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Solitude in Public: Reviewing 2021 Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Fannie in the Historical Context of Voting and Solo Performance

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2021, 34(3), pp.117-142
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama
  • Received : November 14, 2021
  • Accepted : December 6, 2021
  • Published : December 31, 2021

Choi Seok Hun 1

1서울시립대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

In this performance review, I reflect on the historical significance of Cheryl West’s bio-musical Fannie as a solo performance about a female African American activist and black enfranchisement. To begin with, the one-person musical showcases an alternative form of live performance in the age of COVID-19 since it requires a small group of people for production, thereby reducing the risk of virus infection. The solo performance also bears formal similarities with voting as a social practice, which happens to be the main theme of the play, as both are democratic media through which an individual voices their own opinion and are performed by one individual temporally isolated from other people watching them from a distance—thus, the irony of “solitude in public. ” Thirdly, Fannie deserves special attention in American theatre history as it is one of the few solo performances that presents a black female historical figure as a hero rather than as a victim. Born as the last and twentieth child of her sharecropper parents in Mississippi in 1917, Fannie Lou Hamer devoted her life to promoting racial equality and securing the voting rights of African Americans. Although her dream of becoming a senator was not fulfilled, she played a pivotal role in raising awareness of severe racial discrimination in the South and encouraging contemporary African Americans’ participation in politics. Comprised of Hamer’s speeches and a dozen of freedom songs that she used to sing, Fannie turns out to be a moving tribute to her legacy and black pride. As a solo performance, Fannie demonstrates the resilience and power of live performance during the darkest period for theatre in the New Millenium due to the pandemic.

Citation status

* References for papers published after 2022 are currently being built.

This paper was written with support from the National Research Foundation of Korea.