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Sistas on Fire!: A Look At The Newsical

Sistas on Fire! cast

Hurricane Katrina, Black Lives Matter, missing women and girls, racial stratification on Long Island, sexual exploitation, black-on-black crime, and male/female relationships. Imagine a play that addresses all of this in a mix of song, dance, spoken word poetry, and prose. That’s what “Sistas on Fire!” does from a female perspective.

“Sistas on Fire!” was written by Marcia McNair and Anissa D. Moore, two professors at Nassau Community College. Moore is the first African-American woman to be elected to the Long Beach City Council. A former assistant editor at Essence Magazine, McNair is also the producer of the play.

The “newsical” is currently playing at Main Stage ( 312 W. 36th Street).

McNair and Moore discuss “Sistas on Fire!” with The New York Trend.

New York Trend: First, why the title?

Marcia McNair

Marcia: Very often, being mad or angry, especially on the part of women, is seen in a negative light. We wanted to turn that notion on its head by describing anger in a different way, which is being on fire.  Being on fire means we are passionate about spreading awareness and challenging social injustice. Of course, the reference to sistas is a direct reference to African American women.

Anissa: “Sistas on Fire” captures the passion and power of African American women when they break silence about issues concerning their lives.

New York Trend: How has the feedback been? 

Marica: The response of our audiences has been overwhelming. Our performances are either sold out or have standing room only. When we performed at MITF, we had to turn people away.

Anissa: The play has received positive feedback from diverse audiences. Audience members leave the play wanting to share their stories, seeking to use their “anger” to transform their communities.

New York Trend: What led to this story? 

Marcia: African-American women have stories that are not being told in the media.  One story in particular, the execution of Frances Newton, who was the first African American woman to be executed since 1869, went virtually unreported in the press. As a result, we knew it was time for us to stop lamenting the situation and take some action. SoF is our way of being proactive.

New York Trend: Considering the state of the country, do you feel this play is being shown at a vital time?

Marcia: The time is right for SoF now more than ever before of the election of Donald Trump. His message has been to devalue diversity. Our play is about celebrating it, and there are millions of disenfranchised Americans who agree with us.

Anissa D. Moore

Anissa: This is a critical time to share the experiences of Black women—we are a part of the Other within American society. Our society lacks empathy- the ability to identify with others. We cannot address racism, sexism, homophobia and other isms until we learn to see others and listen to understand.

New York Trend: What’s next for the play? 

Marcia: We want to continue to perform and spread our message.

Anissa: We seek to maximize our opportunities – it is vital that schools, colleges and universities have access to the play. Moreover, in light of the most recent events in our country, Broadway and national venues must also be in our future.

New York Trend: What’s next for you?   

Marcia: I am always writing something, and I have plans to write more essays, another book, and perhaps another play.

Anissa: I am currently seeking a publisher for my collection of essays: “Mad Girl: Reflections on Race, Class and Gender.”

About the Author

Ann is a freelance writer who started her professional career at the NY Trend more than two decades ago. Ann has since gone on to write for a number of major outlets including: Black Enterprise, Essence, MadameNoire, Pathfinders, Frequent Flier, Playboy, The Source, Girl, Upscale, For Harriet, The Network Journal, AFKInsider, Africa Strictly Business, AFKTravel, among others.