Nehassaiu deGannes, MA, MFA (AEA)
Actress, Poet, Playwright & Educator
What's In A Name?
On first encounter, folks may find my name a little difficult to pronounce, so lets start there:
né-hé-sigh-u is a little song
say to yourself, "I'll never lie to you"
now say Né-hé-sigh-u
and... di-ganz rhymes with "Sands"
In fact, this spring I had the honor and joy of playing Diana Sands in a new play about her life and art by Steve Willis, directed by Sue Lawless and produced by Lorna Littleway's Juneteenth Legacy Theatre. I worked opposite Broadway veteran, Hope Clarke, in this two-person play, and because I was an emergency replacement I had exactly two weeks from first rehearsal to opening night to learn two songs, three dances and of course all of my lines, which included excerpts from G. B. Shaw's St. Joan and Major Barbara,
Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet, Baldwin's Blues For Mister Charlie, Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin In The Sun, as well as Tiger, Tiger, Burning Bright, and The Owl and The Pussycat.
I knew little about Ms. Sands before this project, but from the moment I began to research her in preparation for the audition, I knew we were kindred spirits. What other audition call would ask us to prepare "Beneatha" and "St. Joan!" I was summoned. I was hooked. Diana Sands demanded and pioneered a career that included roles flowing through all the tributaries of our rich, diverse theatrical canon: classical roles and roles she made classic, Broadway, off-Broadway, film, television, blaxploitation, political-activist roles from St. Joan to her role in Willie Dynamite.
What an honor to have Backstage call me "the ideal surrogate for Diana Sands."
photo credit: chia messina
photos: Jonathan Musser
Broadcast: Nehassaiu's latest collection of poems, Undressing The River, winner of the Center For Book Arts 2011 Letterpress Chapbook Prize, NOW AVAILABLE ONLINE .
Selected by Kimiko Hahn & Sharon Dolin.
Designed & Printed by Ed Rayher, Swamp Press.