Morgan Avery McCoy’s one-woman show scheduled for Feb. 28 at Thomas Nelson looks back at some of history’s greatest African-American women. Her goal for the performance, held in the Dr. Mary T. Christian Auditorium as part of the College's Black History Month celebration, is to provide an inspiration to pay it forward.
“I hope that when the audience leaves, they leave full of hope, awareness, and also a passion and a fire to continue the work, and continue to serve people,” said McCoy, an actress, director, producer, editor and writer from Newport News.
The show is called “Evolution of a Black Girl: From the Slave House to the White House,” and is part of McCoy’s “400 Years of a Black Girl” tour. McCoy portrays 12 characters, starting in the 1600s and ending in present day, in the one-hour historical show.
“There are so many women in history who have done amazing things, and we are not taught about them,” McCoy said.
Among the women she portrays are Harriet Tubman, Phillis Wheatley, Coretta Scott King, Maggie Walker and Michelle Obama.
“In order for there to have been a Michelle Obama, there had to be so many others that laid the groundwork for that to take place,” said McCoy, noting it was difficult narrowing it to 12 women. “In an hour, I can’t give all history.”
McCoy’s performance is on the same program with the College's 14th Presidential Leadership Award ceremony. This year's honoree is the late Dr. Mary T. Christian. That, and the fact the show takes place in the theater honoring Christian, make the evening more special for McCoy.
McCoy grew up in Newport News and was the valedictorian at Hampton Christian. She received a bachelor’s degree in theater from Hampton University and a master’s in film production from Regent University. She said Christian was her mentor since she was 7, her first acting coach and one of her biggest supporters.
“We tour the show across the country but it means a lot to be home doing it,” McCoy said. “It means even more to be in a space honored for the woman who made such an impact on my life.”
McCoy has been performing the show for about five years, although it has evolved, “as shows do.” This tour began Feb. 2 and is schedule to run through July 2020, but more dates could be added. Stops include California, Charlottesville, Richmond and Charlotte. It has been described as “riveting,” “inspiring,” and “unforgettable.” One reviewer said, “This production will have you laughing, crying, and learning all at the same time.”
Her inclusion of Tubman in the program might have been a little bit of foreshadowing, as she later earned a role in the movie “Harriet.” It was, according to her, a perfect fit.
“This is my life. This is what I do,” she said of how her show and the movie complement each other. “I tour with my shows and we’re teaching about Harriet Tubman and so many other women who made such great contributions in history. … I’m grateful I had the privilege of being in it. It was such an honor.”
Her first inspiration was Christian after McCoy saw one of her performances when she was just 7 or 8 years old. Soon afterward, her parents put her in acting classes, and things went from there.
“That’s what lit the fire,” she said. “This shy little girl came alive on stage.”
Now, they will be sharing the stage, in a sense, on the same night. McCoy is trying to figure out a way to honor Christian during her show.
“I’m looking forward to the evening, and all of us just remembering the sacrifices she made,” McCoy said. “Dr. Christian and the women that I portray in the show, they lived a sacrificial life, a life to serve people for the greater good.”
McCoy would like to bring that work to light, and to inspire, just as Christian did for her.
“The hope is that in the course of the show, there will be a time for us really celebrating her and honor her family,” McCoy said. “But also giving a charge to the community to continue the work, because there’s still work to be done.”
For more information about the show and McCoy, go to morganaverymccoy.com.