The Hickory Hill Senior Drama Troupe will perform a 15-minute skit for Black History Month in February 2020.
The skit will be the group’s first performance and provide a history lesson alongside an entertaining plot. The story follows a tenacious young slave named China who is determined to be free, as well as other slaves' attempts to subdue her efforts.
“I think that it will bring more awareness to the youth, as well as to the adults, in Hickory Hill,” said Memphian Connice Nunn, the troupe's director and author of the skit's original script.
The piece will be performed at the Hickory Hill Community Center. The exact date has not been set. The club is open to input from community members to select the date.
Although the troupe is comprised mostly of seniors, the group is open to all ages.
The performers are currently learning their lines and getting to know their characters. Their props include fake trees, pillows, and a bucket.
Carrie Pope is one of the performers and has been a Hickory Hill resident for 20 years.
“We’re really excited about that skit,” said Pope. “When I heard about it, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. I thought it was a good idea because it’s good to do something other than speeches. It’s good to portray something different.”
Pope said she hopes the skit also brings more attention to the Hickory Hill Community Center.
Related: "Hickory Hill Community Center is high-energy heartbeat of the neighborhood"
“A lot of people don’t know what’s going on at the center,” she said.
In addition to the fictional characters, Nunn wanted the script to acknowledge black history's leaders and stories that are often overlooked. She’s particularly focused on sharing lesser-known stories with Memphis’ youth.
“We always get the Rosa Parks, the Martin Luther Kings, and the Harriet Tubmans, but when I learned about Henry Box Brown, who I was not familiar with, it really intrigued me.”
Henry Box Brown was a 33 year-old Virginia slave who mailed himself to freedom in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by hiding in a wooden crate. The character China attempts a similar escape in the skit.
Quilting codes, patterns stitched into quilts by slaves that contained secret messages mapping the journey freedom, are also cleverly woven into the plot.
“I'm trying to incorporate all of that together,” said Nunn.
The skit has seven confirmed cast members. Nunn is still looking to cast one male role. Currently, the skit and the troupe consist of six women and one man.
Actress Connice Nunn is the director of the newly formed Hickory Hill Senior Drama Club and authored its upcoming Black History Month skit. The skit will be performed in February 2020. (AJ Dugger)
The Role of A Director
The Hickory Hill Community Center has been expanding its programming over the past few years. When the staff decided to give a drama club a try, Nunn volunteered to lead it.
“I was a performing arts major in high school many moons ago,” said Nunn. “As an adult, I've been in various drama ministries in churches, and I've been in a few companies. I got to do some bit parts in a couple of independent films.
The troupe first met in October and are now rehearsing weekly. Their first full rehearsal was November 20, 2019. None of the troupe members have formal acting experience, which Nunn said makes the experience more fun.
“This will be my first time trying to direct adults, but they're so easy to direct. They are a great group. They're just picking up on it and running with it, so I have really been blessed with a great group of [people] to work with,” said Nunn.
Nunn is a gentle director. She offers instruction but takes suggestions from the performers and community members who wish to assist.
Currently, Nunn and the cast are working on blocking, which are the movements of actors throughout the performance.
“Make sure you face the audience when you say that line,” Nunn told one performer.
“Remember you come on stage from that direction,” Nunn said to another performer waiting for her cue.