Empowering Muskegon Civic Theatre play explores Black women’s relationships with their hair

From Afros to braids, hair for Black women is deeply personal and political. It is often about identity and the quest for equality.

This world of Black womanhood and self-love is explored in the play, “The Glorious World of Crowns, Kinks, & Curls.” Written by Keli Goff in the tradition of “The Vagina Monologues” and “For Colored Girls,” the play is a collection of monologues and scenes exploring the complex relationship women have with their hair.

The play will make its West Michigan debut at the Muskegon Civic Theatre at the Beardsley Theatre,  in the Hilt Building of the Frauenthal Center on Feb. 9 and runs through Feb. 24. (Tickets can be bought here.)
Director Jeanette Casson
“It’s a history lesson, a cultural experience, and last but not least, it's entertainment,” says director Jeanette Casson, who has collaborated with MCT for 20 years in various roles. “I want people to leave with some real information, a sense of pride and awareness.”

Personal journeys

Casson, who retired from the Muskegon Heights Public School system in 2019, has a background in educational leadership. 

However, she says, she has always been interested in writing and playwriting. She eventually got involved with the drama ministry at her church, and, with the encouragement of her mentors, became involved with Muskegon Civic Theatre. Casson says that once she started there, she wanted to learn all aspects of play production. She has directed at least five shows for the theater.

“The Glorious World of Crowns, Kinks, & Curls” will run at the Muskegon Civic Theatre from Feb. 9-28.

Trina Sandifer, one of the six ensemble members, is in her third MCT production. She says she did plays back in high school but stopped up until four years ago. With “The Glorious World of Crowns, Kinks, & Curls,” Sandifer feels this story about hair is part of her journey.

“In my 54 years, I have a lot of stories about my hair, but I think the thing about hair for me has always been a level of confidence and comfortability,” says Sandifer, who has tried relaxers, dye, asymmetrical styles, and other attempts to fit in.

As an adult, Sandifer restarted her hair journey by doing the “big chop,” leaving “maybe not even an inch of hair on my head.” She says that her haircut was liberating and led to an understanding of what her mother has told her from the beginning about how beautiful she was. Since 2019, Sandifer has had locs. “I had to become a young woman to be comfortable with who I am,” she says.

Recounting deep experiences

Casson, whose mother had one of the first black cosmetology schools in Muskegon (Gaynett Beauty School), grew up around hair, adding that some of the trends we see now, such as pink and other colorful shades of hair, were styles she saw in her mother’s shop when she was a teen back in the late ‘60s.

“The Glorious World of Crowns, Kinks, & Curls” is not a traditional play, Casson stresses. She describes it as a series of powerful stories that represent black women’s experiences with their hair in various settings, including the workplace, and even how others view their hair. Cast members range in ages 21 to 54.

Casson suggests that playgoers not bring children under the age of 12. These stories will touch on some complex scenarios and will be educational, touching on the CROWN (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair) Act, which prohibits hair-based discrimination at school and work. Due to this, she also suggests that parents have conversations with their children about these topics.

“It is an opportunity for all people, not just Black people, to go beneath the surface and really understand how hair has been so impactful, why hair has been such an important part of our culture and experience,” Sandifer says. She credits Casson for helping the cast members bring their stories to life so those who attend can “believe the story.”
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Read more articles by Shanika P. Carter.