Detroit's Plowshares Co. Goes Gullah w/OyamO's In Living Colors Jan. 28-Feb. 28

By Kenneth Jones
January 28, 1999

Plowshares Theatre Company's stage at the Museum of African-American History in Detroit will be awash with the seascape world of South Carolina's Gullah people Jan. 28 when In Living Colors, OyamO's musical portrait of African descendants, begins previews.

Plowshares Theatre Company's stage at the Museum of African-American History in Detroit will be awash with the seascape world of South Carolina's Gullah people Jan. 28 when In Living Colors, OyamO's musical portrait of African descendants, begins previews.

Dubbed a "dance musical" that fuses text, songs and movement, In Living Colors celebrates the Gullah culture in a staging by Kimberly Renee Jones, director of University of Michigan-Flint's dance program. Official opening is Jan. 30, continuing through Feb. 28, 1999.

OyamO, the Ann Arbor-based playwright known for his drama, I Am A Man, drew on interviews with the people of St. John's Island, one of the Sea Islands of South Carolina. The Gullah people, whose dialect is a cross between English and western African tongues (including Ibo), are thought to be descendants of the first Africans brought to North American shores, according to Plowshares production notes. Isolated on the coastal islands, the people were able to retain some of their African customs and traditions.

OyamO, whose given name is Charles Gordon, is an associate professor and playwright-in-residence at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. His plays have been seen at The Public Theater, Goodman Theater, Arena Stage and elsewhere. I Am a Man, about the Memphis sanitation workers' strike that coincided with the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., may be OyamO's best-known work, among The Resurrection of Lady Lester, Pink and Say and Let Me Live.

The playwright's unusual professional name was given to him by children he used to work with and is not Africa-specific, he said, but rooted in whimsy.

Director Jones choreographed the Juba dance is Plowshares' 1997-98 staging of Joe Turner's Come and Gone and musical-staged the Plowshares/Meadow Brook Theatre co-production of Thunder Knocking on the Door. Among other credits, she choreographed Once on This Island at U-M Flint.

The company of In Living Colors includes Monrico Ward, Charity Clark-Anderson, Sheila Alyce Slaughter, Ray Mercer, Ralph Carreathers., Mayowa Lisa Reynolds and Michelle Mehmuna Massenberg.

Designers are Patrick Battle (set), Wendy Barber (costumes) and Gary Anderson (lighting).

Plowshares Theatre Company is Detroit's only professional resident African-American theatre company with an Actors' Equity affiliation. The troupe is in residence at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, 315 E. Warren at Brush, in Detroit. Tickets are $10-$18. For information, call (313) 872-0279.