Coatesville Woman’s Artistry Inspired by the Work of This 19th-Century Poet

Oni Lasana
Oni Lasana.

Coatesville resident and artist Oni Lasana finds her inspiration in the poetry of Paul Laurence Dunbar, the acclaimed 19th-century writer, writes Tyler Dague for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Lasana grew up in an artistic household with her mother, who sang in the Negro Opera Ensemble in Philadelphia.

“She liked the arts, and she exposed me to the arts at an early age,” said Lasana.

Lasana is now sharing her gift with the world in a one-woman play, Doin’ Dunbar as ‘Lias’ Mother. The play is a series of monologues featuring Dunbar’s poetry.

She was first introduced to Dunbar’s works by fellow Coatesville artist Bob Jones. He formed a group that presented Dunbar’s poetry theatrically in schools. The group, including Lasana, raised enough funds to start the Coatesville Cultural Society.

After Jones died unexpectedly, Lasana was asked to continue to present Dunbar’s poetry. That request prompted her show.

“I got overzealous, so I created monologues to connect each of the poems,” she said. “I ended up writing my own play and connecting all the poems that I knew, that I had performed for maybe five or six years.

“His poetry touches on human nature. I often say ’Lias’ mother is everybody’s mother because it’s so rich in feelings.

Read more about Oni Lasana in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

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