By Nick Eustis
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
Nerves are frayed as voters across the country wait to find out who the next President of the United States will be.
More divided on partisan lines than any time in modern history, and traumatized by Donald Trump’s upset victory in 2016, the country waits with bated breath to see what the future of American leadership holds. For moments like this, it can be helpful to look back, even to recent history, to see what has changed, and what has stayed the same.
New Horizon Theater will be broadcasting their 2019 production of “Front Porch Society” over Vimeo on November 5, 6 and 7 at 7 p.m. Directed by Herb Newsome, the ensemble cast features New Horizon veterans Stevie Akers, Kevin Brown, Taj Clinton, Rita Gregory, Darrin Mosely Jr., Karla Payne, and Tracy Turner.
“Front Porch Society” focuses on four Black women living in the rural Mississippi Delta, on a different historic Election Day.
“It’s November 4, 2008, in Marks, Mississippi, and America is on the eve of electing its first Black President,” said Joyce Meggerson-Moore, chairperson of the board at New Horizon. “The storyline is about what this means to four elderly women in this rural town.”
The story centers around town overseer Carrie Honey, who sits on her front porch every day, discussing the important issues with her neighbors. Meggerson-Moore likened them to “front porch philosophers.”
“The whole story is about that and these ladies who talk about all kinds of things sitting on that front porch,” said Meggerson-Moore. “They’re women who’ve lived through segregation, civil rights, and the senseless killings of Black boys. They have all of this history that they have to talk about, and they do it every day.”
Despite the excitement in the air over Barack Obama’s impending election, Carrie Honey is unhappy, still grieving the loss of her son.
“Because of the action and trauma that unfolds underneath it, with the loss of her son years ago, and the struggle she’d been having in the courts to try to get justice for him, it takes an interesting turn,” said director Herb Newsome.
Melda Beaty, a native of Jackson, Mississippi, wrote “Front Porch Society” in 2015 and 2016, and debuted it in 2017 in Houston, Texas. Beaty interviewed many family members and friends from her hometown, drawing on their real-life experiences to inform the characters.
New Horizon Theater produced a live production of the play in 2019, and it was filmed by Meggerson-Moore for the theater’s archives. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, these archived recordings gained new life, a way to spread the art of theater safely, and beyond the city of Pittsburgh. Fortuitously, the recordings were done similar to the filmed production of “Hamilton,” with camera work to give a more immersive, movie-style production.
“You get close-ups of folks, you get zoom-outs, wide shots,” said Newsome.
This rebroadcasting comes at one of the most pivotal moments in American history, as the 2020 election becomes a referendum on much more than just which party remains in charge.
“I think a lot of the country has lost faith and hope in America, indecency, what it means to be a decent person, what it means to tell the truth,” said Newsome.
In these times that have been personally trying for so many, Newsome hopes that “Front Porch Society” can bring some peace to those for whom 2020 has been an annus horribilis.
“This play is about hope, it’s about the future, restoring that hope. At the end of the show, you really get the sense, from the main character, of what hope means, Newsome said. “I hope people just get inspired.”
“Front Porch Society” will be broadcast via Vimeo on November 5 through 7, at 7 pm. More information and tickets are available at newhorizontheater.org.