“Voices” is a series of theatrical vignettes portraying history from the Gold Rush period in Siskiyou County.

Local producer Mark Oliver will be bringing his collaborative production “Voices of the Golden Ghosts” to Weed at the Sons of Italy Hall on Feb. 9 at 2 p.m.

“Voices” is a series of theatrical vignettes portraying history from the Gold Rush period in Siskiyou County.

Oliver visited the new Community Center in Weed as a possible venue for the performance but he really needed a stage.

Kim Greene, the director of the Weed center suggested the Sons of Italy Hall, as it has a stage.

“As soon as he walked in he knew it was perfect,” Oliver said. He felt that the all-wood interior and the intimate stage “felt right” for the venue.

Mark Oliver said he has a family connection with the Sons of Italy Hall, too. In the dining room there are a number of photos of the Weed Sons baseball team which include his grandfather, Ray Fruzza, who played for the Sons.

In that same room in 2010 Oliver interviewed Lave Mazzier for the film “From the Quarters to Lincoln Heights,” which included a chapter on the Sons of Italy baseball team and their welcoming of African American ball players in a time when nobody else would let black people participate, he said.

It was during that time working on the story of Lincoln Heights that the doors opened to this new project, Oliver said. He was doing research on the U.S. census for the film when he discovered many African American names in Siskiyou County in the early records going back into the 1850s. Yreka and the small hamlets along the Salmon, Scott and Klamath River had African Americans included in the census records. Further research uncovered actual mine sites, names of waterways and geography with reference to African Americans.

As it turned out, there were around 3,000 African Americans working in the gold mines of California by the mid 1850s, Oliver said. Some came west on their own as free Americans mostly from the northern states and some came as slaves from the south. California entered the union as a free state but allowed southerners to bring their indentured people or “property.”

“Yes, that ugly chapter of American life made its way to California,” said Oliver. “That’s just one of the many things left out of the history texts that you will learn from this historical production.”

Like “From the Quarters to Lincoln Heights,” Oliver’s objective in taking on this project is “to tell a more honest story of who we are and how we got here as a society,” he said.

“So many important things are left out of early education that it takes years for us to get the truth about how we got to where we are today,” Oliver said. “Many of the details about our past as a nation are painful to revisit but if we don’t become a witness to the reality of what has happened in our country and our local communities we exist in this cultural amnesia.”

“Voices” shares many perspectives and realities that African Americans faced when they made their way up into the gold fields in the mountains of the Siskiyous.

Unlike the “Lincoln Heights” film, which interviewed more than 60 people to compose the story of migration, for this project there wasn’t that possibility to interview miners. Instead, Oliver gleaned from historical texts and used actors who recreated the conditions in early California.

To accomplish this, Oliver found actors in the Redding and Mt. Shasta area to play the roles of early miners. None of these participants have had any formal training, but you wouldn’t know that seeing their performances.

Oliver said he was inspired to use local community members as actors after seeing many films that use non-actors in their roles.

A few years ago, Oliver said he saw a performance in Redding by Fred Magee where he played a historic figure from Northern California’s black history. It was then that Oliver became convinced that this was a real possibility.

“It was Fred’s first stage appearance ... His performance was a monologue about Alvin Coffey who came to the Shasta City goldfields in the mid 1850s,” Oliver explained. “Coffey then returned and was sold to another man and returned again to mine a year later and this time bought his freedom. Returned again to Louisiana for his wife and children came back to California where he started an integrated school in Shasta City. He later settled in Tehama County and eventually moved to Oakland.”

Oliver called Coffey’s life “an incredible journey in the narrative of early California, as impressive as any other frontier story.” More than likely, he said, many of the Siskiyou County black miners had similar tales but so far no such accounts have been found.

Not only the Coffey story but Fred’s ability to act impressed Oliver, he said. Fred was born in Weed but spent much of his adult life near Redding working for the Forest Service. With his wife, he owned Shorty’s in Old Shasta.

Fred will present the Alvin Coffey story as part of “Voices of the Golden Ghosts.”

Many people will recognize Victor Martin on stage.

“We know Victor as the sax player of the longtime band Sound Advice and the duet Allison and Victor,” said Oliver “Victor plays a miner who brought the first saxophone to the goldfields in 1854, a performance not to be missed!”

Another local, John Lionheart from McCloud, is also a part of the cast. The rest of the ensemble of actors are from the Redding area. Patricia Lord, director of the Siskiyou County Arts Council, will be making a presentation along with COS instructor Chris Vancil.

The Feb. 9 event at Son’s Hall will also be a fundraiser for the new softball stadium in Weed. The Cougars softball team will serve a lunch/brunch before the performance so people can purchase a $20 ticket which includes a brunch ticket and entry into the performance.

People can also purchase the brunch as a takeout and the performance tickets separately. The performance will begin at 2 p.m. followed by a question and answer session.