Emily Mann on the Delany Sisters

HOS_EM1Q: As part of your research for this production, you had a wonderful opportunity to meet with the Delany sisters. How did they come across to you?

A: I guess when I first met them what was most striking was I had never met anyone quite so old, and they were ancient women. But after speaking with them for, I would say, ten minutes, the age melted away. They were so young. They were so present, and so alive, and just looking into their eyes was not just an experience of great wisdom and experience, but so much light! They have memories better than mine, which I guess is not hard, but they remember everything perfectly! Their sense of detail is extraordinary. Their sense of humor – I mean, I’m sure that’s why they’ve lived so long. They laughed more in the hour we were with them than most of us laugh in a week. And they clearly adored each other, and that was a wonderful thing to see. And their dynamic with Amy [Hill Hearth, who wrote the book with them] was also marvelous. There’s a great deal of care and respect there.

Q. How did they feel about having their lives adapted into a play?

A: They were very excited about it. They were just having such a great time with all of it. As they say, “If you can help even just one person, it’s worth doing – that’s what Mama always said.” What I found so amazing was that having absorbed the book totally, I thought I would go and meet them and then see who they really were. But they were exactly who I thought they would be. It was just like meeting old friends – recognizing them and being with them. We just all connected on a very deep level. They’re extraordinary human beings.

– Reprinted by permission of McCarter Theatre Center

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