University of Pittsburgh
April 30, 2003

Kuntu Repertory Theatre to Present Rob Penny's Difficult Days Ahead in a Blaze May 22 through June 7

Contact:  412-624-4147

PITTSBURGH—The University of Pittsburgh's Kuntu Repertory Theatre (KRT) will present Difficult Days Ahead in a Blaze May 22 through June 7 in the Seventh-Floor Auditorium of Alumni Hall, 4227 Fifth Ave., Oakland.

Written by Rob Penny and directed by Vernell A. Lillie, Difficult Days Ahead in a Blaze is the sequel to Nefertari Rising. The play centers on the life of Mama Nataka, who is married with two adult daughters. The family has to confront the arrival of a child named Blaze, who is the daughter of Mama Nataka's husband. Blaze was born the same year Mama Nataka and he were married.

The cast features Mayme Williams and Vicky Bey reprising their roles as Mama Nataka and Nefertari Rising, respectively, along with Art Terry, Ben Blackey, Kim Harris, Joyce Arrinddell, April Armstead, and Nicole Smith.

Penny, who died March 16 of a heart attack at 62, was born in Opelika, Ala., and raised in Pittsburgh's Hill District. KRT's playwright-in-residence, he began teaching in Pitt's Department of Africana Studies in 1969 and was chair of the department from 1978 through 1984. Penny, a member of the Congress of African People during the 1970s as well as many other community, collegiate, and political organizations, was committed to fighting racism and inequality, often using his writing to explore social issues. He and playwright August Wilson cofounded Black Horizon Theatre in Pittsburgh and Kuntu Writer's Workshop. In 1974, Lillie started KRT as a way of showcasing Penny's playwriting talents.

New Federal Theatre in New York City, ETA Performing Arts Foundation in Chicago, the Billie Holiday Theatre in Brooklyn, and other venues have produced his plays. His works include: Little Willie Armstrong Jones, Deed of Blackness, Dance of the Blues Dead, Diane's Heart, Murderer on the Hill District, Boppin' With the Ancestors, Nefertari Rising, and Who Loves a Dancer?

An accomplished poet, Penny also wrote a collection of poems titled Evolutionary Spirituality.

Lillie, KRT founder and artistic director, is an associate professor in the Department of Africana Studies at Pitt. Her previous directing credits for KRT include Sun Rising on the Hill District, Whispers Want to Holler, Mahalia Jackson: Standing on Holy Ground, The Crawford Grill Presents Billie Holiday, Papa's Blues, Little Willie Armstrong Jones, Zora: the Darktown Strutter, Over Forty, Two Can Play, Blues for an Alabama Sky, Among the Best: the Pittsburgh Crawfords and the Homestead Greys, and the touring production of Lift Every Voice and Sing. She is a board member of City Theatre Community Media and a consultant for Black Theatre Network.

She earned both the master's and Ph.D. degrees in English from Carnegie Mellon University and the Bachelor of Arts degree in speech and drama from Dilliard University, New Orleans, La.

KRT has performed locally, nationally, and internationally for major universities, the American Theatre Association, and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland.

Performances are held Thursdays through Sundays. Thursday through Saturday performances start at 8 p.m. Sunday curtain time is 4 p.m. There will be a special matinee for students and senior citizens at 11 a.m. June 5.

For ticket and group sales information, call KRT, a part of the Department of Africana Studies at Pitt, at 412-624-7298, or visit www.kuntu.org. Student and senior citizen discounts are available.

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