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Arts and Entertainment

Children's Theatre of Charlotte makes room for 'Three Little Birds'
Production adapts Bob Marley's music for stage
Published Saturday, February 2, 2019 3:48 pm
by Ashley Mahoney | The Charlotte Post

A mock-up of the stage configuration for "Three Little Birds" at McColl Family Theatre.

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Space matters.

Theater productions that feature African Americans in prominent roles tend to end up on smaller stages. Children’s Theatre of Charlotte’s upcoming production of Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” goes against the grain. The show, which will run on the main stage, McColl Family Theatre, on Feb. 8-24, is based on Cedella Marley’s story and adapted for the stage by Michael J. Bobbitt.

Seeing an all-black cast placed prominently on the main stage contributed to Shondrika Moss-Bouldin accepting the role of director. She has a PhD from Northwestern University in performance studies and considers it her obligation to continue to create space for fellow black female directors.

“There are not that many of us, I’m going to be really honest about that,” Moss-Bouldin said. “It takes people getting used to having leadership in that way. It’s important for theaters to be courageous enough to hire more women of color, to take these spaces, and trust us with these spaces. It’s beneficial for everyone to see leadership in these facets. We deserve to have those opportunities as well.”

Opportunity is just as experience.

“Sometimes people say, ‘oh well, this person has this experience, and you may not have that,’” Moss-Bouldin said. “That doesn’t matter. Maybe you didn’t have that, because you weren’t given the opportunity. It doesn’t mean that you can’t do it.”

“Three Little Birds” marks the second production in as many years that CTC will feature a story highlighting people of color on their main stage.

“Last year when we did ‘And In This Corner: Cassius Clay’ that was probably the first piece that I’m aware of, or at least in my tenure at the theatre, that we have put a show that features a prominent African American as the protagonist on the McColl stage,” CTC Artistic Director Adam Burke said. “We followed that up with ‘Three Little Birds.’ We have ‘Judy Moody’ running right now in the smaller theater [Wells Fargo Playhouse]. With Bob Marley with his message and his music, and the fact that it is a cast entirely made of people of color, with Shondrika and her vision for it, it is very important [for it to be on the mainstage].”

Burke noted that the show’s placement reflects the production’s needs.

“If a show is written with fewer actors and fits better in the smaller space, we’ll put it there,” Burke said. “We still pay the artists the same amount of money, regardless of which space that they are in. For us it’s ‘what does the show need?’ In this case, I couldn’t envision a Bob Marley show [in a smaller space].”

Audience participation remains key for “Three Little Birds,” as the set extends into the audience. Two rows of seats were removed to provide dance space as the audience travels to Jamaica to embark on Ziggy’s journey. Ziggy would rather remain inside than risk exposure to hurricanes and evil spirits that exist outside. However, his friend Nansi convinces him to embark on an adventure, and ultimately conquer his fear.

“It’s very evocative of what Bob Marley’s music is all about,” Moss-Bouldin said. “It’s about being free and conquering your fears. To me, that’s fairly universal. Everybody knows how it feels to conquer a fear.”

Said Burke: “We have completely reconstructed the front of the stage, and that’s in order for the stage to enter into the audience space, and some of the audience to be just about on stage with the performance. To Shondrika, this is a music event with a story at the center of it. The band is on stage. Performers will be moving out into the audience. They will be engaging directly with the children. As they walk in, they will be jumping rope with the children. They will be hula hooping with the children, just trying, as Shondrika says, to bring a little bit of the Jamaican culture and sensibility to children in Charlotte.”

For more information: www.ctcharlotte.org


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