Mule Bone, the product of the unique 1931 collaboration between Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes, gets a rare staging by Detroit's only professional African-American troupe, Plowshares Theatre Company, Jan. 18-Feb. 18.
The play — never produced in the authors' lifetime — was seen for the first time in 1991 at Lincoln Center Theatre, in an adapted form that included interpolated songs, monologues and a new narrator character of Hurston, the playwright, novelist and anthropologist. The Plowshares Theatre Company staging in Dearborn, MI, marks the first non-adapted production, representing the original script, according to artistic director Gary Anderson.
A professional and personal spat that ended the friendship of Hughes and Hurston also put the Harlem Renaissance-era play on ice for many years. The folky comic play, based on a short story by Hurston, looks at two pals, the girl they hope to win and a mule bone that divides the entire town of Eatonville, FL.
Geoffrey Sherman, former artistic director of Meadow Brook Theatre and now a free-lance Detroit-area director, stages the play at the Anderson Center Theatre in Greenfield Village, in Dearborn, MI. Sherman previously directed The Old Settler for Plowshares.
"It's a nice, simple little fable," said Anderson. "It's very much a piece of its period. I'm an aficionado of the Harlem Renaissance." Anderson told Playbill On-Line that in spite of the fact that Langston Hughes (1902-1967) has a strong sense of theatre, the script is full of the flavor associated with the rural folk stories of Hurston (1891-1960). The play opens with men swapping stories and chewing on sugar cane, and story of Jim and Dave and Daisy unfolds. Official opening is Jan. 20. Performances continue to Feb. 18.
The company includes Herman McCain, Lynch Travis, John Woolridge, Rhonda English, Charlotte Nelson, Jill Chenault, Moneo Marshall, Tony Lucas, James Bowen, My-Isha Cason brown and Alison Bethel.
Tickets are $10-$18. Anderson Center Theatre is at 20900 Oakwood Blvd. in Dearborn, MI. The ultimate goal of the Equity-affiliated Plowshares is to have a permanent facility in Detroit, where it has staged plays in rented spaces for the past 10 years. For ticket information, call (313) 872-0279.
— By Kenneth Jones