University of Pittsburgh
December 5, 2001

Kuntu Repertory Theatre Launches 2002 Schedule of Performances With Marta Effinger's Whispers Want to Holler


PITTSBURGH—The University of Pittsburgh's internationally renowned Kuntu Repertory Theatre continues its 2001-2002 season of mystery dramas Jan. 24 with Whispers Want to Holler.

Presented through Feb. 9, Whispers Want to Holler was written by Marta Effinger and has original music by jazz saxophonist Billy Harper. Whispers will feature the talents of actor Charles Coker, a Pitt and Kuntu alumnus who now lives in New York City.

This dramatic musical tells the story of a Black woman on the verge of "succumbing to urban renewal." Several unexpected guests visit and cast spells over her home. She hears calls so mysteriously and sensually divine, "whispers want to holler." Eileen J. Morris, managing director of Kuntu Repertory Theatre, said, "Suddenly her basement is filled with the sounds of children's laughter, women's wails, and men's testimonies. Simultaneously engulfed by the rhythmic stories of the past and present, and already coping with personal tragedy, she doesn't know if she is losing her mind … or finding salvation."

Whispers Want to Holler is directed by Vernell A. Lillie, associate professor of Africana studies at Pitt and the founder and artistic director of Kuntu Repertory Theatre. Among the plays she has directed are Tambourines to Glory, Blues for an Alabama Sky, Over Forty, Sacred Ground, Papa's Blues, Little Willie Armstrong Jones, The Meeting, and Among the Best: The Pittsburgh Crawfords and Homestead Grays. Lillie also has written and directed a number of plays and collages, including Blues and Jazz Waters, The Crawford Grill Presents Billie Holiday, and Mahalia Jackson: Singing on Holy Ground.

Effinger completed her studies in June 2000, graduating from Northwestern University with an Interdisciplinary Ph.D. in theater and drama. She holds a master's degree in African American studies and a bachelor's degree in Black studies and English writing from the University of Pittsburgh. Her scholarly works have appeared in The Journal of Black Studies and African American Review. Effinger teaches in the Theatre Studies Program at DePaul University's Theatre School. Two plays written by Effinger are Union Station and Evolution of Jazz.