A young Southern girl's memories of being raised by a community of strong African American women are the fodder for Shay Youngblood's Shakin' the Mess Outta Misery, making its New York City debut at the Vital Theatre May 4-28. Opening night is set for May 11.
Vital artistic director Stephen Sunderlin directs this 1960's tale of a child, whose mother dies when she is very young and is instead given her mothering and education from the local, non-traditional black women around her. Youngblood based the play on her first book, "The Big Mama Stories." Shakin' the Mess was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize in 1989 and won Youngblood a Best Playwright award at the Hollywood NAACP Theatre Awards. Other pieces include the plays Talking Bones and Square Blues and the books "Soul Kiss" and "Black Girl in Paris."
Several AUDELCO winners are featured in the cast, including Betty Vaughn as Big Mamma, Kimberly "Q" Purnell and Johnnie Mae. Also in the cast are Melody Cooper (Mamba's Daughters, Tulpa), Vicky Lambert (the upcoming Copacabana), Gena Bardwell, Geany Masai (The Sky is Calling at OOB’s Love Creek), Monical J. Palmer and Cheryl Simone as Daughter.
Tickets are $12. The Vital Theatre Company is located at 432 West 42nd Street. For reservations, call (212) 592-0129. The Vital Theatre Company is located at http://home.att.net/~vitaltheatre.
-- By Christine Ehren