IRT’s “Fannie” Features Explosive Solo Performance

January 15, 2024

Maiesha McQueen – Courtesy of Zach Rosing. Used with permission.

Maiesha McQueen – Courtesy of Zach Rosing. Used with permission.

If the Tony Awards were handing out honors for acting, on a regional level, Maiesha McQueen would surely qualify for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Play. That is because the critically acclaimed actor, whose credits include Broadway and regional theatre performances, delivered a stunning opening performance as the title character in “Fannie: The Life and “Music of Fannie Lou Hamer” Friday at Indiana Repertory Theatre on the OneAmerica Stage. The production runs through February 4.

Written by Cheryl L. West. The biographical drama with music. chronicles the life of intrepid  Fannie Lou Hamer Townsend (1917-1977) voting and women’s right activist and a leader in the civil rights movement. Vice ice-chair of the Freedom Democratic Party, she represented the group at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. Hamer also organized Mississippi’s Freedom Summer, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and was a co-founder of the National Women’s Caucus.

Maiesha McQueen – Courtesy of Zach Rosing. Used with permission.

McQueen’s 90-minute, nuanced, potent performance, deftly directed by Henry D. Gondez, was truly a master class in acting. She also excelled in singing, which Hamer, who was raised in church, regularly did when interacting with crowds during what she called, her “civil rights” work. McQueen was accompanied by a trio of seasoned musicians that included Morgan L Stevenson on piano, harmonica and vocals, Spencer Bean on acoustic and electric guitars, and Dorian Phelps on percussion and vocals. Performed were Gospel songs and those associated with the civil rights movement such as “This Little Light of Mine,” “I Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me ‘Round,” “We Shall Not Be Moved,” and “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize,” McQueen’s performance as Hamer singing the classic “My Country Tis of Me,” was one of most emotionally laden interpretations I have ever heard and one which appropriately summarized the patriot’s solid love for a country that failed her and her race.

Channeling the fearless, yet kindhearted and compassionate Hamer, who did not realize she could vote, until she was 44 years old, McQueen seamlessly captured the trailblazer’s efforts to empower and organize on behalf of disenfranchised Black people in her native south. Hamer did so despite the fact th she was extorted, threatened, harassed and assaulted by racist’s, including members of the police, while trying to register for and exercise her right to vote. One of her most vicious assaults occurred after was arrested and landed in jail where she was viciously beaten. McQueen’s monologue detailing the horrifying incident and its aftermath was one of the most affecting and convincing performances I have seen on.

Maiesha McQueen – Courtesy of Zach Rosing. Used with permission.

Known for its top-drawer production values, this IRT production   was no exception. Contributing to its professional polish and caliber was the artistic team consisting of music director Morgan L. Stevenson, scene designer Collette Pollard, costume designer Ari Fuller, lighting designer Jason Lynch, sound designer Victoria Delorio and projection designer Tutaj for projections.

At a time when democracy itself and the rights of the marginalized and unrepresented are under threat, the story of courageous Fannie Lou Hamer is a must see —especially for young people who need to learn the story of one, whom, despite the horrendous brutality and humiliation she suffered and endured. never gave up on the promise of America. It is also a story of hope — during an era of deep division and hate —we all need to be witness to.

For tickets and information about “Fannie: The Life and Music of Fannie Lou Hamer” visit  








photo: Josh Humble

About Tom

Journalist, producer, director, Emmy Award-winning documentary filmmaker, arts administrator, TV contributor, actor, model, writer and lyricist, Tom Alvarez has had an extensive career in media and the fine arts and continues to be an enthusiastic and devoted fan of both. His passion and unique background grant him insight, access and perspective to cover, promote and review the arts in Indianapolis, Central Indiana and beyond. Follow him on social media @tomalvarezartswriter and @tomalvarez1.

Alvarez has been writing about theatre, dance, music, cinema and visual arts for 40 years. His work has appeared in the Indianapolis Star, NUVO, Indianapolis Monthly, Arts Indiana, Unite Magazine, Dance Magazine, NOTE Magazine, and, among many other print and online platforms. A former contributor to Across Indiana on WFYI-TV, he currently has a regular performing arts segment on WISH-TV’s Life. Style. Live!

A principal of Klein & Alvarez Productions, LLC, Alvarez co-created “Calder, The Musical” and is the managing director of Magic Thread Cabaret. As an actor-model, he has appeared in numerous TV and print ads and is represented by the Helen Wells Agency and Heyman Talent Artists Agency.

On the Aisle Team

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