There were few audience members at the opening night of The Power of 1ne: The Courage and Contributions of Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer. Hopefully, that will change. This one-woman drama, written by and starring Donna Lee Williams, is well-acted and educational.
In The Power of 1ne, which took Williams 10 years to write, she explores the life of native Mississippian Hamer, a lesser-known civil rights activists who fought for African-American voting rights.
Williams, who also currently stars in Piccolo Spoleto’s Mahalia, does a superb job of telling Hamer’s story through her portrayal of the civil rights activist, as well as 11 other figures — both good and bad — who had an impact on her, including a drunken registrar who won’t let her register to vote and Sgt. Thomas J. Herrod, a cruel man who orders her to be beaten. In fact, Williams is able to make you laugh one minute and cry the next.
Although Hamer had the reputation of a rabble-rouser, it wasn’t altogether clear until the end exactly what she did that was so significant, since Hamer is busy portraying other characters for so much of the play. However, at the end of the play, Fannie Lou delivers a long narration; it’s informative but almost too much to take in all at once. I found myself wishing bits of her perspective were interspersed more throughout the drama.
The Power of 1ne’s staging, lighting, and costumes are effectively minimal; black and white photographs of civil rights leaders and the struggles of African Americans are projected on a small screen above the stage.
All in all, The Power of 1ne tells a compelling story of injustice and one woman who made a difference.