“Tell Martha Not to Moan”
By: Joe Basque, Contributor
In July 1967, a late night police raid on an unlicensed bar lit the fuse on a five day explosion of rioting and violence in Detroit. By the time it was over, forty-three were dead, over a thousand injured, two thousand buildings were destroyed, and the United States Army’s 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions had been called in to patrol the streets. It was the bloodiest incident of the “long hot summer” of 1967.
Clinnesha Sibley’s drama “Tell Martha Not to Moan” opens with octogenarians Martha and Leroy Patterson readying to attend a commemoration for the fortieth anniversary of the riot. For them, it is not history; the fallout from the riot remains a part of their everyday lives.
The play was read at the 2011 Great Plains Theatre Conference. Denise Chapman, who directed the GPTC reading, now performs as the Patterson’s caregiver in the Union for Contemporary Art’s Performing Arts Collective’s staged production of “Tell Martha Not to Moan” this November. According to Chapman, the play flashes back to events forty years and beyond. “We see what it is to carry that with you for forty years; what the lasting effect is forty years later.”
The lasting effect is complicated. Director Kathy Tyree says that Martha, played by Camille Metoyer Moten, and Leroy, played by D. Kevin Williams, suffered terrible losses in 1967. “It’s a story about how a family is impacted by the 1967 riots collectively and individually. But it affected them differently. They feel very different about what occurred.” Particularly Leroy, whose past haunts him more vividly than he could ever imagine.
Tyree, a longtime producer and performer, was tapped this summer by Denise Chapman to direct her first fully staged production. “It was made clear to me there was something seen in me,” laughs Tyree. Chapman’s instincts are probably dead on: the Performing Arts Collective consistently does a terrific job at combining new and veteran talents in their productions. “It’s an amazing new theater home,” says Tyree. “Everyone leaves with their hearts filled with a warmth and love for this space.”
Clinnesha Sibley, an award-winning playwright and published poet, will attend the opening weekend of performances.
The Union for Contemporary Art’s Performing Arts Collective presents “Tell Martha Not to Moan” by Clinnesha Sibley on November 8-10, 15, 17, and 21-24. Thursday through Saturday curtain is at 7:00 pm, with Sunday matinees at 4:00. There are two shows on Sunday, November 17, at 4:00 and 7:00. There is no show on Saturday, November 16. General admission tickets can be purchased for $20. This fee helps defer the cost of production licensing and theater operations. Patrons are also invited to further support The Union’s commitment to financially compensating Omaha-area actors and theatre professionals contributing to this production. If the ticket price is prohibitive, The Union generously has a limited number of cost-free tickets also available at The Union box office available on a first-come-first-served basis on the day of the performance.
The Union for Contemporary Art is located at 2423 North 24th Street, on the southeast corner of 24th and Lake Streets. There is plenty of parking on the street and the Union’s main lot directly south of the building. Tickets are available online at https://www.u-ca.org/performingarts/tell-martha-not-to-moan. There are no ticket refunds, though exchanges can be made for another performance based on ticket availability. There is more information about the production on the Union for Contemporary Art’s website: http://www.u-ca.org/performingarts/, by calling them at (402) 933-3161, or by e-mailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.