Award-winning entertainer Karla Burns ’81/81 never met Wichitan Hattie McDaniel (1895-1952), the first African-American to win an Academy Award, for her role in Gone with the Wind (1939). But Burns feels she knows her, nonetheless.
That’s because there are so many parallels between the two women. They both played Queenie in Show Boat, for instance, and as youngsters they lived in houses only 10 blocks apart in Wichita. And Burns has portrayed McDaniel on stage many times in the one-woman show Hi-Hat Hattie, most recently on Feb. 26 at The Orpheum in Wichita.
The one-performance production, Burns notes, was in celebration of Black History Month — and the induction of McDaniel into the U.S. Postal Service’s Black Heritage Commemorative Stamp Series. The “Hattie McDaniel” stamp was unveiled Jan. 25.
“Hattie McDaniel,” Burns says, “is part of the reason I’m able to do what I do anywhere in the world. She paved the way.” As her own musical tribute to McDaniel, Burns has just finished recording with WSU jazz trio members J.C. Combs, Mark Foley and Bill Thomson ’63/65.