“The Glory Train” gospel musical comes to Durham

Antioch Baptist Church Women of the World presents a creative and powerful gospel musical, "The Glory Train" on September 22 at 2pm. (Image by Ruth Starr Rose, 1939)

Determination, faith and humor. These are just a few words Karen Lewis, the niece of one of the actresses and a member of the Antioch Baptist Church uses to describe tomorrow’s gospel musical, “The Glory Train.”

For the last three years for Black History Month the Drama Ministry of St. Matthews in Greensboro, N.C holds this play in honor of how the African-American women in churches have been a symbol and power to be reckoned with in the community. Now the gospel musical is being used as a part of help aiding in the Lincoln Community Health Center Foundation and Homeless Project. It is being shown the day before “Women’s Day” Appreciation Service this Sunday at Antioch Baptist Church on Holloway Street.

The Glory Train holds ten women whose characters are named after their personalities. One of the characters is named  “High Sista Class” played by Ernestine Taylor. Every character holds a special place and plays a big part in the play; however “High Sista Class” is one of the leading personalities on stage. “Sista High Class” is the lady in the church with the extremely big hat that walks around with her head held high and sits in the first row of the church. She only speaks to certain people in the church and is extremely prideful in her image. The one that judges people based off looks and their mistakes. However, never choosing to see her own mistakes as sins. Every character symbolizes the eccentric personalities in the church you would probably find in your own. The women are on the Glory Train thinking they have been living life faithfully for Christ, but they will soon learn the truth. They will learn the error in their ways.

All of the proceeds will benefit the Lincoln Community Health Center Foundation/Homeless Project. (Posted by Karen Lewis via Facebook)

“The characters are funny and they are real people,” said Taylor. “Every time we perform one of the pastors, reverend or a sponsor will say ‘We have a woman just like this in our church.'”This musical has been directed by Gwen Poole since their first performance at St Matthews UMC in 2004. The Glory Train gospel was originally written with nine cast slots, but now consists of ten well-written personalities after Poole re-modified.

Gwen Poole has been directing for about 30 years with the FirstFruits Drama Ministry of St Matthews Church in Greensboro. Ever since High School she found a strong pull towards the theater stage. She’s been cast in multiple plays and found herself writing productions for her ministry. “I do not know who wrote the play, but I saw it many years ago at another church I visited and thought it was a funny, yet poignant production piece. Many years later I went back to get the script. There were so many markings on it that I had to clean it up. The script had so much potential,” said Poole.

Just as she said the script did have potential. The musical has been up and down the middle of East Coast since she took over the ‘Glory Train’ traveling from Roanoke, Virginia to Durham. In 2016 they performed at a AME Regional Conference and their biggest performances were located at the Triad Stage Theater in Greensboro.

One of the biggest challenges for Gwen Poole and Ernestine Taylor is the timing and outside forces they cannot control. For a director, Poole suggested the size of the location and whether the facility has sound amplifiers makes it a little difficult for production. For an actress, Taylor said she experienced a time where her personal life interfered with the stage.

“You might see yourself in one of the characters or it may remind you of a friend or relative,” said Lewis. “We’re excited to bring the play to the Triangle!”

The ‘Glory Train’ will be held at the Hayti Heritage Center on 804 Old Fayetteville Street, Sat., Sept. 22. Doors will open at 1pm and the show starts at 2pm. Advance tickets are being sold for $10 and at the door $15. All of the proceeds will benefit the Lincoln Community Health Center Foundation/Homeless Project.

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