The lives of five varied, vibrant African-American women come to life in the world premiere of Regina Taylor's A Night in Tunisia, beginning performances by the Alabama Shakespeare Festival May 23 in Montgomery, AL.
Taylor, who recently won the American Theatre Critics Association/Steinberg New Play Award for Oo-Bla Dee, is the actress-writer widely known for playing Lilly in TV's "I'll Fly Away."
Her second career as a playwright has produced several new scripts, including Millennium Mambo and A Night in Tunisia. The latter is a highly theatrical look at five different women in the Tunisia Bar and Grill, where Simone, a jazz singer, weaves their stories together, singing classic pop songs ("RESPECT," "I Will Survive") in a production punctuated by new music by composer Bob Telson (Chronicle of a Death Foretold, The Gospel at Colonus).
The staging is a presentation of ASF's Southern Writers' Project, which encourages works of Southern issues and topics. Taylor is a Dallas native.
Kent Gash directs Tina Frabrique as "Simone," Yvette Jones Smedley as "Amanda" (hitting 40 years old), Lynda Gravatt as "MaDear" (a 109-year old fan of TV psychics), Quincy Tyler Bernstine as "Gin xyz" (a thoughtful teenager older than her years) and Shona Tucker as "M&M" (a cancer survivor). Carl Cofield plays The Man. Official opening is May 26 in the Octagon at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Performances continue to July 22.
Designers are Ed Haynes (scenic), Karen Perry (costume), Liz Lee (lighting), Bethany Tucker (sound).
Tickets range $20-$40. For information, call (800) 841-4273 or visit the ASF web site at www.asf.net.
Taylor's Oo-Bla-Dee focuses on the little-known saga of black female bebop musicians during World War II. Taylor's play exposes the plight of a saxophone player who, after achieving too-brief fame, must choose between love and art. Chicago's Goodman Theatre staged the play in 1999.
-- By Kenneth Jones