Audiences seeing MetroStage’s critically acclaimed production of Gee’s Bend this weekend will be in for a special treat. For performances Oct 24 – 27, Helen Hayes Award recipient Deidra LaWan Starnes will be stepping in as Nella, temporarily replacing Margo Moorer who originated the role because the actress had a prior commitment in Atlanta. Gee’s Bend concludes its run November 3rd with Ms. Moorer back in her role for the final week of performances.
Reached for comment, Artistic Director Carolyn Griffin told us “It is nothing short of miraculous how understudies and replacements can go on with limited time and rehearsals. Deidra had a few weeks with the script, one rehearsal with cast last week, one put in this week.
In theatre we often believe someone or something is looking out for us, and I have to believe this was meant to be. To have someone like Deidra available to step in and embrace Nella as she ages from 17 to 44 to 81 years old in this play and do it with grace and dignity and humor it is just so wonderful. Nella is a great role, and it is grand fun to see two extraordinary actors interpret the role on stage.
Gee’s Bend, the story of the women of Gee’s Bend, Alabama, whose quilts were discovered and subsequently exhibited at all the major museums in the country – you may have seen them at the Corcoran here in DC in 2004 – has received critical acclaim and has audiences cheering. It is the story of quilts, the Civil Rights Movement and of generations of strong determined women that is enhanced with 17 gospel songs woven into the story. DCTS reviewer Debbie Jackson called it ” a testimonial to the anchoring power of grace and love.”
Ms. Starnes wrote us about her experience:
“Gee’s Bend was a first for me. I have never stepped into a role; nor have I ever had only one rehearsal prior to performing in front of an audience. As a matter of fact I had just recently made a comment that I cannot learn lines without a rehearsal process.
I thank God that Carolyn trusted me with such a great responsibility. With my own admission of not being able to do something like this, it was the grace of God that allowed me to get through it. It helps me understand the passage of scripture that says I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. But He sent me angels in Margo, Roz, Duyen, Anthony, Greg, Jess, Jennie, Tonisha, Danielle, Chris, Carolyn and Tom who were all so open, warm and giving. All of them were encouraging and set me up well.
I watched Margo perform about three weeks ago and was amazed by her talent. At the same time, stepping into her shoes was a daunting reality. Watching the play and reading the script made me fall in love with Nella and the community of Gee’s Bend; how humbly they live and their endurance. Nella, for me, represents women who don’t understand or step into their full capabilities. She doesn’t want to explore her potential instead sinks her hopes in a Prince Charming. The only strength she ever recognizes is her singing. Her singing is her connection to God. I love that she has at least one thing she on which she can hold.”
Special discount for remaining tickets through Oct 27:
In honor of Ms. Starnes’ performances, MetroStage is offering readers $40 tickets for this weekend only ($15 off tickets off the regular price.) To order, call 703 548-9044, and use the CODE: Deidra.