Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Week Seven: "Zoratellers-The World of Zora Neale Hurston," College of Saint Rose-Albany, New York

On Friday, I went to see “Zoratellers-The World of Zora Neale Hurston” at the College of Saint Rose.  It was a fun and interesting way to celebrate Black History Month.  The play documented parts of Hurston’s life up until she wrote her most famous novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God.  I read the book and learned about Hurston in high school and remembered a few things about her life but “Zoratellers” taught me even more.

Zora Neale Hurston was born on January 7, 1891 in Notasulga, Alabama but grew up in Eatonville, Florida.  Eatonville was the first incorporated black community and Hurston’s father was mayor.  Zora’s mother died when she was thirteen and her father soon remarried. 

Hurston received an associate degree from Howard University in 1920.  She then went on to publish several short stories before attending Barnard College in 1925.  At Barnard, she studied anthropology and after graduation she did field work in Harlem, published several more stories, and married Herbert Sheen in 1927.  They were officially divorced in 1931, although their relationship ended in 1928.  “Zoratellers” depicted her failing marriage and showed her trips to the Bahamas, Haiti, and Jamaica.  In 1937, Their Eyes Were Watching God was published.

“Zoratellers” was an informative and often funny play about Hurston’s earlier life.  Alive, she was an influential anthropologist and writer but never made more than $943.75 from any of her books.  When she died at the age of 69, there was not enough money for her funeral.  Neighbors had to take up a collection to pay for the funeral but it came up short of what they needed for a headstone.  Hurston was buried in an unmarked grave until 1973 when Alice Walker paid for a headstone.  “Zoratellers” began with Walker looking through a snake-infested cemetery for Hurston’s unmarked grave.

This quote from Hurston’s autobiography shows what a remarkable woman Hurston was:
“I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all. I do not belong to the sobbing school of Negrohood who hold that nature somehow has given them a lowdown dirty deal and whose feelings are all hurt about it. Even in the helter-skelter skirmish that is my life, I have seen that the world is to the strong regardless of a little pigmentation more or less. No, I do not weep at the world—I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”
― Zora Neale Hurston, Dust Tracks on a Road

There are several free events going on in the area to celebrate Black History Month.  You may want to attend:

February 22nd The Ira Aldridge Theater Ensemble debuts in “Bid Em Speak—Black History through Poetry and Literature.”  Hudson Valley Community College at 6:30pm.

February 25th “The Motown Story—The Golden Years 1959-1965.”  College of Saint Rose, St. Joseph’s Auditorium at 7:00pm.

1 comment:

  1. As one of the Zoras in the play, it was rewarding to understand that although Zora wanted to be dedicated to writing down the things "clawing "inside [of her] that must be said" she was human and had her heart strings tugged many times. However, Zora was always strong in conviction and this strength is what led her to be such a progressive African American female writer. It's not everyday that you can feel relief that someone wants to take care of you. She had those men but what was missing was their lack of understanding her need to live a productive, purposeful life. I'm glad Zora has been rediscovered and is getting the adoration she so justly deserved in life.