A study conducted by the Dramatist’s Guild and the Lilly Awards found that only 3.4 percent of plays on American stages are written by women of color. True Colors Theatre Company’s new artistic director, Jamil Jude, aims to help change that.
The theatre company’s 17th season themed “She Griots” will open in September. Two of the plays, Paradise Blue and School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play are written by black women. The third tells the story of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a music legend who influenced industry giants, and her protégée Marie Knight.
First up on September 24 is Paradise Blue written by Dominique Morisseau, and directed by Jude. It will be True Colors’ third installment of Morisseau’s Detroit Project trilogy. True Colors is just one of two theatres across the nation who will complete the trilogy in 2019, having produced Detroit ’67 in 2015 and Skeleton Crew earlier in February of this year. Morisseau’s theatrical relationship to her hometown has been compared to August Wilson’s devotion to writing a 10-play cycle based in his birthplace of Pittsburgh. Like Wilson, she captures the linguistic poetry and aspirations of the striving working class people she grew up with.
Paradise Blue, set in Detroit’s Black Bottom in 1949, explores a time when the new mayor of Detroit is working to get rid of the “blight of the city” by moving Black people out of Detroit’s Black Bottom. Blue, a gifted trumpeter and tortured soul, considers selling his once thriving family jazz club, leaving his beloved Pumpkin and her dreams behind. As Blue fights personal demons to better his life and maintain his sanity, his fellow band members, Corn and P-Sam, are stuck wondering where they fit into the plan to benefit from the changes in their neighborhood. Silver, a sultry woman with a mysterious past, enters the scene with her own agenda, turning everyone’s lives upside down.
“Dominique’s way with words and how she builds complex characters are truly a director’s dream,” remarked Jude. “She gives you so much to play with—all of the elements she provides synthesize into a satisfying whole. I’m excited to work with her words, paired with a powerful cast of Atlanta-based actors, to fully realize Dominique’s world and to conclude her Detroit Project trilogy.”
Paradise Blue features an all local cast which features several True Colors’ alumni. Enoch Armando King, who portrayed “Sly” in Detroit ’67 (2015) and “Reggie” in Skeleton Crew (2019), is “P-Sam.” Javon Johnson (Stick Fly) is “Blue,” Cynthia D. Barker (For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf, Blues for an Alabama Sky, Black Nativity) is “Pumpkin,” and Keith Arthur Bolden (Fetch Clay/Make Man, Between Riverside and Crazy) is “Corn.” Tangela Large, a newcomer to True Colors’ stage, will play “Silver.”
Paradise Blue will be in preview performances September 24 – 26 at 7:30 p.m. Opening night is Friday, September 27 at 7:30 p.m. The show will run through October 20. Performances during the run are Wednesdays – Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday – Sunday at 2:30 p.,. There will be 11:00 a.m. matinees on Wednesday, October 2, October 9 and October 16. All performances will be presented at the Southwest Arts Center, located at 915 New Hope Road, South Fulton, Ga. 30331.