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Hoodoo Love’ Brings The Blues To Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company

Playwright Katori Hall is the first African-American woman to win the Olivier...

Credit: Courtesy photo

Above: Playwright Katori Hall is the first African-American woman to win the Olivier Award for Best New Play, which she received for her play "The Mountaintop" in 2010.

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Every play needs a little bit of magic. Now there's a new production at Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company that has a whole lot of magic.

Hoodoo Love,” written by celebrated young playwright Katori Hall, is a love story steeped in the blues, set in the South during the Great Depression. It's also a tale of ambition, the heavy weight of the past and how important a little mojo can be.

Toulou (played by Jasmine Hughes) is a young woman who has escaped the Mississippi Delta cotton fields to pursue her dream of becoming a blues singer in Memphis. On her way, she falls for a rambling blues man, Ace of Spades, and with the help of a former slave known as The Candy Lady (played by Monique Gaffney), she calls upon some hoodoo, or African-American folk magic, to win his love.

Hall developed the story while studying at Columbia, from an assignment where students were asked to write about two people fighting over any object. Hall, who grew up in Memphis, also took inspiration from a Zora Neale Hurston story she had read about hoodoo. She decided to write about two people fighting over a mojo bag, which contains magical powers.

Mo`olelo artistic director Seema Sueko chose "Hoodoo Love" for many reasons, and was particularly drawn to Hall's unique, honest and engaging voice. "She doesn’t shy away or sugarcoat things. She writes it as she hears it and sees it. Her language is so poetic and written beautifully that it sounds like a blues song."

Although it's not a musical, "Hoodoo Love" is "a play with blues music," and all of the lyrics and music were written by Hall. In addition to acting, the four-person cast also play instruments and sing on stage.

"[Hall] wrote a play about the blues and love in a bluesy way," says director Nataki Garrett. "Instead of crying and putting their fists through walls, the actors sing their sorrows. They reveal something they might not talk about."

KPBS Midday Edition speaks with Sueko and Garrett about "Hoodoo Love,” which begins previews tonight and opens June 15. The play runs through July 1 at The Tenth Avenue Theatre in downtown.

Katori Hall on 'Hoodoo Love'


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