WINCHESTER — Winchester Little Theatre's latest production is a celebration of diversity.
"The Trip to Bountiful" features a racially mixed cast and is the first play in Winchester Little Theatre's history to be directed by a Black person.
"The story does not call for a multiracial cast, but I wanted to present an opportunity to change perspectives," said director LaTasha Do'zia. "Black stories do not have to be about struggle or hardships, or the missing or angry father. Black stories can be simple, loving, heart-wrenching stories that anybody in America can connect to."
Do'zia, a Winchester Little Theatre volunteer who also heads up her own Selah Theatre Project in Winchester, helmed Winchester Little Theatre's presentation of "The Trip to Bountiful," a Broadway play written in 1953 by Horton Foote that was subsequently made into a 1985 movie starring Academy Award-winning actress Geraldine Page.
The story is about Carrie Watts, an elderly woman who misses her childhood and makes a long-anticipated return to her hometown of Bountiful, Texas. In Winchester Little Theatre's production, the lead role is played by Gail Smith of Clarke County, a Black woman who is making her acting debut.
"She did it without any hesitation," Do'zia said of Smith. "Now she says, 'Never again,' but I don't know."
Do'zia was inspired to feature a diverse cast in her production of the play after seeing the 2013 Broadway revival of "The Trip to Bountiful" featuring actress Cicely Tyson. Watching the talented Tyson on stage, Do'zia said, was a poignant reminder that people of color don't have to accept stereotypical roles, such as a slave or maid, in order to make a living in the theater.
"We're actors and we just want to be able to show what we're capable of doing," Do'zia said.
Unfortunately, staging a full-blown production of "The Trip to Bountiful" at Winchester Little Theatre is not currently possible because the venue at 315 W. Boscawen St. has been closed for months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, Do'zia led her cast through a virtual reading of the play that was streamed online last month as part of the nonprofit organization's Readers' Theatre.
"Theaters have had to take some drastic turns to bring in some source of income, to keep the arts alive and to keep actors from going crazy," she said.
On the upside, streaming the production made it possible for "The Trip to Bountiful" to be viewed across the entire country.
"People were watching it nationwide [when it originally streamed in September] — New York, California, different places," Do'zia said. "That was kind of cool."
If you weren't one of those viewers, you're in luck. An encore presentation of Winchester Little Theatre's virtual reading of "The Trip to Bountiful" can be streamed online Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $5 each and can be purchased at winchesterlittletheatre.org.