Erica Yoleeta Goodman, Dedra Reid, LaShondra Hood, & Mariyah Martin in Crowns. Photo: Keith Waits


By Regina Taylor
Directed by Tyler Tate

A review by Keith Waits

Entire contents are copyright © 2024 by Keith Waits. All rights reserved.

Sometimes theatre is so emotional and viscerally engaging as to defy academic deconstruction. It becomes binary. It just works.

Crowns is a musical about Black women and the special hats they wear to church, but by the time Tyler Tate’s production is finished it has become church.

Regina Taylor’s book is a series of episodes introducing a young woman, Yolanda (Matiyah Martin), who is learning about the expression of faith and culture from a group of older women. The elderly Mother Shaw (LaShondra Hood), Velma (Dedra Reid), Mabel (Erica Yoleeta Goodman), Jeanette (Tash Hatchett), and Wanda (Stephanie Collins). They tell stories about their fulsome collections of hats – 200+ is not too many – how they find them, store them, and, most importantly, what crowns truly mean. And they sing gospel hymns.

All of this is pitched with great humor and passion. Philip Clemons is onstage as the one man. Preacher, husband, and father, he alternately questions and admires these ladies and their crowns.

Best of all, he sings. Clemons has one of the best singing voices in Louisville theatre, and he is a catalyst for ramping up the energy and bringing “the spirit” into Roots 101. Whether you see it as the Holy Spirit is up to you, I may not be a believer, but believe me when I tell you that the line between theatre and church, already marginal, was entirely obliterated in this performance. Besides Clemons’ fiery delivery, all the women brought down the house with equal ferocity, individually and in beautiful harmony. 

Because if you don’t believe in God, you cannot help but believe in these women. LaShondra Hood is a major talent, and the emotional intensity of her work has ringing authority. Erica Yoleeta Goodman has a tremendous voice and lets it run for all it is worth, but she is also a wonderful actor. Good singers can sing in character, and Tasha Hatchett and Dedra Reid prove it, while Stephanie Collins brings snap and sass to the youngest of the ladies.

Mariyah Martin is a magnetic presence, but she is set apart from the others by design. It is an unenviable position and she struggled to find the depth of her character until near the end. Still, I look forward to seeing more from her.

Noah Nehemiah Robinson’s costumes are a knockout, and the hats, the “crowns”, are created by Kristy Calman. I am familiar enough with her work on local stages as an actor but I had yet to learn of her impressive talents as a milliner. 

Unfortunately, Crowns was a one-weekend run, and you may have missed out. One can only hope that Redline Performing Arts can find room in a future season. I would not hesitate to go again to experience the joy and exuberance this ensemble brought to the stage. At the end of the play, the audience was on its feet and many held their right arm extended, palms out in the “Holy Hands” gesture. Church is where you find it, and last Saturday night, it could be found in Roots 101.

Featuring Philip Clemons, Stephanie Collins, Erica Yoleeta Goodman, Tasha Hatchett, LaShondra Hood, Mariyah Martin, Dedra Reid

Dancers: Kristin Ashby, Ariel Hall, Amber Hurst, Destyn Micthell, Nile Rower


May 18 & 19, 2024

Redline Performing Arts
Roots: 101
124 N. First Street
Louisville, KY 40202

Keith Waits is a native of Louisville who works at Louisville Visual Art during the days, including being the host of Artists Talk with LVA on WXOX 97.1 FM /, but spends most of his evenings indulging his taste for theatre, music, and visual arts. His work has appeared in LEO Weekly, Pure Uncut Candy, TheatreLouisville, and Louisville Mojo. He is now Managing Editor for