WESTPORT, Conn. -- Theater always brought out the best in Westport’s Kimberly Wilson. Her musical one-woman show, “A JOURNEY,” which she will perform Sunday at Norfield Congregational Church in Weston, brings out Wilson’s best as well as six other historical women she portrays.
Wilson’s show begins at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 22, at her home church, Norfield Congregational, in Weston. She is performing it for free as a fundraiser.
- Who : Kimberly Wilson, Westport
- What : "A JOURNEY", a show that brings to life 7 historical African-American women
- When : Sunday, Norfield Congregational Church, Weston
In “A JOURNEY,” Wilson brings to life seven historical African-American women: African Queen, a slave woman, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou and herself. Through soulful singing, character transformations, joyous celebrations and painful reflections, Wilson takes the audience on a powerful presentation of courage, persistence, hope, faith and love.
“One of the messages I hope people receive is that the value of your life is important where you are right now,’’ Wilson said. “You have to share it. You have to tell it. You have to go deep within yourself to understand it. It’s celebrating you as you celebrate these women in history. These stories, all our stories, need to be told.”
Wilson has had a long and distinguished acting career. A former beauty queen in her home state of Minnesota, she started building her show nearly 20 years ago with one character. She has been building and integrating more women into her performance over time, and she has performed the current incantation for about six years.
“I am a member of the Theater Artists Workshop in East Norwalk, and it is there I took the opportunity to workshop and present my work,’’ Ms. Wilson said. “When I started at the Workshop, “A JOURNEY” had three characters, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks. It evolved into a seven-character, full-length musical performance."
The final piece of the puzzle for Wilson was incorporating her own historical narrative into the show. After one presentation, during the audience talkback, a suggestion was made to incorporate some of her own personal story. “I would end with Maya Angelou,’’ Wilson said. “This gentleman said he wanted to know more about me. It took me by surprise. It’s one thing to do characters, but it’s different to reveal your own truth.”
Wilson now feels more comfortable revealing more of her personal journey. It has also made the rest of the show better, she said.
“Each and every performance opens up another layer of my true self,’’ she said. “That’s another reason why I continue to perform. I also find layers of the other characters. Each time, there’s a nuance that is new. A new spirit comes forth every time. No two shows are exactly the same. That is the beauty of theatre.”
Wilson said she feels connections to each character in “A JOURNEY”. “Backstage, before I do anything, I pray for all the spirits of the characters to come forth,’’ Wilson said. “Sometimes they try to override each other. I feel the energies during the performance. Also, the audience connects with the characters as the stories relate to them personally. This is a journey, for all of us, and it’s wonderful.”
Wilson performs her show for schools, historical societies, corporations, libraries and other groups interested in Black History and Women’s History. She performs frequently in Connecticut and is seeking more bookings, as well as, the support of a venture capitalist to help take her musical one-woman show nationally and internationally. She wants the world to see and experience the spirit of “A JOURNEY”.
Wilson started her singing and acting career at the Minneapolis Children’s Theatre, and at 17, she was a founding acting company member of the Mixed Blood Theater in Minneapolis. After attending Howard University, Ms. Wilson was crowned Miss Black Minnesota 1984 and took roles in national television commercials, main stage plays and touring productions, such as: “Ain’t Misbehavin”, “For Colored Girls…”, “The Great White Hope”, Glory Road”, “A-My Name is Alice”, “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Ragtime, the Musical.”
Wilson feels that her show is in a great place. This past October, she took it to Atlanta and won the 2016 Best Playwright Award at the Atlanta Black Theatre Festival.
“I can’t tell you all the things I love about this show now,’’ Wilson said. “I love performing. I love singing. I love telling people’s stories. I love sharing my own stories and listening to the stories of others. It’s a process, a journey, that touches everyone. After each performance, there’s an audience talkback segment, and that tends to be as long as the performance itself. It makes people leave themselves open to wanting to share their stories, on our shared journey.”
Admission to the Jan. 22 fundraising performance of “A JOURNEY” is free, and all are welcome. Donations are also welcome to support Music Makers Ministry at Norfield. The Music Makers Ministry is an after-school music and arts program for Preschool through 6th grade on Wednesday afternoons at Norfield during the school year.
For more information, go to www.norfield.org.