University of Pittsburgh
February 4, 2003

Kuntu Repertory Theatre, First Fridays to Present Special Theater Event Feb. 8

Contact:  412-624-4147

February 5, 2003

PITTSBURGH—Pitt's Kuntu Repertory Theatre, in collaboration with the Pittsburgh chapter of First Fridays, will conclude its presentation of Javon Johnson's Cryin' Shame with a special event that includes the show, a reception, and live jazz band beginning at 8 p.m. Feb. 8 in the Seventh-Floor Auditorium of Alumni Hall, 4227 Fifth Ave., Oakland.

First Fridays is a nationally recognized networking and socializing event for professionals of color, typically held the first Friday of every month in more than 30 cities throughout the nation. The event was designed to encourage networking and social opportunities for the African American business and professional community.

Written by Johnson and directed by Derrick Sanders, Cryin' Shame takes place in Anderson County, S.C., in 1985. An illegal establishment, disguised as a corner store run by a man named Tucker, provides the backdrop for the resurrection of hidden ghosts borne out of strong generational bonds and unconditional love. However, traditions and expectations run deep and put love to the ultimate test. The play does not follow the traditional protagonist structure. Its theme exists within two relationships that are paralleled in issues and conflicts throughout.

The cast includes Johnson, Kevin Brown, Art Terry, Leslie Howard, Angela Hunt, James Gilmer, and Mark Southers.

Cryin' Shame was chosen Best Produced Play in 2001 for the 12th Annual Awards of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People's Beverly Hills-Hollywood Chapter. The production appeared during the 2001 National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., and at Stage 52 in Los Angeles in 2001.

Johnson, a native of Anderson, S.C., is a founding member and current literary manager for Congo Square Theatre Company in Chicago. He has had his plays produced at the Grahamstown Festival in South Africa, Victory Gardens Theatre in Chicago, Studio Theatre in Washington, D.C., Horizon Theatre in Atlanta, and the National Black Theatre Festival, among other theaters. A former Kuntu member, Johnson earned the Master of Fine Arts degree in theatre arts from the University of Pittsburgh. He has received several awards and honors, including the 2001 and 1999

National Project Award sponsored by Pierans Inc.'s Pittsburgh chapter, the 1999 Theodore Ward Prize for African American Playwriting, the 1999 Lorraine Hansberry Award, the 1999 Yukon/Pacific New Play Award, and the 1998 Kennedy Center Fellowship to attend the Eugene O'Neill National Playwrights Conference in Waterford, Conn. He was a finalist in 1999 for the Allen Hughes Fellowship at Arena Stage in Washington, D.C.

Sanders is cofounder and founding artistic director of Congo Square Theatre Company. He earned the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Howard University and the Master of Fine Arts degree in theatre arts from the University of Pittsburgh in 1999. His most recent theater productions as a performer include the critically acclaimed Playboy of the West Indies and Congo Square's The Piano Lesson. He directed Kiwi Black, the 2002 Theodore Ward Prize winner for African American Playwriting at Columbia College and the award-winning Ali for Congo Square. He also directed the international classic The Island and The Pawn and Next Stop Ellipse… by Johnson. He has appeared in several movies, including The Temptations and Dogma.

Tickets for the show, a reception, and live jazz band are $20. For tickets or more information, call Kuntu, a part of the Department of Africana Studies at Pitt, at