Around Gee’s Bend

Gee's Bend at The Rep opens Jan. 25.

Gee's Bend at The Rep opens Jan. 25.
Jan 25
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Gee's Bend opens tonight at The Rep and continues through Feb. 10.

Linguistically speaking, there’s a very thin line between depression and repression, and it doesn’t take much to bundle those up into expression. All are very much a part of the fabric of the story behind Gee’s Bend, a production of the Arkansas Repertory Theatre opening this Friday and continuing through Feb. 10.

If the name sounds familiar, that’s because it’s a small Alabama community that has made national headlines for being a treasure trove of modern art in the dynamic and vibrant quilts that have been made by the women of the community. The play, focusing on one family, is based on true stories of the people of Gee’s Bend and follows those threads through time.

“The play focuses on Sadie and her family,” said Adewunmi Oke, dramaturge for the production. “You kind of see her family transition from the Great Depression era... to the ‘60s, her family is there for Martin Luther King’s visit... to 2002.”

It is, said Nambi E. Kelley and Shannon Lamb, who play central sisters Sadie and Nella respectively, an interesting challenge as actors to present a character at different times in their lives — teenagers, middle aged and around 80.

“As an actor, my goal is not to just get it across, but to be it,” said Kelley. “That’s the focus for me. You have to live it in order to resonate with the audience.”

And resonate the play will, touching on issues of race equality and economic disparity, as well as artistic tradition. And while fellow cast members Corey Jones, who plays the sisters’ father, and Monica Parks, who plays their mother as well as Sadie’s daughter, say engaging those ideas in their roles isn’t without its challenges, it also adds a very human authenticity to the production.

Gee’s Bend opens Friday and continues through Feb. 10. Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday evening performances are at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday evening performances are at 8 p.m. Sunday matinees are at 2 p.m. For tickets, visit www.therep.org.

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