the ballad of jane elkins
THE BALLAD OF JANE ELKINS is a historical drama that tells the true story of the first legal hanging in Dallas, Texas. Jane Elkins was a slave girl that was tried and hung for killing Mr. Wisdom, a widowed man from Farmers Branch, in 1853.
The play was first produced for Soul Rep Theatre Company's 8th New Play Festival in July 2014 and was directed by vickie washington. Teatro Dallas featured THE BALLAD OF JANE ELKINS in its Festival of Death in October 2014. Artistic Director, Cora Cardona served as the director.
by Teresa Marrero
published Saturday, October 25, 2014
"The Ballad of Jane Elkins, directed by Cora Cardona, was written by the contemporary Dallas area playwright Anyika McMillan—Herod (founder of Soul Rep in 1996), is currently one of the four local playwrights selected for the Dallas Theater Center’s second Dallas Playwrights Workshop under the direction of Will Power (this play was also presented in Soul Rep's play festival this year). It is by far the most poignant of the three short plays, bringing a dark piece of Texas history to life: the first recorded execution of a female slave in Dallas County in 1853. McMillan—Herod reconstructs an historical event from Jane Elkins’ point of view, speaking her tale from beyond the grave. In the role of Jane, Sidney Hewitt totally mesmerizes. I could not keep my eyes off this wonderful talent. In what is basically a monologue, she tells the story of the abuse she suffered at the hands of widower Master Wisdom (Omar Padilla) and his young son Sam (Joshua Bowman), and to a lesser degree the young daughter Lisbeth (Saffron Herdon). Silently interwoven is the imposing figure of Ancestor (Dominique Edwards), which incorporates the traditional Afro-centric belief that our ancestors not only watch and protect human beings from beyond the grave, but in many cultures they are deified as sacred beings. Due to the nature of the violence against Jane, this piece will make some feel uncomfortable."
by Mark Lowry
Dallas Morning News
published Saturday, August 2, 2014
"...followed by the beautiful The Ballad of Jane Elkins by another Soul Rep founder, Anyika McMillan-Herod, directed by veteran actor and director Vickie Washington.
The work is based on the true, local story of slave girl Jane, who was hanged for murdering her owner Mr. Wisdom (David Benn) in Farmer’s Branch. McMillan-Herod learned of her story in the company’s ongoing research of Dallas black history. One of the group’s signature original works, The Freedmans (1998), based on the stories of the freed slaves buried in unmarked graves at what is now the intersection of Interstate 75 and Lemmon Avenue, was revived in 2013 to announce the comeback of Soul Rep.
In this play, Jane (Mia Antoinette) is purchased by Mr. Wisdom (David Benn) and becomes a surrogate mother to slave children Sam (Esau Price) and Lis-Beth (Taylor Waller) who lost their mother and are raised by Wisdom, a man who seems loving and trustworthy. At the very beginning, we see the noose, Jane slowly step up and place it around her neck, and her death. As her body swings after the floor drops, she walks out on the stage to look back on her life and this story, hauntingly dragging the noose everywhere she goes.
Monique Ridge-Williams plays Ancestor, a voodoo woman who comments through her chants and gourd-shaking. An especially memorable moment comes with the chilling, approving look on her face as Jane decides to do the deed they both know must happen.
Fine performances all around, but recent Southern Methodist University graduate Antoinette, with intense eyes that have just a hint of vulnerability, makes an impression as a woman who looks forward to a day with “no more misery.”