Denver Center Theatre Company's latest world premiere play, Waiting to Be Invited, opening Jan. 20 after previews that began Jan. 13, is billed as a tribute to the ordinary people whose tiny acts helped bring about the U.S. civil rights movement.
A cast of Broadway and regional actresses will fuel the production, which marks the professional debut of Atlanta playwright S.M. Shepherd-Massat, who based the play on a page out of her grandmother's life. Performances continue to Feb. 19.
Set in the early 1960s, in Atlanta, Waiting to Be Invited tells of Miss Louise and three middle-aged co-workers from a local doll manufacturing company who travel to a "whites only" department store to have lunch just after the Supreme Court rules segregated eating establishments unconstitutional. The action of the play shows the women preparing for the act of civil bravery, and ends as they approach the eatery.
Audiences at the DCTC's USWEST TheaterFest in spring 1999 were touched by the warm and funny play, which director Israel Hicks calls a work about ordinary people facing an extraordinary world.
Hicks (DCTC's Dream on Monkey Mountain, Romeo and Juliet and Kingdom) directs a company of six actors and two musicians at DCTC's The Space Theatre. The cast includes Lynette Du Pre (Broadway's Bring in 'da Noise/Bring in 'da Funk and Smokey Joe's Cafe) as Miss Louise (inspired by the playwright's grandmother, Louise Sims), Ebony Jo-Ann (Broadway's The Sunshine Boys and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom) as Miss Odessa, Keith L. Hatten (DCTC's Dream on Monkey Mountain and The Servant of Two Masters) as Palmeroy Bateman, Candy Brown Houston (Broadway's Pippin, Chicago, Purlie, Hello, Dolly! and Grind) as Miss Delores, Michele Shay (Blues for an Alabama Sky at DCTC and Broadway's Seven Guitars) as Miss Ruth and Jane Welch (DCTC's Three Tall Women and Off-Broadway's Lily Dale) as Miss Grayson. The musicians are Sam Gill on cello and Warren Smith on percussion.
Designers are Bill Curley (set), David Kay Mickelsen (costumes), Charles R. MacLeod (lighting) and Matthew C. Swartz (sound).
Playwright Shepherd-Massat was recently honored by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts with a 1999 Roger L. Stevens Award for new playwrights. She attended New York University's Tisch School for the Arts as a Dramatic Writing major and interned at London's Royal Court Theatre in 1991. Waiting to be Invited is her first play to be produced. Shepherd-Massat received the Adrienne Kennedy Award for Most Promising Young Dramatist (1996), the Connections Award from Delaware Theatre Company (1997) and the 1999 Roger L. Stevens Award. She lives with her family in Smyrna, GA.
Tickets range $23-$36. For information, call (303) 893-4100 or (800) 641-1222, or consult the website at www.denvercenter.org.
-- By Kenneth Jones