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CROWNS

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Winner of the Helen Hayes Awards for Best Production and Best Musical, “Crowns” is a moving and celebratory musical play in which hats become a springboard for an exploration of history and identity as seen through the eyes of Yolanda, a young African-American woman who has been sent South to stay with her aunt after her brother is killed in Chicago. Here, in a culture that is so different than that in which she has grown up, hats are everywhere, in exquisite variety. There is a hat for every occasion -- from flirting to churchgoing to funerals to baptisms. And, as strong women tell the stories of their lives through stories of their hats, Yolanda witnesses a tradition tracing back to African rituals and slavery and forward to the New Testament and contemporary fashion. Gospel music and dance underscore and support the narratives. The conclusion finds the standoffish young woman, whose cultural identity as a young African-American urban woman has been so at odds with the older Southern women, embracing hats and their cultural significance as a part of her own fiercely independent identity.

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