The Duchess’ Diary

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The Duke and Duchess attend The Scottsboro Boys at the Guthrie September 9th, 2010

The Duke and Duchess of Earle rather fell heir to a couple of tickets to the Minneapolis-based theatrical jewel, the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre, today.  On tap for the evening’s entertainment – if, in one sense, one dares to call it that – was The Scottsboro Boys, a minstrel show based on the true story of nine African-American males (the Duchess won’t call them men because one of them was a mere twelve years old) apprehended in Alabama in 1931.  They were falsely accused, first, of fighting with some white youths, and second, of the rape of two white women (who were, incidentally, lying – but apparently the truth didn’t matter in the prejudiced mental climate of the day). 

The production is energetic, mesmerizing in the impact of its story, leaving one feeling uncomfortably guilty for enjoying the beauties of the show.  It’s minimally, but creatively and excellently set.  A trio of frames, each smaller than the one before, in addition to marking the visual confines of the stage and the narrowing path of these fellow’s lives, also respresented to the Duchess the tightly constrained Southern mindset and society.  Silver chairs with barred backs, continually rearranged, become windows, prison cells and, coupled with boards, trains – with tambourine wheels. 

The lighting is equally good.   Especially haunting to the Duchess was the shadow of the woman falling behind Haywood Patterson as he sang a song late in the show – the woman who, at the end, becomes Rosa Parks, refusing to give up her seat at the front of the bus.

In spite of the emotional challenge for the viewers, the show still garnered enthusiastic whistles and a standing ovation from the audience at the close of the one-act musical. 

This production reminded the Duchess of the famous Broadway show, Cabaret – a show the Duchess has seen a number of times over the years.  There, as in The Scottsboro Boys, absolutely wonderful vocal harmonies are contrasted with the ugly treatment that many receive in this world.  This show, too, is headed for Broadway and it’s not difficult to see why.  For a taste, take a look at the opening number in the video below:



This one tells something about the background of the show: 

This play runs through the 25th of September.  If you’re in the area, the Duchess highly recommends you get your ticket, because September is already flying by.  If this requires travel arrangements, the Duchess offers you a link directly to her travel site: