“Scent of Magnolia” tells the story of a young woman (Billie Holiday) who rose above poverty, rape, bigotry, prostitution and imprisonment to become one of the most memorable and celebrated artists of the twentieth century. This one woman show portrays the life of a black jazz singer in America during the 30’s. The script does not dwell on the sensationalism of her addiction to alcohol and drugs but chooses, rather, to celebrate the whole woman and her music.
Billie tells us not only her story, but the nation’s story. She interjects her tale with her most famous music as well as some of her more obscure songs. In her own words, she talks about her struggle to succeed in spite of the segregation of that time and the difficulties she experienced singing with the great bands, most of which were white men. Without self-pity , she talks about the daily slings and arrows that are a part of bigotry. Billie takes complete responsibility for her life, her choices, and her actions. Her triumph was her music and her songs that will live on forever.
Production Notes: The band: The three to five piece live band plays behind a scrim and in silhouette; they represent the bands of Artie Shaw, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Benny Goodman. For budgetary reasons, a single pianist can be used very successfully.
Production History: 2012, Black History Month*Savannah*Live Oak Libraries: Excerpts and music from Scent of Magnolia. In 2005 the full length version was produced and performed to standing room only crowds at the Rialto Theatre near Corpus Christi, Texas. Summer of 2004, Arts Week, in Chicago, showcased this piece to standing ovations. The SAT Playwrights showcased Scent of Magnolia as a staged reading in March 2003. The Renaissance Guild, San Antonio’s premier black theatre, produced act one in their One Act Festival and it once again received standing ovations.
Original song by composer/song writer: Gary Swindell