This weekend, the Dreamers United group of Possum Point Players is presenting an original performance on the Possum stage in Georgetown.
Offering moments of both joy and heartbreak, the “talent show” of Sussex Countians uses music, student choreography, poetry, play excerpts and historical stories to present “A Celebration of Black History: Triumph Through Struggle,” as written by Rosa Barnes.
They perform Negro spirituals, praise music, contemporary, gospel and R&B. (Cast members especially like the African dance, they said.)
The narrative weaves from “Creation” to slavery, historical milestones and the civil rights movement.
Stories range from slave markets and lynching to a light-hearted musical funeral for an old plantation owner.
“I hope [audiences] will be entertained. I want them to laugh. I want them to enjoy the ones that are fun,” Barnes said.
A particularly touching moment comes when four girls sing “This Little Light of Mine.” Suddenly, they freeze, and a choir finishes the song.
The silenced characters portray the four girls who died in the 1963 bombing when white supremacists hid a bomb under the steps of a black Baptist church.
“This event crystalized the civil rights movement,” Barnes said. “It shocked them [into action].”
Barnes said her actors chose the song — not even realizing it was a major civil rights song. They also touch on the military, honoring Harlem Hellfighters of World War I and Red Tails of World War II.
Barnes said she wants the audience to “understand our nation. I grew up with the civil rights era. I grew up with the Klansmen in my town.”
Today, she said, she wants to abolish any negative perceptions of people “angry or drug addicts or whatever. [Instead] they see the best and brightest we have to offer, even if they don’t know it [themselves].
“There are a lot of young people involved, and my goal is to educate, empathize, entertain and encourage,” Barnes said. “I think the cast is excited. Many of these young people have never been in the theater before.”
Her research was both interesting and painful, according to Barnes.
“Thurgood Marshall was nearly lynched,” she said. “He was involved in civil rights before we called it ‘civil rights.’”
The story ends just before the present day.
“Some is a little too fresh, and we’re not ready to go there yet,” Barnes said of current events.
The diverse acts are designed to display the talents of all the performers.
“It’s like a huge talent show. You’ve got singing, dancing, acting, all rolled into one,” said Melony Showell.
She and Summer Okoye are high school seniors choreographing “Triumph through Struggle.” Although that’s a new challenge, both have been in Dreamers United since it was founded their freshman year, and they said they’re delighted to see newcomers learn their own talents.
“We try to refer everyone we can, as far as African-Americans, because there’s not many in the theater,” Showell said.
“Anyone and everyone can do something,” said Okoye, such as props, makeup or acting.
“People like to hide their talents,” said Showell, adding that she’s amazed to see kids’ creativity emerge during rehearsals.
“‘Miss Rosa … I wanna be in your show,’” Barnes recalled one child saying. “She sang and danced her heart out. I said, ‘You’re in, sister.’”
Okoye said she wants people to learn “how much more we can do if we use everyone. The community is not black or white. It’s everyone.”
Students said they enjoyed growing closer to their castmates while creating a new show.
“It’s hard work. It looked easy, but actually it’s hard. And a lot of practice,” said seventh-grader Juan Hudson. “[But] it’s very fun to do. You can’t miss it!”
“People should know what people went through [throughout history],” said sixth-grader Allison White-Mills.
“Black history is not just black history, it’s everyone’s history,” Okoye quoted an advisor as saying.
The show runs on Saturday, March 21, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, March 22, at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $10 for general admission or $5 for students. Learn more at www.possumpointplayers.org. Possum Hall is located at 441 Old Laurel Road, Georgetown.