PEMBROKE — The collaboration between the outdoor drama “Strike at the Wind!” and UNC Pembroke’s theatre program stretches 40-plus years.
“Strike at the Wind!” often leaned on the theatre program’s students and staff for actors, stagehands and providing technical support. The longstanding relationship continues tonight as the iconic drama returns to the Adolph Dial Amphitheater at the Lumbee Tribe Cultural Center.
The play will be performed for four nights —Tuesday through Friday — beginning at 8 p.m. each night. The show on Friday is sold out. General admission is $10. For tickets, visit uncp.edu/gpac or call the Givens Performing Arts Center Box Office at 910.521.6361. All sales are final.
Chairs will be provided in the upper section. Guests in the lawn seating section must bring their own chairs.
The play tells the story of the Lowrie War in 1865. It chronicles the life of Henry Berry Lowrie, who led a band of men in a seven-year battle against those he believed killed his father and brother. Jonathan Drahos, professor and director of the Theatre Program at UNCP, has directed the play for the last five years. Nearly half of the cast, including Henry’s wife, Rhoda Strong, are current students or theatre program alumni.
Third-year theatre student Cheyenne Ward is playing Rhoda for the second year in a row.
“I’m excited about this season,” Ward said. “Dr. Drahos is digging into the characters’ emotions this year, especially with the intentions behind Henry and Rhoda’s lines. I can’t wait to see how the community will react.”
Bill Oxendine, who will reprise the role of Henry, said the audience can expect to enjoy a theatrical experience of a story not only about the Lumbee people and their fight against racial injustice but a story about people of all races who band together and take a stand for the voiceless.
“They can expect to see a great cast who is passionate about what we are doing and who will lay it all out on the stage,” said Oxendine, a veteran of the stage and a 2021 graduate of the theatre program.
“Strike at the Wind!” is a family affair for the talented Oxendine family as Bill’s older brother, Wyvis Oxendine Jr., plays the hot-headed Sheriff Reuben King. Their sister and fellow UNCP theatre alumna, Wynona Oxendine, plays the leader while their mother, Denise, assumes the role of Mama Cumbo.
“It’s much more fun and natural playing alongside my family,” said Bill Oxendine, who has been accepted into the Actors Studio Drama School at Pace University in New York City, N.Y.
“I’m so comfortable being on stage with them,” he said. “It’s fun getting to spend time with them because acting takes a lot of your time, so it’s great to go through this process with them.”
Onstage chemistry can be tough but not for Bill and Cheyenne––who’ve been longtime friends, starred together in other plays and recently took their love off stage.
“Similar to acting alongside my family, when it comes to scenes that involve intimate moments you must feel comfortable with that person for the performance to be believable and successful, so that makes those scenes easier for us.”
This week’s shows continues a tradition that has been a vital part of the tribe’s culture since 1976. The play returned in 2017 after a 10-year hiatus.
“Dr. Drahos has been open to the ideas of the community and trying to understand the culture and come up with ways to improve the play,” he said. “Henry Berry Lowrie was a voice for the voiceless during a time of segregation. It was inspiring to see blacks, whites and native people working together for a common goal not just for Lumbee people, but for all people.”