In “Becoming Harriet Tubman,” Natalie Daise tells the story of a little girl whose life would become legend. This one-woman show presented by Palmetto Theater Xperiment opens today at the Threshold Repertory Theatre as part of Piccolo Spoleto.
Daise is a storyteller and performer who lives in Beaufort. She earned a national reputation for her family’s Nick Jr. television show “Gullah Gullah Island.” When she learned of Tubman’s work as a nurse and Union spy in the Lowcountry, Daise began researching the historical basis for the Underground Railroad.
“To become a person like Harriet, where you began is really important,” Daise said. “In my show, I want people to see that you don’t have to be born with anything extra to become something special.”
In “Becoming Harriet Tubman,” Daise plays five people at formative moments in Tubman’s life. First she is Tubman’s mother, then she switches to other characters as she follows Tubman into her final years in upstate New York.
Director J.W. Rone said he is thrilled to be bringing Daise and her work to Piccolo Spoleto.
“There is no question of Tubman’s historical significance, and this show presents new angles on who she was,” Rone said. “Working with Daise deepened my respect for the amount of research necessary for a show like this.”
Joining “Becoming Harriet Tubman” as part of the festival’s theater series are two shows about 20th-century civil rights figures.
“Mahalia: A Gospel Musical” opens May 29 at Footlight Players Theatre, produced by Art Forms & Theatre Concepts, a company committed to diversifying Charleston’s theater scene.
This celebration of the Queen of Gospel by Tom Stolz had its premiere at Piccolo Spoleto in 2010.
“The Power of 1ne: The Courage and Contributions of Civil Rights Champion Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer” is a one-hander by Donna Lee Williams, presented by Remnant Productions, that opens May 31 at Lance Hall.
Through 12 characters, Williams introduces audiences to Hamer, a matronly and important activist during the 1960s who was part of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and worked alongside Martin Luther King Jr.
She and other leaders canvassed the rural South to get poor, southern blacks registered to vote.
Hamer also was an important leader of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, which challenged seated Democrats at the 1964 Atlantic City convention.
Daise said she was pleased to be telling Tubman’s story alongside shows about Hamer and Jackson.
“It must be our year,” Daise said. “Harriet did not think she had limits, and that is a precursor to so much. I’m proud to be telling her story today.”
Lauren Smart is a Newhouse graduate student.