We’re featuring the artists from the Supper Table project throughout the summer. This is the 21st in our series on Supper Table Artists!
It’d be nearly impossible to give a complete list of adjectives describing Supper Table honoree Mary McLeod Bethune. In her lifetime, Bethune was an educator, activist, businesswoman, and political advisor. She was friends to the Roosevelts and referred to by FDR as “The First Lady of the Struggle” for her tireless advocacy for black communities in America. Is it possible to contain all that is Bethune into a single place-setting? A single theatrical performance? Even if not, with incredible artists like these, we’ve come as close as possible.
Flavia Lovatelli is a local artist who created our Supper Table place-setting for Bethune. Passionate about collecting what society typically views as the “throwaways,” she is an artist who creates innovative, imaginative artwork using recycled goods. Originally from Northern Italy, she moved to the states in 1979, where she founded the Art Ecology Group, a movement of sustainable artists. She was one of four artists chosen to represent Sustainable Charlotte during the Democratic National Convention in 2012, and her work has won several awards including the CharlotteArtPop.
As a paper artist, Lovatelli used recycled magazine paper and textbooks for her place-setting, the textbook pages specifically representing Bethune’s passion for education, the foundation of her activism. The color red is prominent within the piece and “represents the strife, anger, passion and fight the African American community have suffered in History which fueled Mary’s causes” while the gold represents Bethune’s work in the political spectrum.
Overall, Lovatelli hopes that from her place-setting, people see the “incredible life, full of achievements and strides Mary McLeod Bethune had.”
Tasked with using her body and voice to present the life of Bethune is native Columbian, Jocelyn Sanders. Sanders has been actively engaged in theatre ever since graduating from college. She was employed for several years at Trustus Theatre as Box Office Manager. While working with Trustus, she was also one of the original founding instructors of the African American Acting Workshop, which was later renamed the Multi-Ethnic Acting Workshop. She left Trustus and went on to teach; her last teaching position was with Eau Claire High School where she instructed teachers in integrating the arts into their curriculum.
Sanders is a director and an actor, having worked in numerous productions in the city. Some of her most memorable productions she’s directed are Crowns and A Wedding Band, with Trustus Theatre, and A Lesson Before Dying and The Color Purple, with Workshop Theatre.
Sanders has reflected on how different the times were when Bethune was an activist versus today, and believes that if Bethune were alive now, she would look around and still see a whole lot of work to be done. In her performance, she hopes to show the empowering nature of Bethune when she was alive as well as use it as a challenge to pick up our own crosses today and continue the work she once started.
Lovatelli’s complete place-setting and Sanders’ performance will be available for viewing at both opening events for the Supper Table. Our opening night event is Friday, September 6th, at Trustus Theatre (almost gone!), and tickets start at $50. Our second opening event is Sunday, September 8th, at Harbison Theatre, and tickets start at $15.