Having Our Say
Bessie and Sadie Delany witnessed a lot during their long lives. They suffered through the Jim Crow laws and lived to see the advent of the civil rights movement and beyond. Both were extraordinary women who became known for their longevity. Bessie lived to see the age of 104 and Sadie lived to age 109. The sisters, along with Amy Hill Hearth, were asked to document their experiences in a book. The result was the 1993 release of Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years. It wasn’t long before Emily Mann adapted the book into a play of the same name. The play eventually made it to Broadway, and now Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years opens the Olney Theatre Center's new season.
The play takes place when Sadie is 103-years-old and Bessie is 101-years-old. As they prepare to celebrate their beloved father’s birthday, Sadie and Bessie relate their personal histories. We soon find out that they are descended from slaves on one side and a white land owner on the other. Their parents were both educated people who pass on the love of learning to their large brood of children. It is obvious that education is extremely important to this family, and both women excel academically. We also learn that the two sisters never married and they claim that they owe their longevity to their single status. The older sister Sadie is a mild soul who eventually becomes a teacher. Bessie has a bit more spunk and she goes on to become a dentist.
This play is a lovely retelling of the Delany sisters’ experiences. It is moving and funny with a bit of an edge at times. Mostly, it feels like a gentle ride through history. The show is directed by Halo Wines and it has a cozy and personal feel to it. On opening night, there were a few hiccups in the delivery of lines, but that did very little to diminish the impact of the show.
Sadie Delany is played by Claudia Robinson. She exudes sweetness as she maneuvers around the stage in an elderly gait. Gloria Suavé portrays Dr. Bessie Delany and she is all spit and vinegar. Both ladies give excellent performances. Watching them, it is easy to believe that these two “maiden ladies” have lived over a century.
The scenic design by Harry Feiner is outstanding. His representation of the Delany’s old kitchen and sitting room is very authentic. The projections of old pictures on the walls serve as an excellent device. The lighting design by Harold Burgess gives a warm hue to the scene. The costumes by Kathleen Geldard fit the character’s personalities extremely well and the wigs by Pam Peach are right on the mark.
Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years is truly an educational experience. It is appropriate for older children and adults. Overall, it is a rich theatrical experience that deserves to have a wide audience. Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years is running at the OTC through March 21st.
Olney Theatre Center
Miss Sadie Delany: Claudia Robinson