Girl From the North Country was the last Broadway show to officially open before the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown theaters. It’s now been over 100 days since a curtain rose for an audience and Girl From the North Country star Kimber Elayne Sprawl is using the time to rest and use her voice to amplify others. Sprawl appeared on a recent episode of Broadway.com’s #LiveatFive: Home Edition to talk about how the message of the Bob Dylan musical is more relevent than ever and why she decided to create #ToBeBlack.
After opening on March 5, Conor McPherson’s Girl From the North Country had less than a week of performances before the shutdown went into effect. Although Sprawl misses the show, she’s thankful for the time of rest. “The first thing I did was just take a couple days to sleep,” she said to Broadway.com Paul Wontorek. “We recorded our cast album right after we opened, and we only had one normal day where we didn’t have anything to do. I didn’t really have time to think about it. You have your moments where it’s like, ‘Yes, this sucks’ but you through that. You find a new way to live your life which is what I’ve been doing. Overall, I feel happy despite all the other things.”
Part of finding a “new way” to live life was to create #ToBeBlack, a viral video featuring 30 Black actors in a collaborative interpretation of Hamlet’s famous soliloquy. “My friend Ellis Dawson came to me and he wanted to do something to glorify Black people,” she said. “We were looking at a bunch of different monologues and trying to figure out what the black experience was in relation to art and ‘to be or not to be’ was calling out to both of us. When you read the text, it’s chilling. ‘To be or not to be, to live or to die.’ Everyone thinks about that but it’s different when you are constantly seeing your people dying for no reason.” I read the text every day—and you can literally go through line by line and it relates to the African-American experience in this country. ‘Who would suffer the whips and scorns of time?’ That’s slavery, that’s Jim Crow, that’s segregation. I could tell that it was special because the first email that I sent out to people, everyone was so excited. I’m really proud of it.”
Although there is still no official return date for Broadway, Sprawl is expecting Girl From the North Country to have a whole new meaning for both the cast and the audience. “I feel like we’re going to need a substantial rehearsal,” she said. “The world is different now. The way everyone will be approaching their roles, the way we’re going to be as a group, is going to be completely different. That’s the beautiful thing about theater, it’s always evolving. I think our show is going to hit so hard when we return, it really puts things in a new perspective. It literally is about the Great Depression. If you didn’t feel it before, you’re going to feel it now. Everyone has now experienced what we experienced in the world of Duluth. I think people are really going to resonate with that when we bring it back around.”
Hear Sprawl talk about chatting with Don Cheadle in more in the full episode below!