They say some things are worth the wait. And when it comes to the Guthrie Theater’s “The Amen Corner,” that statement is certainly true.
It took Penumbra’s founder and artistic director Lou Bellamy three decades before he was able to take this powerful play off his to-do list. He said just needed the right timing and the perfect players to pull it off. And boy, did he find them.
Leading the cast of this inspiring production is none other than Greta Oglesby — a woman that’s no stranger to the Guthrie or to bringing down the house with her performances.
Oglesby recently chatted with us about being cast in the role of a lifetime and the personal memories she used to perfect the part.
Q: Tell us a little about “The Amen Corner” and your role in the show.
A: “The Amen Corner” follows the life of Sister Margaret Alexander. She is the bold, charismatic pastor of a small storefront church in Harlem in 1958. She has devoted much of her life to the ministry. When her son reunites her with her estranged husband — a jazz musician — she risks losing her standing in the church and her son, who she’s trying to keep on a religious path.
Q: This production has been 30 years in the making, what’s it like to see it all come together now?
A: Lou Bellamy has been toying with the idea of producing this show for 30 years. He never thought he had the right elements in place to bring his vision to fruition. But a year ago, the stars aligned and here we are today. Baldwin has penned a masterpiece that Lou has honored on many levels.
Q: A lot of people remember you from your outstanding performance in “Caroline, or Change.” What’s it like to be back on the Guthrie stage?
A: After Caroline, (one of my all-time favorite roles) I am thrilled to be back at the Guthrie! On the first day of rehearsal, someone opened the glass doors for me and said “Welcome home.” It truly feels like home.
Q: You’ve said the role of Sister Margaret is one that you were born to do. Why is that and how does that translate on stage?
A: I feel like the role of Sister Margaret is a role that I was born play. Because this was my life! I was raised in a little store front church in inner city Chicago. My father was a pentecostal preacher. I know the characters in this play very intimately.
Q: How did you prepare for this role?
A: Unlike other roles, I didn’t have to do much research. I just had to remember Daddy on Sunday mornings, my aunts teaching Sunday School, Mama leading bible study, singing in the choir, and of course, the church politics.
Q: How do you think Minneapolis audiences will react to this show?
A: I don’t think anyone can experience this show and not be deeply moved. It is a powerful story about faith and family, love and sacrifice, and ultimately, redemption.
Q: You also wrote a book, “Mama ‘N Nem.” How did you find the time and why was it important for you to share your family’s stories?
A: I recently published a book “Mama ‘N Nem, Handprints on my Life.” I started writing this book in 2005. It is a love story to the extraordinary people who gave me a history that has shaped my destiny. The stories are poignant, hilarious, rich and full of life. I hope “Mama ‘N Nem” will inspire readers to think about the handprints on their own lives and write those stories down, document them and share them as often as possible.
The Amen Corner runs through June 17. For more information or to buy tickets to the show, click here.