Historic play in a historic place

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 27, 2006

A historic building and the historic life of Barbara Jordan will come together when Morning Star Baptist church hosts the play “The Voice of Good Hope” Sunday March 12 at 11 a.m.

The play, which will be presented by the Birmingham Festival Theater through the sponsorship of the Marengo County Historical Society and Two Rivers Arts Council, highlights the life of Jordan, who was the first black Congresswoman from the state of Texas.

U.S. Rep. Artur Davis will deliver greetings during the service and the Morning Star choir will also perform before the play. The play will open in Birmingham March 16 and run through April 1, but Demopolis will get a sneak preview. Part of this is due to the regions home-town connections with the theater. Demopolis native William Gant is a member of the theater board and Judy Jones, president of the theater, whose family is from Greensboro, have wanted to bring performances home for some time.

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“William and I have put our heads together on some Black Belt projects because of our shared love of this area of the state,” Jones said.

Their collaboration led to the March show.

Friday, Jones and Director Sandra Taylor traveled to Demopolis to take a walk through Morning Star and get a feel for the building before the performance.

The play, Taylor said, was rich in history and highlighted key moments in the life and political career of Jordan. One particular scene, Taylor said, highlights a speech given by Jordan on the Constitution.

“She talked about the constitution and said it was not written for black folks,” Taylor said. “She said ‘we the people’ didn’t include her, but through time and amendments, that was no longer the case.”

Jordan, Taylor said was a great orator who was respected by Democrats and Republicans.

“She could cross party lines,” Taylor said. “Her philosophy was very ethical, proud and smart. She really made a difference.”

The March 12 performance will mean so much more, Taylor said, because of the rich history of the church. Morning Star Baptist Church is historically significant as Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., visited it and delivered a speech there during the Civil Rights Movement.

Its architect was Wallace Rayfield, who also designed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham.

Jordan’s role will be played by Donna Thornton. Taylor said Thornton and the other cast members should provide a memorable performance.

“These are eight marvelous actors,” Taylor said. “All of them are experienced and really professional. They are al wonderful.”

Everyone, she said, looks forward to the opportunity to bring their art to Demopolis.

“We are very excited about this and we think it is a wonderful idea,” Taylor said. “This is a wonderful place to be and it is a wonderful message.”

The performance is free and open to the public. For more information contact the Marengo County Historical Society at 334 289 9644.

For more information about the Birmingham production log onto bftonline.org.