Powerful One-Woman Show
When Kimberly Wilson enters a room, you notice. At six feet tall with a commanding voice and the graceful bearing of a royal, how could you not? But when you see her wide smile and hear her warm, distinctive laugh, you quickly realize that she isn’t an intimidating presence at all, just an impressive one. On March 3, Wilson—an accomplished actress, singer, writer, and producer—brings her powerful one-woman show, A Journey, to Wilton.
The play, celebrates the lives of eight historically significant black women. To do so effectively, Wilson becomes a chameleon of sorts, who effortlessly transitions from a regal African queen to an enslaved woman struggling for survival on a plantation. She then morphs into Harriet Tubman, a courageous runaway slave who rebelled against her inhumane captivity and became a leading abolitionist known as the “Moses of her people.” Sojourner Truth makes a memorable appearance but before you know it, Wilson transforms herself into legendary civil rights activist Rosa Parks whose refusal to surrender her seat to a white man on an Alabama bus spurred a citywide boycott. Just when the audience yearns for emotional respite, Maya Angelou, the eloquent and outspoken poet and author, is there, her words a balm to soothe our souls. Wilson also makes an appearance as herself, sharing personal reflections about growing up in Minnesota and living in today’s world as a modern day black woman.
All the songs in A Journey are sung a cappella by Wilson, and her full-bodied contralto brings emotional depth to each story she tells.
“One of my missions is to share my performance in a way that audience members will listen to these stories and realize that black people are human, too,” says Wilson. “What I hope to convey is that you and I may be from different backgrounds, different cultures, different environments and circumstances, yet we are all human. We are all unique, special, and worthy of freedom, happiness, success, and love.”
After every performance, Wilson participates in a talkback session which she considers an integral part of the experience. “People welcome opportunities where it’s safe to ask questions and safe to share.”
“As an actress, I love to sing and perform for people of all ages and from all walks of life,” she adds, warming to her subject. “I find that one of the many blessings of performing this show is to witness the faces, voices, and physical responses of the audience. People attend expecting to be entertained and educated, but during the performance they also experience an array of emotions. They can’t help but find a piece of themselves in the hopes, sorrows, and triumphs of these women.”
A Journey, co-sponsored by the Wilton Historical Society and Wilton Library Association will be performed on March 3 at the library’s Brubeck Room, and is appropriate for audience members ages ten and up.
“As we know from the success of Hamilton,” says WHS co-director Allison Sanders, “history is well served by live performance, which can convey the immediacy and human drama of past events.” Co-director Kim Mellin adds, “While the historical reflections portrayed in A Journey are the stories of black women with remarkable experiences, they could be about any woman striving to make a better life for herself, her family, and her community, and are an appropriate way to mark Women’s History Month.”
What both women are excited about is that Wilson has written a new character with Wilton roots for her March presentation. According to recent Historical Society research, a black slave named Haggar born in 1770, was owned by Samuel Belden II of Wilton. Haggar married Native American slave Bill Tonquin and together, they had three children. The family lived in the Belden Store at the corner of Ridgefield Road and “Danbury Pike” (now Route 7). The couple’s children would have been been born free thanks to a 1783 law passed in Connecticut, so Haggar was the last known slave in Wilton.
To bring more authenticity to the character of Haggar Tonquin, Wilson worked directly with the museum educator to learn how to churn butter, card wool, break flax, and other such work that would have been typical of the time.
Wilson sums up the relevance of A Journey. “As we celebrate these historical women’s stories and their journeys, we must also celebrate our own journeys. We must tell our stories and be avid listeners to the stories of others. We must learn to live, love and treasure each other.”