Whispers Want to Holler ends its run at eta

Whispers Want to Holler ends its run at eta

By Edith McCauley, Theater Critic

eta’s mission to give new playwrights the opportunity to workshop and stage their work continues. Whispers Want to Holler creatively acknowledges loss and the strategies used to compensate. Olive (Carolyn Nelson) owns a shop destined for destruction in a gentrifying neighborhood. The wares represent the lives of generations.

Olive’s son, shot by an unknown assailant, has just been buried, and as Olive mourns, friend Edris (Martrice Edge) tries to comfort her. The injustice of death provokes anger, and Edris suffers the consequences.

Displayed in the shop are objects gleaned from trash heaps linking the present to the past. Only Olive can see the spirits who come to claim their possessions. Erupting on stage, Little Sallie Walker (Renata Sago) demands attention. Only later in the play do we understand her relationship to the dead son. A portrait, saxophone, wash tub, and papers from the Civil War evoke those who seek identity… Street, a dead husband, the jazz musician, a washerwoman, and daughter, a brilliant student, and a soldier.

Runako Jahi directs. In an interview with Martha Effinger, he asks, “What inspired you to write Whispers Want to Holler?

Effinger: “I was inspired by the events surrounding the African-American burial in lower Manhattan. The story and others like it were included in the 1998 issue of American Legacy magazine. Finally, on a more personal level, my grandfather passed away before I moved back to the East Coast. Writing Whispers helped me cope with his passing.”

Later in the interview, she expresses her gratitude for the help she received from the staff at eta, especially for Jahi’s direction and collaboration. In his director’s statement, Jahi says, “The subject of loss is one that we all have to endure at some point in time… Without fail, through loss something profound is realized, and you’re never quite the same. Those who survive develop a ‘soul’.”

eta’s next production, Homebound, opened March 6 and runs through April 20. Information: Call (773)-752-3995 or visit www.etacreativearts.org.

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