Donna Lee Williams is best known in the area as a local actress, director, and the founder and artistic director of Remnant Productions, a local performing arts company. The mission at Remnant is to “use the arts to produce fruit that lasts by presenting works that positively influence the lives of others and bring a message of hope,” Williams says. Her latest production, “Mo’ Soul at The Legends Cabaret” will be featured during the MOJA Arts Festival on Saturday and Sunday at the Dock Street Theatre. Williams spoke with Charleston Scene this week about the debut.
Q: What is the signature style of your productions?
A: Our productions typically fall in one of two categories: musical revues, such as our latest production, “Mo’ Soul at The Legends Cabaret,” and social commentaries based on actual or fictional characters, e.g. Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer or one of the million displaced veterans who find themselves homeless.
Q: The latest production, “Mo’ Soul at the Legends Cabaret,” is a part of MOJA Arts Festival this year. Can you tell us a little bit about the play?
A: A year after an unforgettable encounter, a group of friends reunite and decide to make some beautiful music while raising revenue for a local nonprofit. The play highlights significant Charleston history, including the hospital workers’ strike of 1969. This musical revue features a live three-piece band and eight talented local artists performing songs made famous by Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, Aretha Franklin, The Temptations, James Brown and many more. Audiences can expect a hand-clapping, foot-stomping, soul-stirring good time!
Q: What role do you play in it?
A: I play a supporting role in “Mo’ Soul.” My character, Angela, is an uptight executive who has once again gotten her priorities out of order. However, Lena and Grady, perfectly portrayed by veteran local artists Sheri McClain Brown and John Smalls, set Angela and everybody else straight with their quick wit and timeless wisdom. Sheri and John, along with the other cast and band members, are the real stars of “Mo’ Soul.”
Q: What are some key themes or ideas you wanted to highlight in “Mo’ Soul”?
A: The 1960s was arguably one of America’s most dramatic and controversial decades. The music of this era reflected the peoples’ passion, power, protest and perseverance. They learned to harness their collective power to change their world. Today we have that same power. “Mo’ Soul” reminds us to tap in and allow our personal best to pour out, leaving behind an indelible mark of faith, of hope, of love.
Q: What do you think makes “Mo’ Soul” a good fit for MOJA Arts Festival this year?
A: Moja, a Swahili word meaning “One,” embraces the concept of harmony among all people in our community. With this harmony, there is a collective force that has the power to produce change. “Mo’ Soul” has this same force which enables a community of ordinary people to work in harmony to meet a need within the community. Also, the MOJA audiences have long loved the music of the African-American influence and that’s just what we give them in “Mo’ Soul.”