Before it became home to upscale town homes and condominiums, Deep Deuce was the place to be for members of Oklahoma City's black community.
And that is the setting for “Swingin' and Singin' in Deep Deuce,” a play set in the district's heyday in the 1930s and 1940s. The show is playing at Metropolitan Library System branches.
The show was written by Dwe Williams of Rhythmically Speaking and coincides with Black History Month. The idea for the play was given to Williams by two women who frequented Deep Deuce.
“It actually came from the memories of two Alzheimer's patients who were once maids in Oklahoma City,” Williams said. “They called Thursday night ‘Maids Night Out.' At noon they got off work and spent the rest of the day getting ready to go to Deep Deuce. This show makes those Thursday nights and these two women the focus.”
Williams said she pulled old issues of the Black Dispatch newspaper to capture the feel of the 300 block of NE 2 in the 1930s and 1940s. She also took advertisements for hair and skin care products and implemented them in the show.
“I realized that those items had come into play as these women were getting ready to go out for the evening,” she said. “We took those advertisements and put them into the show to give it a more authentic feeling of that era.”
The show features the singing of Adam and Kizzie Ledbetter, a husband-and-wife team who have toured internationally and perform regularly in Oklahoma City. A dance contest with audience participation has been incorporated into the script.
“Their music sounds a lot like the music of the 1930s,” Williams said. “Adam also plays the keyboard in the show. That was a very important part of it. We knew we had to incorporate the music and fashion of that era. People would dress up in their best clothes to go down to the Deuce and listen to music.”
Williams said researching the era was her favorite part of putting the show together.
“That's about 75 percent of the excitement for me,” she said. “This was a very compact area of town, but it really showed the best of African-American entrepreneurship, and it was very interesting to learn more about it.”
Williams said audiences have enjoyed the show, especially the dance contest. There are about six performances left in the show's run, which concludes Feb. 28.
“It's been well-received,” she said. “I think we have a mixture of people who come to learn about Deep Deuce, and those who want to enjoy the music. We see a lot of people shaking their heads in agreement at points in the show where they connect with what's happening through their own personal experiences. That's very rewarding.”