The Alliance Studio Theatre will host its third collaboration between artistic director Kenny Leon and distinguished playwright Pearl Cleage. After the successful Studio premieres of Flyin’ West and Blues for an Alabama Sky, Cleage’s Bourbon at the Border, directed by Leon, opens its world premiere production April 26, running through June 8.
“It the best play that she [Cleage]'s written,” Leon told Playbill On Line.“It’s a love story between two people torn by the nightmares that haunt them because they have never recovered from the disappointment of their dreams unrealized in the 60's.”
Bourbon is the first of Cleage’s plays to take place in 1996. In an apartment looking over the bridge between Detroit and Canada, four middle-aged African-Americans struggle to love and heal the wounds from the blows of the Civil Rights Movement-- specifically the 1964 Mississippi Voter Registration Drive and the Vietnam War.
Cleage says, “Out of all my plays, Bourbon at the Border was the hardest for me to write.” Leon agrees. “It took her four or five different drafts,” he recalls, “She was scared to ask the question --I don’t want to give away the story--but. . . she’s asking a question which will move us forward as people.”
The four characters are played by Atlanta actors Carol Mitchell Leon, (Leon’s wife and Director of Theatre at Clark Atlanta University), Andrea Frye, and Taurean Blacque, as well as Terry Alexander, of Broadway and ABC’s “One Life to Live.” When asked why Cleage’s plays are consistently produced in the Alliances smaller theatre, Leon replied, “We want to bring people close to the work. We like working on plays in the smaller space. We don't have the kind of pressure [as in the mainstage] with 800 people looking on every night. It allows us to continue to work on the play.
“Pearl is writing plays whose issues are so close to what we are going through every day, and I think the smaller space really provides the intimacy to express that and develop the play so it gets some legs of its own to stand up on.“
Leon also believes that premiering plays in the smaller space enables audiences to gain respect for the Studio, so that they don't view it as the “stepchild” of the Alliance.
Cleage currently resides in Atlanta, where in addition to writing plays, she also writes short stories, novels, columns, and is a performance artist. Her first novel, Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day,” will be published in December.
For tickets to Bourbon at the Border, or for more information on what’s playing at the Alliance Theatre, please refer to the regional listings on Playbill On-Line.
--By Blair Glaser