I have saved Wummie – and Latoya Edwards, who plays her – for last. Of the six characters in The Rolling Stone, Wummie has the quickest intelligence and is required to make some of the greatest sacrifices. Did Edwards, with whom I spoke on a Saturday between shows, agree?
“Wummie is very smart,” Edwards said, “and very motivated. Both she and her brother Dembe want to go to medical school but Wummie is more focused.” In her research for the role, Edwards delved into gender roles in Uganda. This study gave her a deeper sense of the obstacles even a bright young woman like Wummie would face in life. “Women in Uganda have few rights to anything. For example, say that my husband died. I wouldn’t have the right automatically to inherit his property. I would have to re-marry to have access.”
The Rolling Stone, Edwards went on, illustrates another fundamental fact for women in Uganda. “Most women end up working in hospitality. Most of them don’t have access to higher education. The fact that Wummie is so steadfast in her goal of becoming a doctor is impressive.”
So what of Edwards’ own life and career trajectory? “I was born in Jamaica,” she said, “ and my family left when I was three. We spent some time in the Bronx and then randomly moved to Connecticut.”
It was at the Regional Center for the Arts – a magnet high school, in Trumbull, Connecticut, devoted to the performing arts -- that Edwards began her formal training. “When I first heard about the Center,” Edwards said, “I was in middle school. At the time, I was interested in singing. But they didn’t have a voice major, they had musical theater. So I majored in that.” After graduation, Edwards went on to Pace University, in lower Manhattan, where she eventually chose theater as a major.
“I haven’t been doing much singing since I left school,” Edwards said. “But musical voice training is helpful. Even though in The Rolling Stone I’m not singing many notes I still have to project and support my delivery. This show is very emotional and emotions alter your instrument.”
Because The Rolling Stone’s run ends this weekend I wanted to get Edwards’ sense of audience response throughout her experience with the play. “People love the show and they are really connecting to Wummie,” she said. “They want her to be able to experience more things.”
According to Edwards, one of the main discussions touched off by The Rolling Stone concerns the finale. “The play ends abruptly. People want to know what happens to the characters next. I say: ‘What do YOU think happens?’ Edwards added: “There are so many possibilities after the final curtain. One might be that Wummie goes to jail for four years, because she knew her brother was gay and that’s the punishment.” Edwards said that “even if Wummie did go to jail she would known how to study and occupy herself. She has big dreams, and she’s willing to work hard to achieve them.”
Brendan Lemon is the editor of lemonwade.com