May 10, 2007


   Home Page

 News & Features


 Columns & Opinions

   Publisher's Note





 Pop Culture



   Video Games
   CD Reviews




   Grazing Guide



   Music Roundup

   Live Music/DJs

   MP3 & Podcasts





 Find A Hippo




   View Classified Ads

   Place a Classified Ad




 Contact Us

   Hippo Staff

   How to Reach The Hippo

 Past Issues

   Browse by Cover

Curtain Calls
By Heidi Masek

The time and effort Lowell Williams and Yellow Taxi have put into creating Six Nights in the Black Belt was clear at the world premiere in Nashua, Friday, May 4. The Nashua writerís play has been under construction for a year or more. The public was invited to help the shape the script at staged readings earlier in the season.

The subject of Six Nights is Jonathan Daniels, a young man from Keene who was killed in the struggle for civil rights. Since this is a true story and the ending is known, Williams doesnít rush to introduce the characters. Instead, he builds on them steadily throughout the show by having them relay their interactions with Daniels, who was a junior Episcopal priest in 1965 when he was killed. The play opens with fellow seminarian Judy taking two of Danielsí fellow activists from Alabama to the Cathedral of the Pines after Danielsí funeral in New Hampshire. Judy had convinced Daniels to answer Dr. Martin Luther Kingís request for clergy to help with the civil rights movement. She asks Ruby Sales and Stokely Carmichel to explain what had happened in the last days before Daniels was shot.

From this hilltop, Williams weaves together the story of why Daniels decided to work for civil rights in and around Selma, how he met Stokely Carmichael, who worked for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and later the Black Panther Party, and how he affected those he met.

When each character relays a memory of how Daniels worked to integrate churches up through the six days Daniels spent in jail before he was shot, Williams creates a new scene. The stories come to life as the characters try to explain things to each other. This is more impressive than a film flashback technique because this is live and actors play more than one role. Director James Phillips, the cast and production designers have done a brilliant job making the introduction to a story transition smoothly and immediately to the tale being acted out. Daniels comes back to life through these scenes. Williams also uses them to remind us of what segregation meant in everyday interactions. This style gave the play a sense of urgency and a rhythm which fortunately is not broken with an intermission. At less than two hours, the show doesnít need one.

Raphael Rawlins gave a compelling performance as Carmichael, and smoothly switched into other roles as a black man at a bus stop and a white pastor. Rawlins performs at Seacoast Repertory and elsewhere in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Maria Mendes met the challenging task of portraying Sales, switching character a few times, and also sang. Her portrayal of the bar woman who introduces Carmichael and Daniels was hysterical. This is her first New Hampshire performance although she tours the northeast with Looking Glass Theatre of Providence, R.I. Valerie Tosi humanizes the 1960s seminarian Judy. Boston actor Doug Chilson shows Daniels as a sunny and optimistic yet wily activist. This is Chilsonís fifth play with Yellow Taxi. He also appeared in The Warmth of the Cold, Williamsí first full-length, which won him a New Hampshire Theatre Award.

Williamsí angle of telling Danielsí story by showing how he affected others allows him to explore the martyr in a dynamic way. After Daniels and Sales were released from jail they stopped to buy a soda. In front of the store a someone aimed a gun at Sales. Daniels pushed her to the ground, saving her life as the bullet took his. Sales attended the Cambridge divinity school Daniels did, and has founded the Spirit House Project in Washington, D.C., which seeks to bring diverse peoples together.

Thereís a lot more to the Daniels story as well as the other characters, so perhaps another benefit is that Six Nights in the Blackbelt might inspire you to learn more. The only part that was disappointing was how few people attended the opening night at 14 Court St. Theater. Lucky for you Six Nights runs one more weekend: Thursday, May 10, through Saturday, May 12, at 8 p.m. with a 2 p.m. show May 12. Ticket costs range from $15 to $20. See or

5/3/2007 Curtain Calls

4/26/2007 Still going strong
4/19/2007 Vietnam the the Palace
4/12/2007 Confluence
4/5/2007 First look
3/29/2007 Reluctant star
3/15/2007 In a town far away
3/8/2007 Curtain calls
3/1/2007 Into the future
2/22/2007 But will it play in New Hampshire
2/15/2007 Curtain calls
2/8/2007 Family affair
2/1/2007 Curtain calls
1/25/2007 Curtain calls
1/18/2007 Curtain calls
1/11/2007 Curtain calls
1/4/2007 Fork in the road
12/28/2006 Standout performances of '06
12/21/2006 Curtain Calls
12/14/2006 Players remember Peter Bridges
12/07/2006 Young talent
11/30/2006 Lighthearted farce for the holidays
11/23/2006 Curtain Calls
11/16/2006 Good theater
11/9/2006 Preview roundup
11/2/2006 Access to the ancients
10/26/2006 Aida on a Nashua stage
10/19/2006 Children of a Lesser God brilliantly played
10/12/2006 A true love triangle
10/05/2006 Curtain Calls
09/28/2006 Bringing people back to life
09/21/2006 Getting judged
09/14/2006 Long strange journey
09/07/2006 Curtain Calls
08/31/2006 Curtain Calls
08/24/2006 Putting kids in charge
08/17/2006 Curtain Calls
08/10/2006 All theater, all summer
08/03/2006 A Jesus musical, reworked
07/27/2006 A match made in Maine
07/20/2006 Variations on a theme
07/13/2006 I Hate Hamlet
07/06/2006 Serious theater
06/29/2006 L.A. in Peterborough
06/22/2006 Da Vinci to Rube Goldberg
06/15/2006 Peter Bridges remembered
06/08/2006 From Hairspray to monkeys
06/01/2006 Special Theatrics
05/25/2006 Live Brit-com
05/18/2006 Evil stepsisters earn the yuks
05/11/2006 A message to mom
05/04/2006 Meet the cast
04/27/2006 'I hope i get it'
04/20/2006 Find yourself in Yonkers
04/13/2006 Nashua rocks The Wiz
04/06/2006 Nashua rocks The Wiz
03/30/2006 Cabaret is Mnchester bound
03/23/2006 A 42nd Street detour
03/16/2006 Actor-director wants your ideas
02/23/2006 Yellow Taxi's Theater Festival opens March 1
02/16/2006 Herding CATS
02/09/2006 An†actors' studio
02/02/2006 A thing about love
01/26/2006 Spring theater season warming up
01/19/2006 Gearing up for the big night
01/12/2006 This Phantom is not a menace
01/05/2006 Jim Kelly, sci-fi writer and alternate historian
10th anniversary at Capitol Center
10 Ways To Survive The Audition
A Chorus Line
A Figaro Worth Cheering
A 'Living Newspaper' on stage
A tale of two wives
A Tribute To Music
Actorsingers Deliver On Superstar
Beauty and the Beast
Bedford Off-Broadway Gets Spooky
Being The Beatles, 1964 The Tribute
Bringing NYC to Wilton
Creating the venue from antiques
Crimes Of The Heart
Curtain to rise on Dana Center
Dana Center Takes Center Stage
Ensemble elevates Palaceís Godspell
From stage to the silver screen
Great play, too bad itís over
Greater Tuna
Humble Boy
Itís cabaret, hear it sing, joke, tease
It's Child's Play
Jesus Christ Superstar
Kids Tackle Edgar Allan Poe
Local boy hits the big time, doesnít lose his head
Lowell theater opens with a winner of a satire
Madco welcomes Boston actor-director
Meet John Sefel, Director
Meet Suzanne Delle, Yellow Taxiís driver
Music Man to run three weekends
New Thalian Players
Palace announces 2005-06 season
Peterborough Playersí Solidarity is solid gold
Plaid (II)
Playing with manís best friend
Proud of the Peacock
Racy, crazy blast at the Palace
Reviving His Passion
Robert Dionne, The man behind the Majestic
Rosemary Dann
Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know
Short-Attention Span Theater
Side Show
Sideshow slips sideways
Spending The Summer On Stage
Stages of learning
Steel Magnolias
Suessical: The Musical
Theater Of The Imagination
Theater Kids Without A School
Theater in the park draws big
The Drawer Boy
The Festival
The†Five best shows of 2005
The Prisoner Of Second Avenue
The Russian/American Kids Circus
The Senator Wore Pantyhose
The Tony Awards, they're grrrrreat
The Warmth Of The Cold
Three nights, three shows at the Palace

Under the Caribbean with the little mermaid

Wake up to Ďnight Mother