Thursday, April 11, 2019

Stunning "Returning the Bones" returns to stun again

Gin Hammond in Returning the Bones (John Ulman)
Returning the Bones
Written and performed by Gin Hammond
Book-It Repertory Theatre
(at Erickson Theatre)
through May 14, 2019

I saw an iteration of this production in 2010, as Gin Hammond was developing it. It was so solid then that I think much of her current production is similar to that stunning event. I truly regard her as one of our country's best solo artists. Here, she has created a play using a fascinating character in her own family.

Based on the life and times of her aunt, Dr. Carolyn (Bebe) Hammond Montier, it’s about Montier’s struggle, as an African-American, to achieve everything anyone might dream of, a medical degree, and her extraordinary opportunity, in 1946, to represent Howard University at a medical congregation in Europe following World War II. Montier also went to the concentration camp, Auschwitz, in Poland, where she saw bones of recent camp internees.

But the play starts when Bebe is a small child in rural Texas helping her doctor father and experiencing all the horrors of Jim Crow, segregation, discrimination, and the violence that bigotry brings, including lynching and beatings. Because her father was black, many white patients wouldn’t be attended to by him, unless they wanted to keep secret a case of venereal disease or something else they didn’t want town gossips to know. He also seems like an extraordinary man, creating a clinic where there was none, extending that to other businesses when shut out of them by the white business market. Her father instilled a strong sense of justice and political activism in the family. 

Her family tree traces back to Alexander Hamilton, the now-even-more-famous politician, and some family members who were so light-toned that they “passed” for white. While this situation could be useful in getting better behavior from law enforcement, for instance, it was likely a confusing situation to deal with, pointing up the absurdity of bigotry based on skin pigment.

These is a must-see, and is great for young students to attend as a wholly different way to learn history that is not in their textbooks!

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