Charmaine Crowell-White will present a one-woman show focused on slave life on he Montpelier plantation and the James and Dolley Madison White House. Through Sukey’s storytelling, Charmaine Crowell-White explores the personality and talents of Dolley Madison. She will have three performances of Sulkey: Life with Dolley Madison. The first will be this Saturday from 2 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. in the meeting room at the Ettrick-Matoaca. She will be at the Bon Air Library on Thursday, Feb. 16 from 7 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. and at the Meadowdale Library on Monday, Feb. 27 from 7 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.
Crowell-White has been on the road with her oral histories for over 20 years. Before her retirement as a theater teacher of 25 years, she had a break-out performance of Sojourner Truth, an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist, to her Meadowbrook family before actually retiring nearly 18 years ago. Her success with oral histories continued with the performance of Harriet Tubman who was well known for risking her life as a “conductor” in the Underground Railroad, which led escaped slaves to freedom in the North.
Crowell-White said she has taken creative liberty with putting together the story of Sukey. “I had to do a lot of research and reading a lot about Dolley Madison and James Madison. Sukey, the narrator, was in her 50s by the time she was a slave in the White House.”
Crowell-White’s one-woman shows are telling the history like her forefathers told stories. “I am a storyteller,” she said. “It was part of the tradition [telling stories]. She said Montpelier is about five or six miles from where she was raised. “It is where I come from; I am personally connected and passionate about where I come from.”
Crowell-White is excited about every performance. She will perform Harriet Tubman on Friday before the Sukey performance at Ettrick. “I have all these women running through me,” she said.
Her oral histories are not stagnant or stuck in a particular year. “It is not a finished product,” she said. “As I age, the show ages and changes.”
Crowell-White says this has been a wonderful experience. “Telling stories encourages conversation, and I want to keep the storytelling and oral histories going. I love history. And this just happens to be my genre.