Appearing with all of the might and magic that she might have assumed in her life, the character of Zora Neale Hurston made an unforgettable appearance at the Lawrence E. Will Museum in Belle Glade over the weekend.
The famous woman, played by the talented Deltoiya Goodman, was here for a “book signing in 1934” and addressed the audience with her famous flare and energy.
“Hey how are you doing? It’s been a while,” she said to the audience in attendance. “I know you all been wondering what ol’ Zora’s been up to since you last seen me: my first novel. Jonah’s Gourd Vine is my bonafide first novel.”
The interpretation of Ms. Hurston by Ms. Goodman was one of four interpretations of powerful black women drawn from America’s history. Ms. Goodman also played Clementine Hunter, Fannie Lou Hamer, and Sojourner Truth.
The production was presented by Core Ensemble, whose goal is to “celebrate diversity through chamber music theatre.” Pieces by well-know black composers filled out the show, with upbeat, pensive and somber pieces being played.
While the performance showcasing each woman was magnetic throughout, it was Zora’s own connection to Belle Glade that made the performance fascinating to watch.
Michael Parola, executive director of Core Ensemble who did double duty as a percussionist during Saturday’s free performance at the museum, provided a backdrop: “When she [Zora] was here in Belle Glade, she worked as a maid, she had some very difficult interactions with some false accusations about being involved with an underage teenager, and she died in really abject poverty in Fort Pierce. She was buried in a grave that really hardly anyone knew where it was. It wasn’t until Alice Walker really took it upon herself to get involved that people started saying, ‘hey, wait a minute, this is really a very, very significant person, a significant writer.”
Today, Zora’s novel “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” is considered one of the finest novels of the 20th century. Ms. Hurston is now celebrated for her valuable work as a writer, folklorist, and anthropologist. And some of that work happened right here, in Belle Glade.
As the character celebrated the publication of her first novel, she wondered what the future held in store for her.
“I’m hoping this book carries me on to the next one, I haven’t made my fortune yet.”
The hope of the museum, according to museum co-curator Dorothy Block, is to have Core Ensemble return again in the future.
According to Ms. Block, there is discussion happening about Core Ensemble returning in January.
Local audiences would do well to attend future performances.
A gripping rendition of Sojourner Truth’s famous speech, “Ain’t I a Woman,” had the local audience spellbound. The speech, from which the performance takes its name, is arguably more powerful today with the benefit of hindsight. With Ms. Goodman dressed in humble, white clothing from a bygone era, she spoke from the soul: “Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off into slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?”