Due to a family illness, the San Diego Black Ensemble Theatre will be forced to cancel its November engagement of Buses by Denise Nicholas.
The production, slated to begin previews Nov. 4, was to star Janette Moody as Rosa Parks and Camille Bray as Mary Ellen Pleasant.
Playwright Nicholas, is probably best known as an actress -- starring with Bill Cosby in the ill-fated film "Ghost Dad" and also with a feature role in the television program, "Room 222." Nicholas' play, Buses, imagines a meeting between Parks, who played a pivotal role in the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955, and Pleasant, who won an anti-discrimination suit against the Omnibus Trolley Company nearly 100 years earlier.
For many, Parks is the more familiar: a humble but unyielding symbol of moral rectitude. But in Nicholas' interpretation, the secretary to the NAACP was as much agitator against, as reactor to, racial injustice.
Pleasant was born a slave, a mulatto who "hid" her color at times. As a young woman she was trained by voodoo "priestess" Marie LaVeau and could have been a major religious figure in African emigrant culture. Pleasant amassed more than $30 million in her lifetime, using her money and clout to advance her people. She smuggled slaves on the underground railroad and aided abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison and the "traitor," John Brown. Her personal life was also adventurous, and she embellished an already busy narrative with contradictory accounts. Through a host of problems, Pleasant died broke and defamed, in direct contrast to Parks -- who's still alive. The San Diego Black Ensemble Theatre will resume its season in February, with its 1999 season opener Voices, presented in honor of National Black History Month. For more information on the San Diego Black Ensemble Theatre, call (619) 616-8603.
-- By Sean McGrath