Showcasing the Magical Perspective of Storytelling

The World Premiere of the "Tales of Anansi".

By Michael Abrams, MVHS Web Curator
February 07, 2024

To kick off Black History month, the MVHS Theatre Arts team premiered “Tales of Anansi” over the first weekend in February. 

According to African and Caribbean folklore, “Anansi the spider” is a master storyteller and is considered by some, as one of the greatest folk heroes of the world. Through a variety of tales, Anansi demonstrates his wisdom, uses his uncanny ability to outwit his larger challengers and represents the good and bad experiences faced by members within the African community. The stories of Anansi have shifted over the years based on the needs of those telling and of those listening to the respective stories.

The version presented by the MVHS Theatre team was written by Prentiss Matthews III, directed by MVHS Theatre Arts teacher Reneé Charlow and choreographed by MVHS Dance Instructor Eboni Jones (images below). This collaboration is historic for the MVHS Theatre Arts Program. The  production is the first in MVHS History to be written, directed and choreographed by African Americans.

Ms. Charlow acknowledged the significance for releasing the play during February. “Black History Month is a time of reflection, celebration, and acknowledgment of the pivotal role that African and African-American individuals have played in shaping our shared history in this great country. Tales of Anansi pays homage to this legacy by centering the narrative around Anansi the Spider, a beloved figure in African and Caribbean folklore and a symbol of storytelling, a craft deeply rooted in African traditions. To fully embrace the diversity represented at Mount Vernon, the cast represented a tapestry of various cultures and experiences. May this world premiere be a testament to the enduring legacy of Black history and a celebration of the universal themes that connect us all in this communal human experience.”

Images of Tales of Anansi Playwright, Director and Choreographer

Playwright Prentiss Matthews III joined the cast and crew for Friday’s showings. During our conversation, Mr. Matthews explained that this project was developed with the “Disney effect” in mind. In other words, the associated themes and messages were “universal for all” while maintaining its cultural relevance in the process. He added that he hopes his works “showcase the magical perspective of storytelling.”

Prior to the initial set of shows open to the entire MVHS community, several elementary schools from the immediate vicinity received a special showing. Based on the resonating reactions of applause and laughter that came from the MVHS Little Theatre, visiting students truly enjoyed the storytelling options shared by our production of Anansi’s adventures.