One year after nearly 2,000 audience members flocked to nine Chicago Parks to experience the power of American civil rights freedom fighter Fannie Lou Hamer, Goodman Theatre produces Fannie (The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer) by Cheryl L. West, directed by Goodman Resident Artistic Associate Henry Godinez. This immersive and electric call-to-action, replete with music and movement, is West’s original play from which she adapted the abridged version—Fannie Lou Hamer, Speak On It!, which toured Chicago parks in September/October 2020. E. Faye Butler expands her performance as the titular character, hailed in theaters across the country as “magnetic” (Washington Post), “powerhouse” (Sarasota Herald-Tribune), “moving and memorable” (Oregon’s Times-Standard). Three musicians—Deonté Brantley, Morgan E. and Felton Offard (during performances between October 15-31) and Michael Ross (during performances between November 3-14)—join Butler on stage to breathe new life into more than 10 iconic spirituals, including “We Shall Not Be Moved,” “I’m on My Way to Freedom” and “I Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round.”
Fannie (The Music and Life of Fannie Lou Hamer) appears October 15-November 14 (opening night is Monday, October 25 at 7pm); tickets (starting at $15) are now on sale at GoodmanTheatre.org/Fannie or by calling 312.443.3800. This Goodman co-commission with Seattle Repertory Theatre previously appeared as part of the 2019 New Stages Festival. The Goodman is grateful for the support of PNC, Arts in Community Sponsor; Abbott Fund, Corporate Sponsor Partner; and Allstate, Youth Arts Sponsor.
“Fannie Lou Hamer was one of the most inspirational and powerful women of the civil rights movement—yet she remains very much an unsung hero,” said playwright Cheryl L. West. “My own family is from Mississippi, so I was especially motivated to tell the story of a Mississippian woman in her own vernacular. Fannie Lou was all about empowering her neighbors and helping them along the way. I hope Goodman audiences are uplifted and inspired to action by watching her story.”
“As an immigrant to this country who was raised to be fiercely patriotic, I was drawn to Fannie’s unwavering love for America, even as she stood bravely against intolerance and injustice,” said director Henry Godinez. “As depicted in Cheryl L. West’s beautiful play, Fannie’s drive to seek unity and justice and her deeply rooted belief that we are one nation despite our differences, in fact strengthened by our diversity, is an inspiration to me.”
Fannie Lou Hamer, who would become known for her political activism and continuous efforts for civil rights, was 44 years old before she discovered that she had the right to vote. It took her three attempts to pass Mississippi’s voter registration test, which was designed to disenfranchise people of color and those with few educational opportunities. Ms. Hamer spent the rest of her life as a fierce advocate of civil and voting rights, surviving extreme violence to help found the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and the National Women’s Political Caucus.
Readers will note that proof of full vaccination with an FDA-authorized vaccine is required for all guests 12+ and a recent negative test must be presented for children under 12. Patrons must wear face coverings at all times while inside Goodman Theatre. Visit GoodmanTheatre.org/Protocols for more information.