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No stranger to taking on plays with intense subject matter, Gilbert Theater is taking it back in time with In the Blood.

This production has a history with the theater, a favorite of Lynn Pryer, the former art director. “[This was] his favorite show that he ever had anything to do with at the Gilbert,” said Larry Carlisle, current AD of the theater.

In the Blood was written by Suzan-Lori Parks in 1999.

Although most of the productions at the theater are family-friendly, this particular production has a rating of M for mature audiences. Parents considering bringing their children should be aware of strong language, blood, sexual suggestions, and other adult themes. Shows start Feb. 2nd and run through Feb. 18th, Friday through Sunday with one show per day. Friday and Saturday shows are at 8 p.m. and Sunday's show is at 2 p.m. Tickets are $20, with discounts for teachers, military, seniors, and groups.

In the Blood is a story of a woman named Hester, who is homeless with her five children. The play follows her trials and tribulations through “Confessions,” a monologue leading to the scene. Each scene is powerful, forcing audiences to question their prejudices and biases. Taking center stage as Hester is Lumberton native, local thespian, and Gilbert Theater veteran, Jackie Hill.

 

“I love to entertain. I entertained when I was serving my country and also right in Lumberton at the Carolina Civic Center in productions. I’m so glad to be back at the Gilbert… I’m also in school. Theater is my major,” she said of her career as an entertainer.

Although a seasoned entertainer, the role of Hester challenged Hill in a way that has not only expanded her acting range but opened her mind.

“Can I be someone homeless with five children? But the more I got into my rehearsing, I say that you can be Hester and you don’t have to be homeless. I know from some of my own life experiences. So now I face Hester, and I become her little by little… I believe the way I felt about it at first is exactly how people feel when it comes to homeless people or people out here in distress. The first thing they kinda do is put them under their feet or they have a judgment…We don’t know everyone’s situation and we don’t know who’s one day away from it,” Hill said of the role.

Directing this year’s production is Ayana Washington, founder of Book Black Women and star of many local productions including the record-breaking run of Matilda at Cape Fear Regional Theater and The Color Purple.

Her talent and knowledge of the stage go far beyond gracing its stage. Washington has held several backstage support roles in productions like The Addams Family as well. In the Blood called for a director like Washington.

“Everybody knows Ayana, and everybody loves Ayana… Ayana has been involved in lots of stuff all around town and in various capacities and at the Gilbert we wanted to make sure that we are creating a place where we could amplify diversity… this play is really powerful… I didn’t want to direct it myself,” said Carlisle.

“I heard the Gilbert was looking to diversify and I really wanted to be a part of it, especially since they were doing a black show, during Black History Month with an all-black cast,” Washington said.

“I am used to most of the black shows being trauma-based and I wanted the challenge, so I jumped on it. This show is about black trauma and everything that has to do with it, every element. I think more so black female trauma. It touches on a lot of topics that affect different types of black women but it’s all happening to this one character. It spans.

"I wanted the challenge of bringing that to life, finding nuggets of comedic relief… [they] asked me and I said yes, of course. So many theaters who do black shows and the production team cannot relate. That is always a frustration of mine. So the fact that they have this black show and they came looking for a black director speaks volumes,” said Washington on her decision to accept the position as director.

Washington will also host talks after each Saturday show to help attendees carry on the conversation long after they have left and start a deeper conversation within our community.

Volunteers for the front of the house are always needed and appreciated. Those interested should reach out via email to om@gilbertheater.com. 

For tickets visit https://www.gilberttheater.com/2023-2024-season/ or call 910-678-7186.

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