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Getting ready for a special premiere at Queensbury.
Getting ready for a special premiere at Queensbury.
Photo by Christian Brown

A Welsh Man and a Romani Woman Bridge a Racial Divide in Queensbury's For Tonight

Three Welsh siblings, left orphaned when their parents die of some undetermined illness, are suddenly forced to consider what comes next. One of them, Haydon, decides to leave their small village and travel like the Romani he has known. He arrives in Liverpool where he becomes involved with one of their members, Mirela.

No ordinary pairing off, this relationship is frowned upon by both sides, says Jennifer Barrett (previously in Violet at Queensbury), who plays Mirela. "Because of the racial difference, It’s a very touchy subject for them to even have conversation. She’s taking chances on breaking racial barriers. In the 1800s there was a racial difference between the Welsh and Romani."

In For Tonight by playwrights Spencer Williams, Shenelle Salcido and Whitney Rhodes with music and lyrics by Spencer Williams and Shenelle Salcido, the story is one of barriers broken down and inspired by one of the authors' great-great-great grandfather's journals.

These differences extend to the music itself as the more lively Romani compositions stand in contrast to the more staid, churchlike Welsh tunes, Barrett says. "Romani people loved using music with whatever they had," she says. "The Welsh music in here is more like prayers but in the Welsh dialect. So you get to see two different types of sounds and music so you get two different worlds."

In fact the music is so important that the two-act show boasts both a Romani and a Welsh ensemble, she says.

As for her character, "Mirela is a Romani in her early 20s. She's a musician from Liverpool. She's sees Haydon eavesdropping into their Romani celebration and their journey starts together. She's very passionate. She's very expressive. She's someone who is not quiet. She is very curious; she knows what she wants."

Barrett, who first got interested in theater after seeing Cinderella at Ensemble Theatre when she was young, says this story has a personal resonance with her.  "My great grandmother was Native American and great great grandfather was African American. She was on the reservation and she fell in love with an African American. She took that risk to stay with the one that she loved.

"I think forgiveness is a big role in this show," Barrewtt says. "A lot of the things that they do is based on what they were taught. I feel like once love steps in, everything comes together."

Performances are scheduled for February 14 through March 3 at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays at Queensbury Theatre, 12777 Queensbury Lane. For information, call 713-467-4497 or visit queensburytheatre.org. $21-$85.

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