There are some recognizable Pictou County faces in the world premiere production of former Halifax poet laureate Shauntay Grant’s play, The Bridge, which is now playing at Neptune Theatre in Halifax.
Well known New Glasgow sisters Murleta Williams and Charla Williams both play choristers and Murleta is also musical director.
Murleta explains of the play, “It chronicles the 20-year conflict between two brothers and there are three choristers who are classified as gossips, of whom Charla and I are one.”
Murleta is no stranger to the stage — as a singer or actor. “I’ve done stage, film, radio, television, print — you name it I’ve been there. I’ve been everywhere because my career is not just starting,” she explains. “I’m on the other side of work.”
She has worked with Neptune, Eastern Front and Mulgrave Road theatre companies. “You name it I’ve done it,” she laughs.
She has performed musically throughout North America, directed numerous choirs, hosted Gospel brunches and conducted Gospel music workshops, and lectures in Canada and the United States. She is currently supply minister of music at the Mahone Bay United Baptist Church and supplies music for select services and functions throughout Nova Scotia. She performs with The Williams Sisters singing Gospel.
“I encourage people to shop local, and this is local,” Murleta says. “Shauntay was born and raised in Halifax … and this work is just fun. And to think that it’s all from here, all from her mind. The fact that she’s from here and is somebody I’ve known my entire life means a lot to me. It’s wonderful to work with somebody I’ve known well and long.”
Charla is thrilled to be in the play alongside her sister.
While she is well known as a masterful emcee, this will be a unique experience for her since it will mark her debut, her first professional acting job. She says she was cast thanks to acting workshops she enjoyed with Shauntay Grant and 2b theatre. She also performs with The Williams Sisters singing Gospel.
“This is a leap of faith for me,” she says.
Charla is quick to sing the praises of Shauntay Grant. “I cannot say enough good about her; this African Nova Scotia has captured the feeling of African Nova Scotia culture within the play. Regardless of where you are from, Grant has written about things that will resonate with everyone.”
Both Murleta and Charla are hoping that many Pictou County residents will go to see the play. And when they do, younger sister Julia Williams will be in her usual spot at the front of the house so local residents can see all three sisters at the same time.
The Williams grew up in New Glasgow, daughters of the late Murray and Aleta Williams. While they have been living and working in Halifax for several decades, they remain true to their New Glasgow roots.
The Bridge, which is 90 minutes of non-stop drama, runs Jan. 25-Feb. 10 at Fountain Hall in a 2b theatre company and Neptune Theatre co-production in association with e. Tickets can be purchased online at neptunetheatre.com or at the box office.
According to Neptune’s website, The Bridge is an exploration of faith, family and forgiveness. Set in a rural black Nova Scotian community, The Bridge explores the complexities of a relationship between two brothers strained over 20 years of secrecy, sin and shame. Secrets are revealed one by one from the brothers themselves, as well as a trio of community gossips — of which Murleta and Charla are two of — who provide the musical backdrop for this gospel-infused tale.
Murleta Williams, top photo, and Charla Williams, bottom.