Where do you look for inspiration?
Most often, in history – to the point where I’ve toyed with the idea of thanking The History Channel, should I ever have to make an acceptance speech.
I’ve been fascinated with history since my childhood. In my elementary school library, there was a set of biographies that took up two to three shelves. In an extremely organized fashion (I am a Virgo, after all), I methodically and avidly read all the biographies of African-American figures, and all the ones of women; not surprisingly, I was particularly interested in their stories. I remember being disappointed when I read the last one. I didn’t realize then that those were only a few of the stories out there.
History is so full of wonderful stories, and so many of them are unknown to so most of us. I was inspired to write my musical Barnstormer when I was flipping through a book researching another historically-based project. I saw a picture of a beautiful Black woman wearing a leather flyers’ cap, which I knew placed her in the 1920s. I’d certainly never heard of an African-American aviatrix, so I did some research into this Bessie Coleman person. I found her story to be fascinating, inspiring, and eminently theatrical. Yet, despite the fact that her face was on a stamp some years ago (and her name is on a road leading to O’Hare International Airport), many people still don’t know who she is, let alone what she did. Hers is just one of the many stories “hiding in plain sight” in history – and on my bookshelves — that needs to be dramatized.
Cheryl L. Davis is the VP of Communications for LPTW. She has received the Kleban Award for her work as a librettist, and her play about the desegregation of America’s schools has received critical acclaim and tours regularly. She is a partner with the law firm of Menaker & Herrmann LLP.