In 2013, Cape Fear Regional Theatre’s founding director, Bo Thorp, produced a play called “The Dames You Thought You Knew.” It featured Thorp and four other prominent local women. Darlene Ransom saw the play with Laverne Oxendine and another friend, and it sparked an idea. “During intermission,” Ransom said, “I poked Laverne and said, ‘I would like to do this with Lumbee women.’”
“Well, then I am sure you will do it,” Oxendine replied. Six years later and a year in the making, “lumBEES: Women of the Dark Water” runs June 21, 22, 28 and 29 at CFRT.
“lumBEES: Women of the Dark Water” shines a light on the life stories of women from the Lumbee tribe of North Carolina. Attendees will meet Roberta Bullard Brown, Dolores Jones, Jinnie Lowery, Dr. Jo Ann Chavis Lowery, Della Maynor and Darlene Holmes Ransom — six extraordinary Lumbee women who tell their stories of growing up as American Indians in southeastern North Carolina.
“There is tremendous pride in each of these women — in being a Lumbee,” said Thorp. “And when they first started as young people, it was not easy being a Lumbee.”
This production is about more than simply six women telling their stories, although that’s also exactly what it is about. And it’s about why stories and lives matter and how they can change people, families, systems and cultures.
“I think it is important for people within the state to see us and to hear our stories because there are so many misconceptions about who we are as a people,” said Jinnie. “We have never been confused about it, but other people sometimes are. Everyone in this play came through the Jim Crow South. We are the product of the segregated system. We get to tell that story. We arethe products of all-Indian schools. It is important to understand what our ancestors went through and how that shapes the lives we get to live today.”
Jo Ann added, “If you want to raise awareness, this production will do that. … By knowing these things, it helps overcome prejudicial fears.”
As they share their stories and their lives, the Women of the Dark Water may just change yours, too. “This is a story that has long-needed to be told,” said Thorp. “They talk about their families and who and where they came from and what they love, and some of what they hated as they were growing up; they loved swimming in the Lumbee River, and they hated farming.”
Just as it is a big part of the Lumbee culture, music is integral to this production and features talented local Lumbee musicians The Carters, Lorna McNeill Ricotta, Alexis Jones, and John Oxendine. “The music makes it a lot of fun,” said Thorp. “When you hear it put together, it shows perfectly how they are wonderful people who grew up in this place and how they are important to this place.”
All proceeds from the play will be divided between CFRT and the new children’s area in the Museum of the Southeast American Indian at UNC Pembroke.
Tickets are available at the CFRT box office at 1209 Hay St., online at cfrt.org, or by phone at 910-323-4233. Ticket prices are: Friday, June 21, $15, preview; Saturday, June 22, $30, gathering with the BEES; Friday, June 28, $20; and Saturday, June 29, $20. The June 22 ticket includes a pre-show meal provided by Fullers Old Fashioned BBQ and beverages from Healy Wholesale.