The Academy Theatre’s been up to some pretty exciting things since their move from Avondale Estates last year. With two new homes, one in Stockbridge and one in Hapeville, the iconic Atlanta theater is growing so fast it makes your head spin.
This weekend, they’re hosting a long-time Essential family member, Brenda Porter, as she performs the one-woman show, Pathways, written by Shirlene Holmes. Pathways takes audiences on a journey through the lives of some of the most engaging, dynamic and successful African American women in our history, women who have often been overlooked or marginalized by history text books. Sometimes funny, always daring, these stories are exciting, fun and inspiring for people of all ages.
You’ll get to know the engaging characters in this story when you see the show tonight or Sunday afternoon — which, having seen it, I highly recommend. Let’s take a moment now to hear Brenda’s story, bringing Pathways and Essential Theatre together.
ESSENTIAL THEATRE ANNOUNCES TWO WINNERS FOR THE 2014 PLAYWRITING CONTEST
Atlanta, January 2014 – Essential Theatre has just announced Theroun Patterson and Karla Jennings as co-winners of the 2014 Playwriting Competition.“It’s taken us a long while to come to a decision this year,” observes Peter Hardy, Founding Artistic Director of the theatre, “because of the large number of strong submissions we received. But we feel that both of these plays are worthy of the prizes and will be excellent contributions to our Festival this summer.” Both playwrights will receive a $600 cash prize and a full production in this summer’s Essential Theatre Festival.
Having two contest winners in one year is not unprecedented, as this was also the case in 2006, when both Valetta Anderson’s “Leaving Limbo” and Larry Larson and Eddie Levi Lee’s “Charm School” shared the prize. Since that time there has continued to be an increase in both the quantity and quality of plays submitted to this competition.
Karla Jennings’s play, Ravens and Seagulls, is a heartfelt story about four sisters going through the process of losing one of them to illness. “It’s often painful,” says Hardy, “but also has a lot of humor and some hope at the end.”
That Uganda Play, by Theroun Patterson, was written in reaction to Ugandan Parliament Member David Bahati’s “Kill the Gays” bill of 2010. “With the virulent anti-homosexual sentiments and violence in Africa and recently with the legislation signed into law in Russia, this play is timely and sheds light on a very American involvement with such a controversial figure like Bahati,” states Patterson in a 2013 interview. “My hope is that [this play] provokes debate and conversations late into the night long after it’s over.”
Both plays were previously workshopped by Working Title Playwrights, and That Uganda Play was also featured in the Bare Essentials Reading Series during the 2013 Essential Theatre Festival. Both Karla and Theroun have had other plays produced by Essential, Images in Smoke by Karla in 2000 and A Thousand Circlets by Theroun in 2011.
About Essential Theatre
Essential Theatre has been supporting Georgia playwrights and presenting new plays to Atlanta audiences since 1987. Since 2011, the Essential Play Festival has presented all world premieres by Georgia playwrights. Dates and venue for the 2014 Festival will be announced soon. For additional information about the festival, the contest or Essential Theatre, visit www.EssentialTheatre.com.
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For media inquires Jennifer Kimball, Managing Director
WMLB Voice of the Arts’ Larry Larson interviews playwright Vynnie Meli & director Betty Hart
And, In Print
“Directed by Betty Hart, Jim Crow & The Rhythm Darlings truly captures the love of jazz … the dialogue is quick paced and smart, the issues are diverse, and the acting is powerful. Not every day do you come across an intelligent play that explores gender roles, racism, and religion. Jim Crow & The Rhythm Darlings is a harmonious blend of talent, music, and discussion. Definitely a must see.” Kelechi Ubozoh, Atlanta Theatre Examiner
“Playwright Vynnie Meli’s Jim Crow and the Rhythm Darlings draws from a seemingly bottomless wellspring of drama. Director Betty Hart builds to some undeniably gripping confrontations … Essential Theatre offers an affecting homage to some of the unsung women of jazz.” Curt Holman, Creative Loafing
We are proud to announce that the Essential Theatre performance of Vynnie Meli’s “Jim Crow and the Rhythm Darlings” is to be presented during the National Black Arts Festival.For more information about National Black Arts Festival Around Town, click here.
JIM CROW AND THE RHYTHM DARLINGS by Vynnie Meli. World Premiere. Directed by Betty Hart Featuring: Rachel Bodenstein, Enisha Brewster, Daniel Burnley, DeAndrea Crawford, Nadir Mateen, Delesa Sims
It’s World War Two, and with so many men going off to serve, the previously all-male world of jazz is opening up to women for the first time. The International Rhythm Darlings are an all-female African-American band touring the Deep South, which would be a tough situation in the best of times … but now they’ve got a last-minute replacement in the group, a white Jewish woman, and integrated bands aren’t allowed to play together on stage. Not in the South, not anywhere. Inspired by the real-life experiences of musicians from that era, Vynnie Meli’s play takes a fascinating look at some extraordinary women who make their way past fear and hatred to find the common threads that bind them together. Winner of the 2009 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award competition.