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“For ‘Infamous Mothers,’ it’s been a long road from the conception to the auditioning to rehearsals and to actually seeing it come to life,” says Marie Justice. “The most beautiful part of any production is when you actually see all of these parts come together and everybody is show-ready. It’s that beautiful point we are at right now and we are so excited.”

Justice is the director “of “Infamous Mothers,” a play that brings to life true stories of incredibly strong women who “went through the belly of hell and brought something good back.” The play starts tonight and runs through Nov. 24 at the Bartell Theatre in downtown Madison and is being produced by Strollers Theater.

Based on the book “Infamous Mothers” by Sagashus Levingston, the play interposes Levingston’s own amazing story of a lifetime of overcoming tremendous obstacles with the stories of six real-life women from her book and four fictional women who represent the struggles and triumphs of all marginalized women. “Infamous Mothers” is also a movement and a for-profit start-up led by Levingston, who titled her Ph.D. dissertation “Infamous Mothers: Bad Moms Doing Extraordinary Things.” Her movement hopes to transform the way society understands, connects with, values and leverages the potential of our black mothers.

“Infamous Mothers” is a movement to transform the way society understands, connects with, values and leverages the potential of our black mothers.

“It’s so much fun working with Sagashus. She is amazing,” Justice tells Madison365. “Initially, she was a little shy about doing this. She was like, “I don’t know if I should do this; I don’t know if it should be me. I’m not an actress.’ But she has been absolutely incredible. This is her work and this is her story. Who else could do it like she can?”

Stars of the “Infamous Mothers” play include Levingston, Keena Atkinson, Liz Stattelman, Yemi Harding, Toya Robinson, and Tanisha Pyron.

“All of our actors have done such a wonderful job. This is such an important material – a beautiful piece of art that they are performing. It has such value and truth. It’s so real. It’s the real deal,” Justice says. “It’s real people stories. I’m so excited to see how this plays out on stage and I’m really excited to see how people receive it. I can’t wait!

“The cast is ready and super-excited. It’s been such a journey. It’s been a therapeutic, cathartic session every night. They are dealing with such heavy material,” she adds. “Because they understand the job that they have been entrusted with to truly do justice to these women and their stories and what an honor it is to act out and tell their stories.”

The production was written for the stage by Coleman and based on the adaptation of Levingston’s coffee table book. It features a new kind of hero that is black, urban and female and the stories are powerful.

From left to right: Keena Atkinson, Liz Stattelman, Sagashus Levingston, Yemi Harding, Toya Robinson, and Tanisha Pyron

“I think the actors understand how important this is,” Justice says. “And I think they are really eager to show people the really hard work – the really incredible work – that they’ve done. I think they are excited to see what the feedback is.”

There are several audiences that Justice says that they hope to reach with this powerful play.

“We definitely want to reach young women who are going through similar circumstances and need hope and want to see representation and that there is a future for them and they can succeed and add value to this world,” Justice says. “But then it’s also all about people telling diverse stories and being able to hear diverse stories in the theater … and having diverse audiences. There are so many factors that this play brings to the stage.”

There will be 10 total shows over the coming weeks starting tonight. Tickets are $20; $15 for students and seniors. “We have a really cool ‘Pay it Forward’ program that we are running with this so that you can buy an extra ticket and 100 percent of the proceeds will go to someone else who may not be able to afford it,” Justice says.

After each show there will be a talkback moderated by Levingston with special guests.

“The actresses have done such an amazing job channeling the voices of these real women. It’s really intense. There’s a lot of strong material they are working through. It’s inspiring,” Justice says. “It will make you cry, laugh, and it’s people’s real life experience that you will see on stage. I’m hoping that people will love it.”

Written by David Dahmer

David Dahmer

A. David Dahmer is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Madison365.

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