Black Repertory Theatre Presents “A Shadow in the Clouds – The Bessie Coleman Story”

Actress Nathalie Bennett as Bessie Coleman. Photo by Adam L. Turner.

By Carla

“A Shadow In the Clouds -The Bessie Coleman Story,’’ written by Victor Lawhorn, is a play about an extraordinary woman pilot, which will be performed Feb. 8 through March 3 at the Black Repertory Theater in Berkeley.
The one-woman show stars actress Nathalie Bennett and will feature a stage and mixed media presentation with historical footage of the first African American female pilot.
Playwright Lawhorn said he was inspired to write the play about a decade ago after directing, “A Soldiers Play.”
“To find a strong female character who competed with men during the time of racial and gender segregation was my goal, and I found it with Bessie, who took an unconventional approach in achieving her goal to be somebody.”
“Bessie Coleman is part of America’s rich Black heritage, and a Black woman against all odds achieving the unachievable during her time, which shows what we can achieve in this era,” said Sean Vaughn Scott, BRT Managing Director.
As a child Coleman walked 4 miles a day to school to get an education in Texas and attended one semester  at Oklahoma Colored Agriculture and Normal University until her savings ran out.
Still determined, she moved to Chicago where she worked as a manicurist at a barbershop that attracted many pilots who shared stories of aviation life, fueling her interest.
When no American aviation school would accept her, she learned French and trained in Paris, returning to the U.S. as a stunt pilot in airs shows.  She became a media sensation and refused to perform in events that excluded Black audiences.
A plane crash due to faulty equipment cut her life short, yet her spirit was kept alive as over 10,000 mourned her death in 1926.  In 1995, the US Postal Service issued a stamp to commemorate her accomplishments.
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