These questions have been in my head a lot over the last few years, so in some ways Freedom Singer was the perfect show for me to see as it deals very beautifully with both of them. Inspired by a search for his history, creator Khari Wendell McClelland embarks on a journey to find out more about his great-great-great Grandmother Kizzy who fled the U.S. and slavery to Canada via the Underground Railway. Additionally, he was seeking a larger social history in trying to recover the songs and music that Kizzy would have sung. Like the saying goes, it's the journey not the destination, and we are fortunate to go on that journey with him.
From the moment it started, the spirit of the room is one of welcome and companionship. We are invited to witness this story and thanked for coming along. There are several touch points along the way where McClelland makes sure that the audience is walking right a long with him. We are as invested as he is to find out what he is seeking because of the constant yet gentle invitation to be a part of the journey. Along the way we get to hear music (beautiful, thoughtful, layered music) performed masterfully by McClelland, Tanika Charles and Noah Walker. Charles, a gifted vocalist and truthful actress, also portrays several characters encountered by McClelland in his path to knowledge. It's both more than a concert and more than a play.
And along this path, with ups and downs, and many dead ends, I was able to reflect more about those questions and my own life. Generously, this show allows the audience to embrace their own history and the complicity of our ancestors without shaming them. It's about acceptance and acknowledgement and I think, for me, most importantly about the second of the questions. While it's important to know where we come from, it is even more important to think about where we are going to.
A joyful, truthful, embracing story that should make everyone think about who they are and what they can be.