black pearl sings

by frank higgins

scenic design    
clarence brown theatre, 2012 
director  -  kate buckley
lighting design  -  kenton yeager
costume design  -  arlene felipe
sound design - mike ponder

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photographed by libby stadstad
link to drafting


Black Pearl Sings is about the difficult journeys of women in the 1930’s. It is about a woman living in a man’s world, about being black in a white world, and about fighting for one’s soul in a society in which anyone can become a commodity. Susannah searches for the song that will allow her to forge her way past gender inequality to her ultimate dream. Pearl suffers in prison for the murder of her abusive lover and seeks to reconnect with her lost daughter. As the two women discover an unexpected friendship, they walk a thin line of exposure and exploitation against a beautiful backdrop of American and African folk songs.

With the abundant issues present by this script in mind, I have removed the normal clutter of day-to-day existence. Thus the audience is forced to examine these women, their personal relationship, and the effects of societal pressures on them. As the women’s relationships develop, and they move from one location to the next, the walls grow slightly. This movement from the small prison to larger New York culminates as Pearl sings the song of her ancestors and is metaphorically transported to an African sunset.

"a spectacular set design by libby stadstad creates a sparse but intimate  environment for the actors to work in."  -  timothy hankins, knoxville daily times