Frank Higgins’ play is set in Depression-era Texas and, while based on some of the early musicologists’ collecting folk songs, imagines a meeting between a White musicologist from the Library of Congress and a jailed African American woman with a powerful voice. Their subsequent relationship shows that they both are carrying a great deal that forges a strong relationship. Susanna Mullally carries resentments and frustrations of the Harvard’s old boys’ club that has kept her from her academic dreams, while Alberta ‘Pearl’ Johnson carries the heavy history but also the songs of her immediate family and her ancestors. It’s a tale about race, reconciliation, and the secrets, wounds, and tenacity of women who pass on the songs. It’s also a play for us who must listen to them.
Read more about Black Pearl Sings!
- What has Frank Higgins meant by writing these two female characters in his play?
- Why do these two women hold something, a secret or such, from each other, and does this suggest they are not true friends?
- Artistic Producer calls this a “play with music,” therefore Helen Hayes deems it not a musical play? Is Black Pearl Sings! a work of music-theatre if there are only two women singing occasionally a capella? How would you define this play, and is there a usefulness in making these distinctions?