A hint of music and a touch of magic
A runaway, the Great Depression, blues music and a little bit of magic thrown in — Katori Hall’s play “Hoodoo Love” has a little bit of everything. That’s partly why Rico Bruce Wade, the play’s director, was excited to put on the show with the Ixion Ensemble.
“The playwright made these characters face these difficult times unflinchingly,” Wade said. “I was attracted to the language of the piece and the characters, and it’s very authentic and it’s very rich. It’s a simple, direct elegance, very much like the blues.”
And the blues of course, play a huge part in this production. Although it is a play, the story has a large musical component, centering around the main character, Toulou, played by Camille Thomas.
“‘Hoodoo Love’ is a story about a young woman finding her voice. In this case, because the blues play a part in the storytelling, she is literally finding her voice,” Wade said. “She’s making her way during a very difficult time. A difficult time personally for her, and also a difficult time in our cultural history. This play takes place during the ‘30s during the Great Depression in segregated Memphis.”
Wade said that the setting of the play allowed for an examination of a major turning point in U.S. history, as well as for the use of a frequently unheard voice.
“This is a play that is about four African-American characters in a very specific time in a very specific place," Wade said. "The playwright captures that voice spot-on."
But Wade makes clear that the “blues are not a superfluous element” in the storytelling. The genre’s centrality is why actual blues musician"Deacon" Earl Darnell was cast in the role of Ace of Spades, the play’s bluesman.
A first-time cast member, Darnell wasn’t initially a part of the production, but after some well-intentioned prodding, decided to go for it. “A lot of people referred me because I’m not actually an actor, I’m a bluesman who plays guitar and harmonica,” Darnell said.
But Darnell too is excited about the subject matter and a chance to exercise his acting chops.
“I like the historical context of it.
It touches on a few subjects that a lot of people don’t touch on in the black community,” Darnell said. “The tough thing is, it’s different than memorizing a four-minute song, as opposed to two hours of notes, two hours of little, tiny lines. But I think I’ll be fine.”
"Hoodoo Love" Saturday, Sept. 2 - Sunday, Sept. 10 8 p.m. $15 AA Creative Corridor 1133 S. Washington Ave., Lansing (517) 775-4246