Lend your ears to Peppermint Creek’s ‘Hear Our Cry’

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Peppermint Creek Theatre’s “Hear Our Cry” was originally shown in late October as a drive-in “movie” in the parking lot at the corner of Capitol Avenue and Ionia Street. Now, until Dec. 31, the same compelling Zoom medley is available on YouTube.

“Hear Our Cry” reflects Peppermint Creek’s mission to encourage dialogue and address current issues in society. Its 12 performances highlight what it’s like to be a minority in the United States. It was adapted to the screen by Kathleen Egan and Chad Swan-Bagero and edited and assembled by Ben Cassidy. 

The first performance features Harvey Milk’s 1978 speech, “Give Them Hope.” Five months after delivering it, Milk and George Moscone were assassinated in a hate crime.

Chris Swope reads the abbreviated text as Milk. The importance of electing LGBTQ people — and not just allies — is a focal point of the speech.

Zurich Dawson reads “Kids Who Die,” by Langston Hughes, with legitimacy. Hughes was a prolific black writer from the ’20s until the mid-’60s. With a mix of subtlety and starkness, the Hughes poem shows how kids — and resistors of oppression — are dying and not being acknowledged.

“Women’s Rights Are Human Rights” is Hillary Rodham Clinton’s speech at the 1995 United Nations World Conference on Women. The Beijing event included 1,500 delegates. Deb Vaughn adds her own passion to the potent address. It is full of tragic and graphic examples of the marginalizing, abuse, and unequal treatment of women everywhere.

The Cherokee poet, author and playwright Diane Glancy wrote “Mississippi River.” Glancy gives a Native American perspective that’s full of imagery. Aidan Kakela has the perfect look and voice to recite “The Mississippi River.” The dream-like poem’s inspiration is the terrible story of the Trail of Tears.

Detroit’s Shawntai Brown’s “Out of Body” begins with two Black teachers at a school chatting on Zoom. Four others join them virtually for an after-school committee meeting.  Meghan Corbett, Greg Hunter, Maegan Murphy, Sarah Hendrickson and Jennifer Rupp play the participants realistically. Briana Lofton plays a member’s partner.

Players demonstrate insensitivity and an ignorance of how offensive some of their comments are. Assumptions, conservatism and unawareness fuel uncomfortable remarks that reveal racial and gay stereotypes. At 10 minutes, the “Out of Body” play is the longest of the ”Hear Our Cry” collection.

“Count Day,” by Brittany Rogers and read ardently by Nafeesah Symonette, is a short oration about a Detroit school’s single day to determine state funds. Any teacher will empathize with its messages about the burdens public teachers face. All Americans should hear how our compassionate teachers are expected to do the impossible.

“A Letter to My Brother,” by Marianne Chan, is about DeWitt High School — and what it was like to attend as an Asian and Pacific Islander. Samantha Lee is totally convincing as she reveals how Chan and her brother suffered racism in a mostly white, rural school — and how they had to degrade themselves to survive.

“Peregrinacion, Penitencia, Revolucion” is Cesar Chavez’s speech about the “March from Delano to Sacramento.” Eloy F. Gomez Orfila commands the Chavez role. The speech is about cultures, pilgrimages and religious influences.  It is also about Mexican Americans who are children of the revolution, and an increasingly vocal minority that deserves recognition.

A particularly strong “Hear Our Cry” performance comes from Sharriese Hamilton, who delivers Sandra Seaton’s “Call Me By My Name” monologue. It brings attention to Henrietta Lacks, whose cancer cells lived on to help create cures for polio and more. They were taken from her when dying of cervical cancer in 1951. Lacks never gave permission or was told of her donation.

“The Trail of Tears” is a poem by Ruth Margaret Muskrat, a Cherokee poet, educator and Indian rights activist. Kelsey Rainwater has an authoritative voice to deliver Muskrat’s work.

Like “The Mississippi River,” the poem bemoans the 1830-50 relocation of 60,000 Native Americans from their southeastern homes to places west of the Mississippi. “The Trail of Tears” poem is more specific. It mentions more details of suffering and the four thousand lost — all for “the sake of greed and gold.”

The final “Hear Our Cry” performance features Susan Oetgen reciting what is attached to the base of the Statue of Liberty. “The New Colossus,” by Emma Lazarus, is her poem that includes the lines, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses.”

After Lazarus died in 1887, “The New Colossus” was attached to the Statue to honor the native New Yorker with Jewish heritage.

Each “Hear Our Cry” performance includes a photo of the piece’s author. For the original outside showing, text captions were added.  Mostly bland Zoom backgrounds and some varied volume levels are insignificant. The compelling words and their thought-provoking messages are what matters.

"Hear Our Cry"

Watch on Peppermint Creek Theatre's YouTube page

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