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Hat Queens With Attitude Reign In ‘Crowns,’ A Gospel Musical

In the gospel musical “Crowns” every hat tells a story. The production is based on a book of photographs and oral history interviews of African-American women in their Sunday best. Their hatsprovide entry points into conversations about memory, loss, family, and politics. 

The staged production follows the story of Yolanda, an African-American teenager trying to figure out her identity in the wake of her brother’s death. As Yolanda is grappling with grief, her mother sends her to the South to live with her grandmother. It is there that she is exposed to the ‘hat queens,’ who invite her into their community.

The production was written by Regina Taylor and premiered in 2002. It is now brought to the stage in Raleigh by Raleigh Little Theater. The production opens Friday, Aug. 27 and runs through Sunday, Sept. 10.

Host Frank Stasio speaks with director Terra Hodge and actors Lynnette Barber and Chelsey Moore. He is also joined by Blair L.M. Kelley, a history professor from North Carolina State University who provides context on the significance of women’s head coverings in African-American history.

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Anita Rao is an award-winning journalist and the host and creator of "Embodied," a weekly radio show and podcast about sex, relationships & health. She's also the managing editor of WUNC's on-demand content.
Longtime NPR correspondent Frank Stasio was named permanent host of The State of Things in June 2006. A native of Buffalo, Frank has been in radio since the age of 19. He began his public radio career at WOI in Ames, Iowa, where he was a magazine show anchor and the station's News Director.