Oni Lasana as 'Lias' Mother


"Oni Lasana Doin' Dunbar as 'Lias' Mother" is OLP's most popular program. This one-woman traveling production  was the catalyst which carried Oni into the official world of storytelling.  

In 1994, Oni studied Dunbar's life, poetry and performed with the Bob Jones Dance and Theater Ensemble of the Coatesville Cultural Society of Chester County Pennsylvania.

In 1996 Dr. Ruby Perkins of Cheyney University in Pennsylvania requested Oni to present for her English class.

This unique historical and highly theatrical sto'try (poetic storytelling) is an uplifting educational and entertaining experience. The play features the southern dialect spoken word poetry of the iconic poet & author, Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906). 

Set during the 1800's on a plantation in Cross, So. Carolina, the home of Oni's paternal grandmother.

'Lias' Mother reveals the personal heartfelt experiences of an enslaved  woman living on a southern  plantation in America. 


Elias, affectionately called 'Lias' by his mother, is a fictional character mentioned in Dunbar's most beloved and recited poem, In The Morning.  

Oni Lasana brings Dunbar's African American dialect  poems of joy and sorry, to life. Music, movement and a powerful delivery, is connected to an engaging monologue.  

 "Lias' Mother brings out the best in her co-actors, be they a youngster or an elder. 

The finale culminates in a audience "rap-along" of Dunbar's most beloved standard English poem, Sympathy aka I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. 

Oni Lasana arranged the poem to the hip hop music of Timbaland, giving Dunbar's classic poem an unforgettable modern twist. 


 "I appreciated Oni Lasana's seamless weaving of Paul Laurence Dunbar's poetry with her own storytelling narrative. Oni has created a feisty woman who speaks her mind!"  

Ray Gray, Storyteller 

Peoples Light & Theater Co. Malvern Pennsylvania


Paul Laurence Dunbar's most loved and recited poem comes to life as Oni comforts her son Elias as only a mother can. With tender loving care, good advice and a little discipline.


In The Morning  
A Preference
When De Corn Pone's Hot   
De Way T'ings Come
Keep A 'Pluggin' Away
A Coquette Conquered
My Sort O'Man
When Dey 'Listed Colored Soldiers
Whistlin' Sam
When Malindy Sings
De Critters' Dance  
An Ante-Bellum Sermon

~ ~ ~

"Oni is the voice of Dunbar" Professor & Author Nikki Giovanni, Virginia Tech

"Many hearts were touched by your rendition of 'Lias' Mother."  

Debbie Allen, Actress, Director & Co-producer of Amistad, LA, California

"I felt like I was in the cabin with you."  

Audience member at African American Museum, Philadelphia 

"A MUST SEE!...Moving, enriching and a great addition to any college campus program...call her now!" 

Kim Poast, Community College of Denver, Woman Of Color Conference 


"Thank you so much for coming to my retirement celebration and for sharing your special poetic skills to entertain me and my guest. As always, you were terrific! 

Your Dunbar sketches are so special because they keep our rich cultural alive, in the hearts and memory of our people. Tuta Anana Tena, Hotep! 


Carolyn L. Holmes, Ph.D.

Director of African and African-American Studies Department, Philadelphia Board of Education

 Supervisor Prof. @ Drexel University, PA.

Featured at the 26th Annual National Black Storytelling Festival & Conference 

"Follow The Drinking Gourd"

Celebrating Heroes & 

Shero's of Freedom

November 2008, 

Cincinnati, Ohio

Bose-Giles Family Reunion, Lancaster PA



  • Foster and Muriel McCarl Coverlet Gallery, History Dinner Theater, Latrobe, PA
  • Lincoln University, PA
  • Cheyney University, PA
  • Virginia Tech University, VA
  • Tobago Heritage Festival
  • Dunbar House - Dayton, OH
  • Philadelphia Museum of Art
  • Mercer Museum of Doylestown, PA
  • Diego Martin Library of Trinidad
  • East Stroudsburg University, PA
  • Historic Johnson House, Philadelphia, PA
  • Woman Conference, Community College of Denver, Colorado
  • Retirement Party - African American Museum of Philadelphia
  • Freedom Village Sr. Living, Brandywine, PA
  • Bucks County Free Libraries, Pennsylvania  
  • Manassas Park City Schools, Virginia
  • DoDD Schools in Heidelberg, Hamburg, Kaiserslautern, Würzburg, Amburg, GERMANY
  • People's Light & Theater Co, Malvern PA
  • Indianola School District, Mississippi
  • Debbie Allen Dance Academy, Los Angeles
  • West Chester Historical Society & Museum
  •  PATCHWORK, a storytelling guild's TELLABRATION in 2008 & 1999 

Many more, schools, family reunions, libraries, senior centers, residencies, workshops & storytelling festivals.

In The Morning

Paul Laurence Dunbar's most recited & loved southern dialect poem.

Professor Poet & Author, Nikki Giovanni's words of appreciation

March 1999

Dear Oni,

What a triumph! We actually had to turn fifty people away.

You were superb! The audience laughed and cried and laughed and got hungry and clapped and laughed some more. We all absolutely loved you and can't wait until you are able to schedule us again.

Paul Laurence Dunbar would be extremely proud to see this daughter of the north, as he himself was a son of the north, taking up his voice to keep the hope, joy and dignity of a people now gone alive. You made us all so very proud, Oni, to be children of the sun.

Your sister in poetry,

Nikki Giovanni

Tenured Professor of English 

Virginia Tech University 

Blacksburg, Virginia

Middle School - University


 'Lias' Mother gives out higher educational life lessons.

South Philly Library


Elias comes in all shapes, sizes and ages!

History Dinner Theater


 The Foster and Muriel McCarl Coverlet Gallery, Latrobe, Pennsylvania 2016 








Pennsylvania 2016

~ Advertisement Statement ~


A engaging one woman theatrical production mixes the pathos and humor of Paul Laurence Dunbar's most loved dialect poems. A literary and historian's delight, it is a highly interactive spoken word  experience. 

Set after the Civil War in the 1800's, Oni Lasana Doin' Dunbar as 'Lias' Mother is a unforgettable heartfelt journey in American History, Literature and Music. 


"If Unique Is What You Seek"

Storytelling ~ Theater ~ Language Art - Music ~ History ~ Wellness 

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