Have a seat. Have a drink. And listen up! Enter Rose Higgins, actress and singer and host of 7-Stories’ Sunday, Aug. 28th, production of 7 Stories: Hymn to Her at Kings Barcade in Raleigh. The woman is incomparable! She began with a bit of song, because, as she stated, doing so “makes people like me better.”
Higgins’ wit and charm made us all feel as though we were at home, sitting in our own living rooms as she introduced the event and then told her own story with her triumphs, her failures, and her “feelings of duality.” She feels she was “raised by a tribe of exceptional women.” Especially moving was the part about her mother. (One of us admitted to having had tears well up in his eyes multiple times.)
As host of the event, Higgins then introduced the next storyteller and was to return to share a bit of info about each of the other five as she introduced them.
Next up was Yolanda W. Rabun. She popped a gummi bear in her mouth “for comfort” and shared with us from her repertoire of “a million stories in me.” She is a mother, a daughter, a wife, lawyer, actor, recording artist…. Her mantra is, “I am not done.”
At an early age, Rabun was told that God is her father. And she says that her various successes have often surprised onlookers because “they didn’t know who my father is.”
Rabun feels that we all have special gifts and that through sharing them, we can all help each other become our best. She finished with a song: “Hold on to Your Dreams.”
Cheryl Treworgy was next. Higgins introduced her as “the jock of the crew.” Indeed, she has held world records in long-distance running and is a true pioneer in the field of women’s sports. The first woman in this country to receive an athletic scholarship to a public university, Treworgy shared the odyssey of her trials and triumphs. And she amused us with quotes from a sports column, an early article about her. The writer meant well, but his tone was condescending. (Treworgy states that she recently met up with him and embarrassed him by reminding him of this column.)
With a daughter who is also an Olympic athlete, Treworgy points to a major change in attitude toward women’s sports. She cites an important step: “dads realizing they could have daughters who loved sports and would not have to wait for sons.”
Allison A. Dahle followed. According to Higgins, she is “half cartoon and half super-hero.” Higgins told us that Dahle is a seamstress — “She made my dress and her own.” Dahle shared the story of her romance with her now-wife Lou Pounder, a story rife with obstacles to “living happily ever after.” Dahle states that she had grown up looking at life through rose-colored glasses, that she had once owned “14 pairs.” Unfair laws and prejudices had caused her by one point-in-time to have lost all 14 pairs, but she states that she has now regained nine pairs and that “repeal of HB2″ should help her find at least one more. Dahle’s ultimate message: “all humans deserve respect.” And she adds: remember to vote — “progressive, not regressive.”
Next, Lucy Inman shared stories from her life. A graduate of N.C. State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill law school, Inman now serves as an N.C. Court of Appeals judge. Inman’s story included spending time as a reporter for the News and Observer and serving as law clerk for the Chief Justice of the N.C. Supreme Court. But it was her social/romantic life that was the lion’s share of her story.
We learned that Inman had once lived in a “cabin in the woods” and that she had “never had a tribe” of friends.” We also heard of an invitation to go skinny dipping (mistakenly delivered to her mother, who is also named Lucy), of a double-booked Valentine’s Day serenade, and of a from-the-heart “chest hair proposal.” Inman’s husband of 25 years, Billy Warden, was in the front row to punctuate her story with a bouquet of roses.
Following Inman’s chat, Higgins told us that the inevitable had happened — that one of the presenters had been forced to cancel. No problem: she drafted Ashley Popio, to come on stage. Popio is an actor, set designer, and costumer at several local theaters. Earlier this year, she founded One Big Thing. She produced and directed the Triangle Independent and Community Theatre Awards, and she served as event coordinator at Sonorous Road Productions.
Most importantly, however, Popio is founder of North Carolina Women’s Theatre Festival, and she spoke passionately about the project, about the people who had participated, about the goals that it had set, about the goals that it had reached, and about her hopes for its future. She shared her thoughts as to why she had felt that the festival was needed:
Statistics show that, while women make up 52 percent of the population, only 22 percent of plays produced in this country are by women. People participate in theater for a variety of reasons, but mostly, says Popio, “We do it to be heard.”
She also shared a bitterly ironic story about a dear friend of hers who was blatantly not heard and lost a court case — the judge refused to believe her — because she was an actor. Popio’s goal: To help more women be heard — ” All I want is to hear more from you.”
The seventh story was told by Juanda LaJoyce Holley. She came onstage barefoot, carrying an African bowl decorated with cowrie shells, dancing and singing in an African tongue. She proceeded to speak with the voice of a woman who had lived in West Africa a few hundred years ago. The woman’s husband and son had been stolen by “the men with the long guns,” thrown in a ship and taken to a foreign land. The use of the word “toubob” conjured up images from Alex Haley’s Roots, and suggested that the song might have been in the Mandinka language.
Holley’s narrative included more songs: “Steal Away to Jesus,” “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round,” “O, Freedom,” and “America the Beautiful.” Each of these segued into her speaking with the voices of Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, and Barack Obama.
We began this review by referring to Rose Higgins as “incomparable.” We feel inclined, at this point, to add that she was joined by six other incomparable women.
From the Department of Picky-Picky: Rose Higgins referred to herself at one point as a “fat, red-haired white chick.” FYI: “fat” is no longer accurate; we believe that we heard her refer to having lost more than 80 pounds. Indeed, out on the street, just outside the venue, (the more obtuse) one of us actually failed to recognize her when she passed by and greeted him. (However, he is claiming that not wearing his glasses at the time was a contributing factor.)
100 percent of this night’s proceeds went to the festival.
Unfortunately, this was a one-time event.
The good news, however, is twofold. First, the North Carolina Women’s Theatre Festival is going to be an annual event that promises to grow and become even stronger in the future. And, last but not least, 7-Stories is a monthly event at Kings Barcade.
According to the storytelling group’s website, “7-Stories is held on the last Sunday of the month at Kings Barcade in downtown Raleigh, NC. Each 7-Stories show features 7 storytellers sharing a 7-minute personal story on a central theme. Shows start at 7:07 P.M. Doors at 6:30.” Future central themes include: Sept. 25th: ‘The Wilderness,’ Oct. 30th: ‘Food Service Tales of Terror II,’ and Nov. 27th: ‘Before There Were Cell Phones.’ [Yes, such a time existed. It was rad.]”
We eagerly look forward to future iterations of both the storytelling group and the festival, and heartily encourage you to join us!
7 STORIES: HYMN TO HER (7-Stories, Aug. 28 at Kings Barcade in Raleigh).
[RUN HAS CONCLUDED.]
Pamela Vesper has been a Raleigh resident for more than 20 years. A local attorney for licensed professionals, when she’s not in court, Pam can be found watching or participating in local theater productions or enjoying the vibrant Raleigh music and craft beer scene. She also loves indie and foreign films and was an anchor on the local cable show, Movie Minutes. Pam has an opinion on just about everything; just ask her. Kurt Benrud is a graduate of Cary High School and N.C. State University, and he has taught English at both. He first became involved in local theater in 1980. He has served on the board of directors for both the Cary Players and the Cary Playwrights’ Forum. He is also a volunteer reader with Triangle Radio Reading Service. Click here to read their reviews for Triangle Review and Triangle Arts and Entertainment.