully done that we want to see and hear and understand.
Jones has been working on this play for 26 years, and it shows in the artfulness and conciseness of the piece. It is economical in scope but potent in depth, telling a story of one woman that is also the story of too many.
Sojourner Truth gave voice to the downtrodden, and now Jones gives voice to Sojourner Truth. Surely, it is a voice that needs to be heard again and again.
Lest we forget. Lest we forget.