The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, April 15, 2005


Constant Star by Tazewell Thompson Merrimack Repertory Theater, March 24 - April 24

Just 20 minutes away at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell is Tazewell Thompson's superb play Constant Star, the Story of Ida B. Wells.

Born into a slave family, Ida B. Wells went on to become one of the greatest activists of the Civil Rights movement. She was a suffragette, newspaper editor and publisher, investigative journalist, co-founder of the NAACP, and the single most powerful leader in the anti-lynching campaign in America.

Playwright and director Tazewell Thompson says he was introduced to Wells' story in a PBS documentary on her life. What he learned about this headstrong, compassionate and dedicated woman compelled him to write a play to commemorate her life and work.

In writing the play, Thompson discovered that Ida B. Wells was such a powerful character that she dominated all of the scenes. He felt that any character taking the stage with her would be upstaged. In an NPR interview he explains, "I thought, the only way that I felt she could really possibly share the stage, was if she shared it with herself. So I had four other Ida B. Wells' on the stage with her."

This unusual theatrical device makes for a powerful and dramatic presentation. The five actresses simultaneously portray this woman as well as all of the roles needed in support of her story. The spartan stage is the perfect setting for this dramatization of her life and work. The only color in the production is the spectacular red dress that one of the actresses dons for one of the vignettes. The effect is dramatic and contemporary. The lighting and sound effects are carefully constructed to enhance the mood and tempo of the production. The choreographed movement of the five actresses harmonizes with the verbal counterpoint which is interspersed with Negro Spirituals beautifully executed a cappella in five part harmony.

This play is a stunning work of art, not to be missed.

2005 The Carlisle Mosquito