Matthew Jacobs is a veteran of the stage.
He has performed in dozens of plays and productions, but none bigger than his next role as Henry Berry Lowrie in the resurrected production of “Strike at the Wind!"
Jacobs, a Lumbee and Pembroke native, understands the historical significance of “Strike at the Wind!” which has been a treasured part of Lumbee culture for four decades.
“I am excited for the younger generation who haven’t seen it,” Jacobs said. “It is powerful. The play is centered on an important part of our history and it tells the story of such a powerful person. So, this means a lot to the community.
“I am mainly excited that the show is back,” he said.
The play ran from 1976 to 1996 and was staged at the Adolph Dial Amphitheater at the Lumbee Tribal Cultural Center. It returned in 1999 and again in 2007. Show organizers say there is a lot of community interest in the revival of the two-night premier June 23 and 24. The show kicks off Lumbee Homecoming.
The former outdoor drama is being moved indoors and on stage at Givens Performing Arts Center at The University of North Carolina at Pembroke. Tickets are still available for both shows. The show begins at 7:30 p.m. both nights.
The Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina partnered with UNC Pembroke to revive the drama that tells the local story of the Lowrie War in 1865. It chronicles the life of Lowrie who led a band of men in a seven-year battle against those he believed killed his father and brother.
The performances will be directed by Jonathan Drahos, associate professor and director of theatre at UNCP. He has been a professional actor, director and dramaturge for 25 years and has starred on Broadway, in television and in feature films.
Drahos said he believes the audience will respond to Lowrie as a Lumbee hero who stood up and fought for justice.
“The play reflects Henry's committed action toward equality and freedom for all people in this great country,” Drahos said. “His ‘gang’ was made up of diverse cultures and diverse races and they all fought together for a better world.
“I am proud of our cast and crew for working so hard to bring this very important story back in our social consciousness. My hope is that through our efforts, the play can have a fresh vision and eventually return to its proper home - outdoors at the Lumbee Cultural Center.”
Usually cast as a funny sidekick, this is Jacobs’ first lead role. A seasoned actor with Purple Door Productions, he was a member of the 2007 cast of “Strike at the Wind!”
Jacobs said he expects the audience to be “moved” by the latest rendition of the play.
“The underlying message that the play offers is that our people should have the same rights and being treated equally,” he said. “That is what Henry Berry Lowrie stood for, to his core. He fought for a just cause which was that everyone’s voice should be heard.
“I think people are going to be pleased with the attention that Drahos has brought to the play,” Jacobs said. “He has achieved a sense of realism with the characters. He has been able to bring out the emotions of each character and depict the struggle and conflict they were experiencing during that time. Considering the theatrical setting, this will be much more of a presentation than an outdoor drama.”
Rhoda Strong, Lowrie’s love interest, is played by Wynona Oxendine. Mac McGill plays Shoemaker John, Henry’s right hand man.
“I feel like this show has more drama and more energy than the outdoor production,” said McGill, a theatre student at UNCP. “With it being set on stage, it is more ‘up close and personal.”
Givens Performing Arts Center is proud to present this historic drama, according to the center’s executive director, James Bass.
“In doing so it makes our offerings more robust and it reaffirms our commitment to the community and the preservation of local history,” Bass said.
"I think Dr. Drahos will do a great job directing the show. He has a passion for the story, and he has the talent to bring it to the stage.”
Attendees are traveling from as far away as New York and Florida.
The show features several cast members from previous “Strike at the Wind!” productions. Discounts are being sold for $15 to former cast and crew members who bring a souvenir program from one of the past seasons, along with a photo ID. Former cast members can purchase up to six tickets at the discounted rate.
The general admission is $25 in advance and $30 at the door. Admission is free for children 3 and under. There will be general admission seating.
For tickets, call 910.521.6361 or online at uncp.edu/gpactickets.