Mark-Brian Sonna’s MBS Productions has long specialized in world premiere plays — usually locally written, and often with a gay theme. But his latest, Slave Letters, is something of a departure. Sonna conceived and staged this presentation for Black History Month, based on actual correspondence between slaves during the time of slavery.
“That question popped into my brain about a year ago,” Sonna says. “Thanks to Duke University archives, I found some letters, then went searching online for others.” Among the 80 or so letters Sonna unearthed were those to husbands sold to other plantations from their wives, from slaves being put up for auction asking for specific plantation owners to buy them, status updates from slaves to their masters on how a farm is running in their absence, from escaped slaves back to their families and many more. In all, the show consists of 19 letters and 10 songs — truly the fully spectrum of the black experience in pre- and post-colonial America.
“Not all the letters are tragic — some are genuinely funny,” Sonna says. “How we find humor in the most dire situations is a testament to the human spirit.”
Stone Cottage Theatre
15650 Addison Road
Jan. 28–Feb. 14
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition January 22, 2016.