Katherine Coleman Johnson program at Lewis Theatre a success

Neely Seams (left), Kathy Goble Moore, Danny Seams, and Pamela Barry as they answer questions from the audience.

In spite of very uncooperative weather, a capacity crowd came to the Lewis Theatre for the program about Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Mar. 24.

The Greenbrier Historical Society, the program sponsor, deeply regrets the issues with the weather which forced the cancellation of the 7 p.m. show and the inconvenience caused to those ticket holders.

Kathy Goble Moore spoke about the lessons her mother taught by both word and example. She said, “One of her favorite questions was ‘What did you learn today?’ and you better have an answer!” Moore said her mother believed in being “better not bitter” and seldom discussed the obstacles she had to overcome.

Moore also spoke about her own choice to become a teacher after witnessing the poor treatment received by children of color in the school system where she lived. She went on to become a mentor to many other teachers and helped them overcome their prejudices to better teach all their students.

Neely Seams and Danny Seams, once again, delivered a stellar performance of Pamela Barry’s short play, “Azimuth Angles, Orbit Calculations, Trajectories, Moon Landing: “The Right Stuff.” When Katherine’s father (played by Danny Seams) hugged Katherine (played by Neely Seams) and gave her words of wisdom, the audience felt the warmth of the moment between father and daughter as she tucked her head under his chin. The coldness and hurt of the “Jim Crow” south was also felt as Katherine was ordered to move to the back of the bus as she traveled to her first teaching job.

Many moments like these added up to a gripping performance after which the audience erupted into applause.

A short Q & A session ended the program with Danny Seams talking about this being his first “gig” since he was five years old and played a wise man in a church nativity play; Neely Seams responding that this performance had brought home to her how much her ancestors had had to overcome; Pamela Barry describing her growing excitement as she discovered more and more original material and quotes as she wrote the script; and Kathy Moore commenting that her mother still loved West Virginia and White Sulphur Springs so much.

Afterward, Pamela Barry said, “For me, this moment moved me, when my writing and Neely’s acting moved Kathy to tears as she felt she was watching her mother as a young woman. That moment, for me, was so powerful.”

This short play was also well received by the students in James Monroe High School and Pocahontas County High School.  Nearly 1000 students were reached with Katherine Johnson’s message that all students have talents and can succeed even though they may face obstacles.  The Greenbrier Historical Society is grateful to the Greenbrier Valley Community Foundation for partially funding those events.