|Editor's Note: Originally schedule for April 4-8 & 11-15, the production of
"Blues for an Alabama Sky" at Everyman Theatre in Baltimore, has been
postponed because of the untimely death of company member Wally Griffith
(sp). The theater will be dark for one week but reopens April 11-15 with an
addition week added to the run April 18-22. |
The drama "Blues for an Alabama Sky" draws breathe from the men and women who
helped to define the Black Intelligentsia of the Harlem Renaissance or the
"Niggerati" as it was termed by writer Zora Neale Hurston (one of the few
women included in the Harlem Renaissance literary group).
"Blues for an Alabama sky" invokes the names of Josephine Baker, a U.S.
émigré who became famous performing in La Revue Nigre at the Follies Bergere
in France as well as Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., pastor of New York City's
Abyssinian Baptist Church and outspoken U.S. congressman. There was also
Langston Hughes, poet, playwright, novelist whose themes focused on black
urban life and Marcus Garvey, advocate of black nationalism, economic
empowerment and the "back to Africa" movement. Without leaving the brownstone
apartments of Guy and Delia, the audience is immersed in the exciting
turbulence of 1920s Harlem.
The great migration from the South to Harlem, New York and the influx of new
immigrants from the Caribbean stimulated a fertile intellectual ground. It
has been suggested that by 1923 there were over 300,000 blacks living in New
York City and two-thirds of that black population lived in the
five-and-a-half Mile Square of northern Manhattan-Harlem, USA.
The arts and literature flourished as black musicians, singers, dancers,
writers, composers and advocates for civil rights merged to redefine the
black experience in America. The pictures they painted were not always
glamorous; instead they are dynamic as they delved in to expose some of the
beauty that sustains and some of the grit and the grim that stifles. And
white America became an active consumer of this vibrant celebration of black
The "sassy, feline, shoot from the lips" lead character Angel, is reminiscent
of Dorothy Dandrige's Carmen in the 1954 film, "Carmen Jones." Angel
possesses the same aggressive desire to succeed; she places high value in the
material and will selfishly attach herself to people or things if she
believes they can do something for her. In the process she loses herself and
the people who care about her most. This kind of dramatic self-destruction
comes from a heart that knows pain and is bent on self-preservation even if
it means losing herself in the process. In the process Angel disintegrates
into an aging, drunk, recently dumped mistress and out of work blues singer.
Guy Jacobs is the comic foil to Angel's tragic dilemma. Guy, a gay costume
designer is driven by the dream of joining friend Josephine Baker in Paris.
He believes that only in Paris can people truly appreciate his sense of
style. Dr. Sam Thomas joins Guy and Angel in their search for the "good
times". The good doctor never misses an opportunity to "let the good times
roll," that is, until he meets and falls in love with Guy's neighbor, Delia
Patterson the naive though pro-choice advocate for women's rights.
Rounding out the team is Leland Cunningham. Recently arrived in Harlem from
Alabama, Leland falls prey to Angel's charms and manipulations and this
ultimately leads to his own irrational and deadly response.
Pearl Cleage's moving story about dreams denied, homophobia, women's rights,
and race allow each actor's natural cadence to flow. And while the drama
climaxes with tragedy, the audience is not left feeling hopeless. Instead we
are reassured that while some dreams may remain unfulfilled, others can be
realized. Cleage reminds us that it is in trying that we succeed.
Tickets are $15-$25. To purchase tickets or to receive more information call
Everyman Theatre's box office at 410-752-2208.