Playwright Romulus Linney will attend the Jan. 21 Alabama Shakespeare Festival opening of his world premiere stage adaptation, A Lesson Before Dying, drawn from the popular 1992 novel by Ernest J. Gaines.
The drama, directed by ASF artistic director Kent Thompson, begins previews Jan. 18 at the Octagon of the Carolyn Blount Theatre in Montgomery, AL. The novelist Gaines, who has also seen his book turned into an HBO movie, will also attend the premiere, Jan. 21. Performances continue to Feb. 20.
Linney (The Sorrows of Frederick, Tennessee, 2) retells Gaines' story of two black men in extraordinary circumstances in 1940s Louisiana. Jefferson is condemned to die in the electric chair for a crime he did not commit, and his grandmother, who wants him to die like a man, enlists the help of a disillusioned school teacher, Grant Wiggins. Over several months, the men teach each other about heroism, living and dying with dignity.
The staging is part of ASF's Southern Writers' Project, which nurtures new works. Isiah Whitlock Jr. plays Wiggins, Jamahl Marsh is Jefferson. The cast also includes Barbara Meek, Aaron Harpold, Stephen Bradbury, Melissa Maxwell and Robert Colston.
Designers are Vicki Smith (scenic), Alvin Perry (costume),Terry Cermak (lighting) and Don Tindall (sound). Composer for the production is Chic Street Man. Tickets are $20-$30. ASF is in the Wynton M. Blount Cultural Park, on Woodmere Boulevard in Montgomery. ASF operates chiefly in two spaces: the 750-seat Festival Theatre and the 225-seat Octagon. An outdoor amphitheatre is used for special programming.
For more information, call (334) 271-5353 or (800) 841 4273. Or visit the ASF website at www.asf.net.
-- By Kenneth Jones