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'Boulevard of Bold Dreams' at Stoneham theater portrays first Black woman to win Oscar

'Boulevard of Bold Dreams' at Stoneham theater portrays first Black woman to win Oscar
'Boulevard of Bold Dreams' at Stoneham theater portrays first Black woman to win Oscar 02:51

BOSTON – The Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham is helping to celebrate Women's History Month with the East Coast premiere of a new play highlighting Hattie McDaniel.

McDaniel was the first Black woman to ever win an Oscar, taking the Best Supporting Actress prize for her role as Mammie in "Gone with the Wind."

But McDaniel wasn't exactly welcome at the ceremony. She was told she wouldn't be allowed to sit with her castmates, and was excluded from all after parties.

The play "Boulevard of Bold Dreams" is a fictional account of what happened the night of the 12th Academy Awards in 1940.

Director Taavon Gamble said the piece highlights the internal debate McDaniel may have had before accepting her award.

"It's that sense of pride of yes, I'm accomplishing something and it's a historic event, but still feeling very separate from everyone else and not feeling equal," Gamble said. "And I think that's part of what the show kind of harks at and ask us questions about."             

The play takes place at the Ambassador Hotel, the site of the Academy Awards, which had a strict "No Blacks" policy at the time.

Samantha Jane Williams portrays McDaniel as she met a maid and bartender.

Williams said the piece "goes through her journey of coming across these two people in this space that she's not at the time, not allowed to be in, and just her kind of struggling between 'Should I go, shouldn't I go?'"

Gamble hopes the play will give new insight into a woman who was so important in breaking barriers.

"They don't understand how she became the beacon that she ended up becoming for her rights, this leader that she became that was not wanted," he said. "She didn't choose that. She just wanted to be able to do what you love, and it kind of just happened."

McDaniel eventually decided to attend the awards ceremony and in doing so changed history.

Williams said she thanks her and knows other actresses, especially actresses of color, thank her for what she put herself through.

Boulevard of Bold Dreams is at the Greater Boston Stage Company on Main Street in Stoneham through March 19.

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