Celebration Arts is presenting two plays in repertory, giving audiences two different stories they can experience over the next month and a half. Artistic Director James Wheatley explained that he chose stories that deal with African-American history and cultural identity.
One of the plays embraces it: In Black Pearl Sings, Alberta “Pearl” Johnson inherits a collection of rare African-American folk songs from her ancestors. A prisoner in 1933, Pearl meets Susannah, a white woman who collects music for the Libray of Congress. In what seems like a mutually beneficial relationship, Susannah wants to advance her career by recording Pearl singing those timeless songs, and Pearl hopes Susannah can help her attain freedom.
Contrasting Black Pearl Sings, the other play deals in the refusal to acknowledge that history and culture: In Blue Door, Lewis is a tenured math professor fighting an inner-battle. He’s highly respected at the university, but deep down, he struggles with his personal and cultural identity. It disturbs his sleep so much that one night, the spirits of his ancestors appear. They represent three generations of black men throughout history, from slavery through the black power movement. The ancestors beckon Lewis to travel the night and reconcile his past and present.