By Barbara Biddison
As we approach auditions for BREECHES, I find myself remembering the 2011 family drama by James Still, HE HELD ME GRAND. I love thinking about that intergenerational and inter-racial focus on one American family. It featured a cast of 17, double the cast of 8 for BREECHES. So, why a connection there? Well, both focus on history in some way, HHMG a hundred years worth, and Breeches just a few months during WW ll. Both reflect real life with humor, and challenges, and an overall "feel good" spirit. I think in both plays the characters grab your heart.
I played April, the lead white 88-year old woman who lived next door to Grace, a black woman of the same age. They had been best friends since childhood. My April also found a friend as she practiced her newly-learned computer skills, and he and she decided to meet with the very strong likelihood of getting married. When he arrived and walked through the door, we the audience, and she the interested 88-year old white woman, discovered that her new friend was black. The title of the play comes from her description of what it was like to dance with him, "He held me grand." Now to why I'm remembering this decade-ago play right now.
There were five characters in that play who were black. We actually managed to cast the play with people of color from a local 8th grader to the old guy that April was to marry. There was a comfort level and togetherness that I felt deep inside. I still feel like that next door neighbor is my best friend for life, and I'd still spend hours with the older fellow who showed up in that play. Recently HG has had to cancel plays because the required black person could not be found. There is a great role for a black woman in BREECHES. I hope some 30-ish (or able to look about 30) women come to auditions. This play is so worth doing. If only we can cast it.
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