We journey back to the 1990s to meet an exemplary and famous performer, Alice Lovelace, who began teaching poetry in a church basement 20 years prior to her show at Barking Legs. At that time, Alice was a member of the Pan-American Writers’ Workshop at Washington University in St. Louis. By the time she appeared with us in Chattanooga, first in 1994 and then in 1997, Ms. Lovelace was a published poet,
essayist, playwright, narrative performer, myth maker, and word wizard. She was part of contemporary southern transplants forging new perspectives on human themes.

Alice’s style was described as a cross between West African praise singer and a black southern preacher. In 1994, Alice joined two other southern women performing on January 22nd . She presented “Playing with Fire,” in which she explored her search for “family accounting” through story, song, and poetry. Her themes are personal and universal, seeking to restore her relationship to southern parents.

Her compelling talents brought her back with us on February 7-8, 1997. By then, Alice’s diverse talents included holding creative writing and poetry workshops with students in Chattanooga. Barking Legs performers have frequently combined teaching and performing in the community during its 30-year history.

A feature article appeared in The Chattanooga Times on 2/7/1997, in which Alice describes her stories as “how I learned to value people over things.” She believes that as a creative writer, she must speak the truth as she knows it. She explained, “Over the years I have some to know many truths—some disturbing, some glorious. At this stage in my career, I seek to reconcile some of these truths—personal, political, and historical.”

Particularly relevant today, is her story entitled, “Ceremony for Dead White Men, ”a provocative, commissioned work in 1992. This piece gave a timeless response to a multi-cultural movement in which people were angry about deceased, white men teaching inherited traditions in Western Europe. Alice explained, “This piece is about how one era must pas away in order for a new era to come.”

Few of us can disagree with the Alice Lovelace’s pregnant wisdom —waiting for rebirth in our troubled times today!

By BLT

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