Juneteenth Legacy Theatre

An AUDELCO Award Winning Company 


Developing and Producing

New and Original plays

     about the African-American Experience and its Legacy!

 JLT News                                               JANUARY 2013


         Lorna Littleway, Editor
        Betty Arnett, Volunteer

JLTNews January 2013
Greetings from St. Louis
MITF Update
INSPIRATION:by Renee Rankin: Benjamin Jealous, Susan Taylor, Gloria Naylor and much more
Greetings From St. Louis

(L-r: Bob Mitchell (Doaker), Ron Connor (Boy Willie), Ethan Jones (Wining Boy at the piano) and Chauncy Thomas (Lymon) break out into a spontaneous dance in AII S1.

After a critically very successful opening KDHX,LaDue, STLToday of The Piano Lesson at the St. Louis Black Rep, I want to share the experience with production photos, taken by Stewart Goldstein, and some thoughts comparing it and another great play, A Raisin in the Sun.


Hands down Piano Lesson is my favorite August Wilson play. The Pulitzer Prize winning play is a poetic family drama, much like Lorraine Hansberry's Pulitzer winner, Raisin. Both

PL Boy Willie
Ron Connor as Boy Willie vows to sell the family piano against sister Berniece's wishes.     

plays embrace themes of enduring legacy -families overcoming slavery and Jim Crowism- trumping immediate economic fortune. For Boy Willie Charles in Piano Lesson, it is the purchase of land previously tilled by his grandparents as slaves in Mississippi, while for Walter Lee Younger, in Raisin, it is owning a small business in Chicago.


Twenty years separate the two stories. Piano Lesson is set against the backdrop of The Great Migration when blacks fled the rural south and traded an agrarian life for urban trades. In Raisin the southern refugees are firmly entrenched and vested in a the booming metropolis of Chicago.


PL Berniec and Boy Willie
Sharisa Whately as Berniece blames Ron Connor's Boy Willie for her husband's death.  

In both stories the antagonizing characters, Boy Willie and Berniece in Piano Lesson, and Walter Lee and Beneatha in Raisin, are motivated by aspirations for their futures. Also in both plays the warring characters are siblings, although Berniece is older as is Walter Lee.


In both stories the women -Berniece, Beneatha and Lena- are aligned with legacy.



Catch the Spirit!     



Midtown International Theatre Festival Deadline Extended to February 17th 



MITF The Midtown International Theatre Festival (MITF) seeks submissions for its fourteenth season, running from July 15 - August 4, 2013. The deadline for submissions has been extended to Sunday February 17, 2013.


The Festival accepts submissions in all genres - any sort of stage play, musical or otherwise, new or revived, mainstream or focused on an ethnic or cultural niche. To be eligible each show must have a producer and production team attached to the project. In addition, the MITF will include a Short Subjects division.


"We have many innovations this year," said John Chatterton, executive producer of the MITF. "We're offering a lot of freebies, especially for full-length shows: twenty hours free rehearsal time, showcase insurance, storage, marketing consultations, you name it. Every other festival looks at participants as the gifts that keep on giving. We have no hidden costs, and your Festival fees go directly into stuff you can use."  


"We're also jumping into online applications and payments, which will make us more accessible to our participants. We're going back to four theaters, and we have a much-expanded staff of artistic directors/curators to promote the Festival and help the participants produce their shows. If I could think of more stuff to give away, I would!"


In addition to these innovations, the Festival has expanded the audience potential for its Short Subjects division which will utilize the same theaters as the full-length plays.


The MITF's artistic emphasis is on the script itself, and therefore the Festival focuses on minimal production values.


Application forms are available online at MITF (see the Festival Manual, "Application Process"). Applications only accepted when completed online. Scripts only accepted by e-mail. A non-refundable reading fee of $30 must be mailed or sent by PayPal (no fee for Short Subjects).  


All submissions must be e-mailed or postmarked by February 17, 2013 to guarantee consideration for the 2013 Festival. Financial plans for shows are flexible, depending on the resources and ambitions of applicants.


The 2013 Festival will take place at the June Havoc Theater, 312 W. 36th Street, 1st floor; the Dorothy Strelsin Theater, 312 W. 36th Street, 1st floor; the Main Stage Theater, 312 W. 36th Street, 4th floor; and the Jewel Box Theater, 312 W. 36th Street, 4th floor.


I         N        S         P        I        R        A         T        I        O        N     by Renee Rankin  


Ben Jealous On the 18th day of this month in 1973 NAACP President and CEO BENJAMIN 
TODD JEALOUS was born in Pacific Grove, CA. At 35, he became the youngest national leader ever of the NAACP.  


Jealous descends from a line of civil rights activists and freedom fighters. His mother desegregated Baltimore's Western High School for Girls, and his father was one of the few white men jailed during Congress Of Racial Equality's (CORE) battle to desegregate Baltimore's business district.  


Jealous' activism began in early childhood. In first grade, he spoke out about the lack of books on black history in his school's library. As a teenager, he helped register voters for the NAACP even though he was too young to vote.  


In college, at Columbia University, he was involved in student demonstrations and led a sit-in at a Board of Trustees meeting, which ultimately led to his expulsion from the university. After his expulsion, he went to Mississippi and worked as a journalist and Managing Editor at the Jackson Advocate, the oldest historically Black newspaper.  


He was later readmitted to Columbia University and received his A.B. in political science and went on to receive his master's degree from Oxford University where he was a Rhodes Scholar.  


By the time Jealous became head of the NAACP, he had already held several leadership positions. He was Executive Director of the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), a consortium of over 200 black newspapers. He was the Director of the U.S. Human Rights Program at Amnesty International, and President of Rosenberg Foundation, a nonprofit venture capital organization.  


When Jealous arrived at the NAACP, the organization was struggling with financial instability and decreasing membership. He was charged with the daunting task of turning years of turmoil, controversy, and instability around. So far, he appears to have met the challenge.  



On the 23rd day of this month in 1946 former longtime Essence magazine Susan Taylor editor SUSAN TAYLOR was born in Harlem, NY where her West Indian parents owned a clothing store for many years.  


She founded her own cosmetics company, Nequai Cosmetics, in her twenties, which got her noticed by Essence and led to a freelance position in its first year of publication. When Taylor joined the magazine in 1970, she was a struggling, twenty three year old, divorced, single mother and couldn't have envisioned being with the publication for 37 years.  


In her first decade with the magazine, she moved from freelance to fulltime staff, and finally, in 1981, was named editor-in-chief. Under her leadership, the magazine offered its devoted African-American readership informative discussions on politics, family, health, religion, fashion, hair, and beauty.  


The magazine's circulation grew to almost 1 million by the time of her departure. The Essence brand includes a now defunct syndicated television interview series, Essence books, and the Essence Music Festival, held annually in New Orleans, celebrating Black music, food, and culture.  


For 27 years, she authored the inspirational monthly column, In The Spirit, offering autobiographical lessons, anecdotes, and general advice to her readers. The column generated best-selling books, the last being All About Love: Favorite Selections from "In the Spirit" on Living Fearlessly (2008).  


Her success and leadership did not go unnoticed. In 1998, she became the first African-American woman to receive the Henry Johnson Fisher Award from the Magazine Publishers of America, the industry's highest honor.   


She was inducted into the American Society of Magazine Editors' Hall of Fame in 2002. In 2000, she was promoted to publications director.  


She founded Essence Cares! in 2006, a national initiative to mentor and empower Black youth. At the end of 2007, after almost four decades, Taylor decided to leave the magazine with which she was so strongly identified, to devote more time to her National CARES Mentoring Movement, which is an extension of what she started with Essence Cares!.    


Her goal is to encourage Black adults to mentor and nurture Black youth and help them secure a prosperous future.



Gloria Naylor On the 25TH day of this month in 1950 writer GLORIA NAYLOR was born in New York City. She inherited her love of books from her mother, who had a limited education, but loved to read.  


After graduating from high school in 1968, she became a missionary with the Jehovah's Witnesses following her mother who joined in 1963. Naylor was always quite timid and shy.    


The Jehovah's Witnesses provided her with confidence and encouraged her writing. They gave her a community, but she felt isolated from her culture, and therefore, chose to leave in 1975.    


Naylor worked as a telephone operator while attending college. She first studied nursing at Medgar Evers College, but ended up earning a B.A. in English from Brooklyn College in 1981. That was followed by a master's degree from Yale University in 1983.    


In 1977, Naylor discovered Toni Morrison's, The Bluest Eye. It was the first novel she had read by an African-American woman. The novel had a profound effect. For the first time, she felt her story was being told, and consequently, felt encouraged to write.


She began writing and submitted her first work of fiction to Essence magazine. In 1982, her first novel, The Women of Brewster's Place, took the literary world by storm. She won the American Book Award for Best First Novel. The novel was adapted into a TV mini-series in 1989, starring Oprah Winfrey, Cicely Tyson, and Robin Givens.


Since her debut, Naylor has written four novels, several essays, and edited Children of the Night: The Best Short Stories by Black Writers 1967 to the Present. 


She's taught and lectured at universities throughout the United States including Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton, and NYU. 


Other January Birthdays


Actor Cuba Gooding, Jr., 2nd 1968; actress Teresa Graves (Get Christie Love!)

James Farmer
James Farmer

10th 1948; actress/comedian Kim Coles, 11th 1962; CORE co-founder James Farmer, 12th 1920; screenwriter/producer Shonda Rhimes (Grey's Anatomy), 13th 1970; writer Ernest J. Gaines, 15th 1933;

Eva Jessye
Eva Jessye

choral conductor Eva Jessye, 20th 1895; singer Bobby "Blue" Bland, 27th 1930; sculptor James Richmond Barthe, 28th 1901.


Historical Notes


On the 1st day of this month in 1854 Lincoln University, the oldest historically Black university in the United States, is incorporated as Ashmun Institute in Oxford, PA.  


On the 3rd day of this month in 1947 the NAACP issues a report calling 1946 "one of the grimmest years" in its history. The report blasts the nation's lack of response to the waves of lynchings and reports of horrendous crimes against Black veterans. There are reports of veterans murdered with blowtorches and having their eyes gouged out.


On the 7th day of this month in 1976 Dr. Mary Frances Berry is named Chancellor of the University of Colorado becoming the first woman to serve as Chancellor of a large research University.   


On the 8th day of this month in 1977 Pauli Murray is ordained the first Black woman Episcopal Priest in the United States.  


On the 12th day of this month in 1948 the U. S. Supreme Court ruled in Sipuel v.

Ada Lois Sipuel
Ada Lois Sipuel

Oklahoma, that a state must allow Blacks to study law at state institutions. Ada Lois Sipuel had previously been barred from the University of Oklahoma Law School.  


On the 14th day of this month in 1972 Sanford and Son premieres on NBC.  


On the 16th day of this month in 1976 NASA names three Black astronauts, Dr. Ronald E. McNair, Major Frederick D. Gregory, and Major Guion S. Bluford, to the Space Shuttle program.  


Maya Angelou

On the 20th day of this month in 1993 esteemed poet Maya Angelou reads her poem On the Pulse of Morning during the inauguration ceremony for President Bill Clinton.  


On the 23rd day of this month in 1891 the Chicago Provident Hospital, founded by Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, opens the first training school for Black nurses.  


On the 25th day of this month in 1985 controversy and protest is aroused when Bernard Goetz, a white man accused of shooting four Black youths on a New York City subway, is charged only with illegal possession of a weapon.  


On the 28th day of this month in 1986 physicist, Robert McNair is killed along with six other astronauts when the Space Shuttle Challenger explodes shortly after lift-off.  




"The writers I had been taught to love were either male or white. And who was I to argue that Ellison, Austen, Dickens, the Brontes, Baldwin and Faulkner weren't masters? They were and are. But inside there was still the faintest whisper. Was there no one telling my story? And since it appeared there was not how could I presume to?" -Gloria Naylor


"Thoughts have power; thoughts are energy. And you can make your world or break it by your own thinking." -Susan Taylor


"If gay rights groups want to change the opinion polls in the black community, they have to invest in it." -Benjamin Jealous


"Nietzsche said without music, life would be a mistake. To me, without books, life

Ernest Gaines

would be a mistake."   -Ernest J. Gaines


"We spend our whole lives worrying about the future, planning for the future, trying to predict the future, as if figuring it out will cushion the blow. But the future is always changing. The future is the home of our deepest fears and wildest hopes. But one thing is certain when it finally reveals itself. The future is never the way we imagined it." -Shonda Rhimes



 Catch the Spirit! 



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