In 2009 adapter and director Emily Mann remounted her extremely successful play Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters First 100 Years as part of her twentieth anniversary season at McCarter Theatre Center. Her original production 15 years earlier, which had transferred to Broadway from McCarter, had existed at a time in which the sisters themselves were still alive and the possibility of an African American president still seemed a far off possibility. As Long Wharf embarks on staging a production of Having Our Say in quite a different time than that of 1995 as well, we invite you to read what Emily Mann had to say in 2009 about how her view of the play had changed over the decade and a half since it’s original production.
Q: What are you hoping to accomplish with this new production? What is different about how you see the play now, 15 years later?
A: We are in a new era, with Obama now – the first African-American president in the White House. At the end of the play. Bessie says there’ll never be an African-American president and Sadie says “there will be,” and in fact, now there is.
The other thing is that Bessie and Sadie have both died. This makes it like a new play: looking at who they are, and what they have contributed in a way that has to do with memory in a different way. Now, we’re remembering them as they remembered their lives and the lives of their relatives and ancestors. It takes on a kind of mystical quality that’s reflected in the new conception of the production. On a very simple level, the design is different. Rather than it being in a circle -going from room to room to room – we’re going in one direction, and ending up in a more and more abstract space, because they are talking to us from a different vantage point.
It’s just so precious to hear their wisdom now, filtered through the last fifteen years of experience. We are coming to them in a different way. I think it will engender a lot of very interesting questions about the basics of “Who are we as Americans, at this moment in time?”; “Who were we?”; “Where’ve we been?”; “Where’re we now?” and “Where are we going?”
If I think of my plays as children, then this is my sweetest child! And there’s something kind of wonderful about getting back together, and visiting with my most inspiring, comforting, and loving play.
– Reprinted by permission of McCarter Theatre Center