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Author Michele Moore adapts her novel, 'The Cigar Factory,' into stage play

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Dalton Lemacks and Samantha Lentocha play a young couple, Manus and Brigid in the play "The Cigar Factory" by Michele Moore. Provided. 

Michele Moore, author of the 2016 novel “The Cigar Factory,” has been adapting the book into a two-act stage play and now is ready to share the results. The work in progress will be given a staged reading at Queen Street Playhouse, 20 Queen St., at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 21, and at 3 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22.

The story is set in Charleston during the first half of the 20th century and follows two working-class Catholic women and their families. Meliah Amey Ravenel is African American; Cassie McGonegal is Irish American. Both work at the Cigar Factory, Meliah downstairs stemming leaves, Cassie upstairs rolling cigars. Both endure hardships within a segregated society — until the labor strike of 1945 causes their lives to intersect.

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Anthony McCutcheon as Sam Maybank, Mario Richardson as Young Kofi and Asha Simmons as Mrs. Huger rehearse a scene from "The Cigar Factory." Provided. 

The play, directed by Charlotte Tiencken, features a cast that includes Mary Edwards, Anthony McCutchen, Asha Simmons, Jordan Peeler, Dejevon Mazyck and Mario Richardson.

Moore’s novel was carefully researched, and she consulted with Lowcountry residents and historians to ensure she could represent successfully Gullah culture and the struggles of workers coping with urban poverty during a period of transition in the city. A feature of the story is the song "I Will Overcome," which has origins on Johns Island and which the Cigar Factory workers sang together for moral support during the labor crisis.

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The song later was modified by Pete Seeger to become the civil rights anthem "We Shall Overcome."

Tickets to the play are $15 each. Go to https://bit.ly/2H8ou6l.

Moore will join College of Charleston professor Julia Eichelberger and poet Nikky Finney at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, at the Gibbes Museum, 135 Meeting St., for a public discussion titled "She Persisted: Women of Letters and the American South." The panel will consider the literary traditions and social landscape that gave rise to voices like Eudora Welty, Zora Neale Hurston and Harper Lee, and that continue to inspire women writers and artists across the South. Tickets are $15 for Gibbes members, $25 for nonmembers, $10 for students and faculty with ID.

Contact Adam Parker at aparker@postandcourier.com or 843-937-5902.

Adam Parker has covered many beats and topics for The Post and Courier, including race in America, religion, and the arts. He is the author of "Outside Agitator: The Civil Rights Struggle of Cleveland Sellers Jr.," published by Hub City Press.

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