The Athens Limestone Community Association presents the critically acclaimed gospel musical “CROWNS” on January 4th and 5th at 7:00 PM and on Jan 6th at 3:00 PM at the Council on Aging Building location at 912 West Pryor Street, Athens, AL. Advanced tickets ($15.00) may be purchased at Pablo’s on Market, Raven’s Beauty Shop or Kenny’s Kutz. “Crowns” was written by Regina Taylor and is directed by Frank Travis.
The Story of “Crowns”
“Crowns”, a play with music and dance, is adapted from a book by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry. “Crowns” weaves together a variety of stories from different characters, time periods and perspectives that, when integrated with music and dance, create a tapestry of voices that transcend time and place. The essential story of “Crowns” is that of Yolonda, a young African-American girl trying to figure out her identity, her place in the world, and her place in her own culture.
Yolonda is a tough girl from Brooklyn who is proud of her status as a true New Yorker. When “Crowns” starts, Yolonda has been sent to South Carolina to live with her grandmother after her brother has been shot. Mother Shaw, Yolonda’s grandmother, welcomes her granddaughter into a circle of women (Wanda, Jeanette, Velma and Mabel) and a Man who takes many roles. These characters help Yolonda begin linking her own experiences to the stories of her relatives, her history and her people.
“Crowns” follow Yolonda, Mother Shaw and the other characters through a church service. Through its many parts, the service draws Yolonda out of her isolation and grief, teaches her the history of her ancestors and her people, and initiates her into a place in her new community. The women spend the early morning getting dressed and ready for church. The service starts with a Processional, with Yolonda reluctantly wearing a hat that Mother Shaw has bought for her. The women teach Yolonda the “hat queen rules” of etiquette and proper hat wearing.
When the Morning Service begins, Mother Shaw takes over and ushers in the Spirit, which temporarily transforms the space. Shadows of the past take the place of stained glass windows, and echoes of ring shouts and slave songs envelope Yolonda. She pulls away to perform her own “rebel dance,” a movement that evokes the urban landscape of her Brooklyn home and her homesickness. The congregation tries to embrace Yolonda with their message of everlasting love and their own stories of loss. Yolonda tells them her story last, describing her brother’s death and his funeral. She remembers him with sadness and longing, and the women open their arms to her and soothe her with song. In a final movement, Yolonda is baptized, welcomed and accepted into the legacy of these women and all the ancestors who have gone before her. She recognizes the unique ways her ancestry manifests in herself as she declares, “The more I study Africa, the more I see that African Americans do very African things without even knowing it. Adorning the head is one of those things…whether it’s the intricate braids or the distinct hairstyles or the beautiful hats we wear on Sundays. We just know inside that we’re queens. And these are the “Crowns” we wear.”
For information about the above event and other Athens-Limestone County events call 256-232-5411/256-867-1438 or visit our website www.VisitAthensAL.com.
By Jeanette Dunnavant Jones, President, Athens-Limestone County Tourism Association