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Arena Players Continues 65th Season With ‘Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years’

4/5/2019, 6 a.m.
Arena Players, Inc. continues its 65th Season of theatre with “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years,” a ...
Adapted from the oral history by centenarian sisters Sadie Delany (left) and Bessie Delany (right) with Amy Hill Hearth, “Having Our Say” is an intimate theatre production that reveals the power of sisterhood and the tight bonds within the African American community. “Having Our Say: The Delaney Sisters’ First Hundred Years” runs at the Arena Players on weekends between April 11 and 28, 2019. Marianne Baltimore/Courtesy of Arena Players

Arena Players, Inc. continues its 65th Season of theatre with “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years,” a performance written by Emily Mann and directed by Arena Player Alum Randolph Smith.

“[I] find it fascinating to hear such wisdom spoken so easily and freely by these women,” Smith said in a news release to the Baltimore Times. “They were living history. And they continually give food for thought in every expression of faith in their family.”

Adapted from the oral history written by the centenarian Delany sisters— Sarah (Sadie) and Elizabeth (Bessie)— with Amy Hill Hearth, “Having Our Say is an intimate evening of theatre that reveals the power of sisterhood and the tight bonds within the African American community, according to the release.

Valerie Lewis of Baltimore remembers the stories of her “aunties, mom and her sisters, feeling a kindred spirit” in her portrayal of Sadie Delany.

Though born in North Carolina, the visionary sisters invite audiences into their New York kitchen in “Having Our Say” where they share stories of their careers, family, and friends seasoned with folk wit.

Bessie Delany died in 1995 at the age of 104 while Sadie Delany died in 1999 at the age of 109.

The two became internationally known after the Guinness Book of World Records recognized the sisters as the world’s oldest authors. Children of a former slave, the sisters used their father’s example to forge careers in education and dentistry respectively, according to a biography.

In all their parents had 10 children and the elder Delany sister was the first black person permitted to teach domestic science in New York high schools.

She obtained her undergrad and master’s degrees from Columbia University in New York. The younger Delany sister was the second-black female dentist licensed to practice in New York. She too was raised on the St. Augustine campus and followed in her sister’s footsteps to attend Columbia University, obtaining her dental degree.

The Delany sisters worked from the 1920s until their retirements in the 1960s, blazing trails behind them as it was a rarity for Black women to earn advanced degrees and have careers at that time.

They captured their battles with racism and sexism over the course of their lives in their book, “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years.”

Arena Players’ Performer Vanessa Stewart connects with her character, the elder sister Bessie Delany, in a personal way as well.

“I’m a big ole’ ‘Daddy’s Girl,’ too and some of these scenes remind me of talking to my dad,” Stewart said.

“Having Our Say” runs Friday through Sunday, April 12 -28, 2019 at the Arena Players, Inc. Tickets are available by phone at 410-728-6500 or online at: www.arenaolayersinc.com.