Arye': A Gift to Black History and Women’s History Month

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Kimberlee Monroe stars in Arye'

Although I have reviewed
several plays, I cannot recall in some time feeling the excitement I felt after
viewing “Arye',” a play written by actress Louise Mike.  Ms. Mike’s play takes the viewer through 3
generations of women, all telling the familial tale of the warrior Arye'.   Arye'
was a proud son of Africa, strong and vital, a leader who was raised by his
culture and mother to respect women, nature, family, tradition, and his God.

            “Arye'”
a Hadley Players winter production, featured at the Harlem School of the Arts,
located at 647 St. Nicholas Avenue (off 142nd Street) in Manhattan,
will only run until March 11th. 
I wish it could run longer so that everyone can see this play and feel
the pride, joy and sorrow of a family as it existed in Africa, endured slavery
in America and later American apartheid, only to prevail in current time,
remembering its history and family tradition. 

This play is a true light in
the darkness and performed with warmth, passion and great skill by actress
Kimberlee Monroe, who does a superb job depicting each generation of woman: grandmother,
mother and daughter within their historic era. 
The performance is uplifting in spirit and truly a play for the heart.

            Ms.
Monroe carries her audience back to Africa through the grandmother who serves
as a griot since it is through her we come to know her son, Arye', and along
the way get to know her as well.  She was
the healer in the family as was her mother. 
She knew the ways of the land and of nature and how the birds were the
foretellers of death.  We feel the link to
our ancestors in Africa and learn of a people who understood the earth’s
rhythms, and their soul connection with the animals, the land, and nature.  In fact, so connected were they that
oftentimes it was by observing nature and taking heed of nature’s warnings, that
Africans saved their own lives.

            Via the play “Arye',” viewers are reminded of a time when
we as a people combined our forces and worked together as one, sharing what we
had with one another, so that no one went without.  And, through this tradition of unselfishness
our ancestors built a strong and united community.  It was a time when men hunted and provided
for the family, took pride in their women and led with strength and
purpose.  Mates were equal partners.  The women cared for the home, the sick and
wounded, and even became warriors if need be, putting the family community
survival first and foremost.  Ms. Monroe
weaves the fabric of this lifestyle with such agility that one doesn’t even
need to close their eyes to be taken back as witness to our ancestral past.

            Through
a simple change of costume we are transported to a plantation wherein the
daughter of Arye' continues the tale of his life, introducing the lives of Arye'’s
children under the rigors of slavery.  Audiences
feel the pride Arye' held, the suffering he endured, having to take on a
chained life after having lived a free life in Africa.  We realize the cruelty of having to endure
another man’s rule, Will and heartlessness, yet find a way to live throughout
it all and still believe in God.  Still
hope, still rise.  This play shows us
that although at times we falter we have always found a way to go on.

            The
director, Ward Nixon, who also did the set designs, made each time period
realistic.  The symbolism of the tree and
flowers was a brilliant indicative of the branches of family and the blossoming
of each lifetime that continued the tradition of keeping Mother Africa alive.  Through Ward’s efforts and that of everyone
involved in this production, the line of African American descent is brought to
life.  Via the women storytellers in this
play, each generation passes down an enlightened culture via the male line of Arye'.  In so doing, the importance of knowing who we
are as a nation and people and the origins of our beginnings, is instilled in
each child inculcating a common bond. 
Assuring the ancient African tradition of respecting one another, love
of the family, our survival and the truth about our greatness is not forgotten.  Through each scene, it was also revealed,
that throughout each time period, the women maintained their gift of
healing.  They became strong and more
independent, self-assured in the beauty of their Africanism, no matter their kaleidoscope
of hue. 

There is something we as a
people of color here in America and throughout the Diaspora need to remind
ourselves of in modern day -- That is, the line of Africa exists in each one of
us and should not be negated, disrespected or discarded because others malign
us and try to instill in us a sense of self-revulsion.  We are not inferior because others say so,
nor are we powerless.  Only by ingesting the
rhetoric and condemnation of the fearing others, have some among us swallowed
the negative programming hate-filled groups systematically enforce.  Let’s stop the violence toward one another, and
lack of appreciation of our race.  Attempting
to be a mirrored reflection of Euro-culture only brings about the extinction of
our own.  Think about it!

The Hadley Players will
finish out their play season with “This Way Forward,” written by Hadley Player founder,
Gertrude Jeannette.  “This Way Forward,”
is slated to run from May 15 – May 27, 2012.

 “Arye'” is stage managed by Caitlin Elizabeth
Joy; Costumes by K’Ran Bridges, sound/music/lyrics by L.A. Lucas, lighting is by
Derrick Minter.  Arye' runs Tuesdays
through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m., Sundays at 2:30 p.m. Single tickets are:
$20.00, $15.00 for seniors, students or a group of five, $30.00 for a pair and
$8.00 for children under 12.  For
reservations call 646-323-0223.

I recommend this play
highly.  Go see it. You will be glad you
did.

 

 

 

           

 

           

           

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