After over 18 months of waiting, live theater is back at Creative Cauldron in Falls Church. The 2021-2022 season will open tonight (October 7) with “Having Our Say,” a play based on a Pulitzer Prize winning book about the Delany sisters, two centenarian African-American women. The production is being conducted in collaboration with Meridian High School.
Creative Cauldron was founded almost 20 years ago as an educational arts program that has grown over the years into something much bigger in the community.Eleven years ago, they moved into their current location— a 3,000 square foot black box theater where they have been putting on performances ever since.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, Creative Cauldron held close to 200 performances, events and classes every year but it has been over a year and a half since their last in-person performance with a live audience.
Laura Connors Hull, founder and producing director of Creative Cauldron, decided to open the theater’s season with a play that covers a wide span of history. Based on a true story, the sisters were the daughters of a formerly enslaved man who went on to become the first Black bishop in the Episcopal church. Born in the late 1800s, the sisters lived through an incredible amount of history in the United States.
“I thought, given the place that we are in at this time in our country and the fact that we seem to keep really forgetting our history,sometimes younger people don’t really even know the roots of the systemic racism that we live with today,” said Hull. “The roots really trace back to the Jim Crow era, the reaction after the Civil War, and just so many pieces of systemic racism came out of that. It’s a time that’s been kind of glossed over in our history classes I think when we’re in school, or at least they certainly were in my era. So, I thought it would be important to do this piece.”
Creative Cauldron is partnering with Meridian High School on this piece as a way to bring this piece of history to life in the classroom. Some teachers at the school are currently covering the book “Having Our Say” in their plans of study as well.
Creative Cauldron will be visiting the school four times to bring 25 to 30 minute segments of the play to the school for students to watch, followed by a post-presentation discussion. Hull said the piece is meant to “stimulate conversation” and should go hand in hand with the discussion of the book in classrooms.
Representation and inclusivity have always been a goal of Creative Cauldron since it was founded almost 20 years ago. Following the murder of George Floyd in May of last year, Creative Cauldron, amoung many other businesses and people, have gone through “a long period of introspection, reflection, learning” and “participated in anti-racist and anti-oppressive workshops.”
Hull and her team worked to establish a “JEDI” (justice, equality, diversity and inclusion) committee on Creative Cauldron’s board. Together they worked to create a list of value statements and corresponding action steps in order to make sure the organization is doing its best to create a safe and inclusive environment for both patrons and participants.
“We went on a journey to address that the only way I could think of addressing it as a– I can’t change the fact that this is a white-led organization but I could take a look at all of our power structures and particularly when it comes to artistic control over work,” said Hull.
“Having Our Say” will run from Thursday, October 7 through Sunday, October 31. Shows take place at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings or on Sundays with a matinee at 2 p.m. and a regular showing at 7 p.m.
The theater is currently operating at 50 percent capacity for the audience in order to maintain social distancing. It is recommended that tickets be purchased in advance online at https://www.creativecauldron.org/ or over the phone at 703-436-9948 in order to ensure your seats. Masks are also required while attending performances.
This will be the first play of the season, with many more performances in the works through the spring including “Into the Woods,” “Aesop’s Fables” and more.
Hull concluded by saying, “We’re very excited to get back to live theater, this will be the first performance since we closed down for Covid so the first performance in 18 months that is live with an audience. We just want to make sure that everybody knows that we are working very hard to make sure that that is as safe and enjoyable experience for them.”