University of Pittsburgh
August 4, 2002

Pitt's Kuntu Repertory Theatre Announces 2002-2003 Season

Contact:  412-624-4147

August 5, 2002

PITTSBURGH—The University of Pittsburgh's internationally renowned Kuntu Repertory Theatre has announced its 2002-2003 season, the company's 28th, whose theme is "mentors and protégés." The season will include productions of works by three young playwrights and by established writers Rob Penny and Sybil Roberts, as well as staged readings of excerpts from the works of August Wilson.

The season will open with "Hieroglyphic Graffiti" by Chadwick Boesman

(Oct. 17–Nov. 2), followed by "Mumia" by Sybil Roberts (Nov. 8-10), "Cryin' Shame" by Javon Johnson (Jan. 23–Feb. 8), staged readings of excerpts from the works of August Wilson (Jan. 24-26), "Ashes to Africa" by Mark Southers (Mar. 20–April 5), and the world premiere of "Difficult Days Ahead in a Blaze" by Rob Penny (May 22– June 7).

According to Pitt Associate Professor of Africana Studies Vernell Lillie, Kuntu founder and artistic director, the season provides an opportunity for the young talented playwrights to learn from those who have established a name for themselves in America and abroad. "Kuntu is conscious of the fact that August Wilson, Rob Penny, and Sybil Roberts have had to struggle to secure publication and productions," said Lillie. "These gifted writers have consciously decided that they owe a debt to those who follow them."

A detailed listing of the 2002-2003 schedule follows.

"Hieroglyphic Graffiti" by Chadwick Boesman (Oct. 17–Nov. 2)

This is a modern "hip-hop" retelling of the ancient myth of Ausar, featuring Egyptian gods who have a profound impact on a modern-day urban family.

Chadwick Boesman received the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Howard University. He also is a graduate of the British Dramatic Academy at Oxford University and a Drama League Directing Fellow. As an actor, Boesman has played Romeo in "Romeo and Juliet" and Malcolm in "Macbeth" with the National Shakespeare Company of New York. He recently appeared in Ron Milner's "Urban Transitions" at the New Federal Theatre in New York City. "Hieroglyphic Graffiti" was performed in August 2001 at the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C.

"Mumia" by Sybil Roberts (Nov. 8-10)

"Mumia" tells the story of two lovers who find themselves at odds on the morning of a "Free Mumia" rally. They journey through time to find peace and strength in their life together and their efforts to save Mumia Abu Jamal, an African American journalist whose conviction and death sentence 20 years ago for the killing of a police officer has sparked a worldwide movement by thousands of people who feel he was unjustly convicted.

Sybil Roberts is a poet, playwright, and professor of theatre arts at Howard University. Her work has been produced in Philadelphia, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Grahamstown, South Africa. Her play "Dream of Ophelia" was nominated for the 1999 Jeff Award for Best New Play in Chicago. Her poetry has been published recently in "Beyond the Frontier" (Black Classic Press, 2002), an anthology edited by E. Ethlebert Miller.

"Cryin' Shame" by Javon Johnson (Jan. 23-Feb. 8)

Hurt, shame, and resentment fuel this story of unspoken love against the backdrop of a broken-down corner store in Anderson County, S.C., in 1985.

Javon Johnson, a native of Anderson, S.C., is a founding member and current literary manager of 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; the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C.; and other venues. A former member of Kuntu Repertory Theatre, Johnson earned the Master of Fine Arts degree in theatre arts from the University of Pittsburgh.

Staged readings of excerpts from the works of August Wilson (Jan. 24-26)

August Wilson, a native of Pittsburgh's Hill District who now lives in Seattle, is the author of "Jitney," "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom," "Fences," "Joe Turner's Come and Gone," "The Piano Lesson," "Two Trains Running," "Seven Guitars," and "King Hedley II," among other plays. His work has garnered many awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes, a Tony Award, and seven New York Drama Critics' Circle awards. A cofounder with Rob Penny of Black Horizon Theatre in Pittsburgh and Kuntu Writers Workshop, Wilson has received many fellowships and honors, including Rockefeller and Guggenheim fellowships, a Whiting Writers Award, a 1999 National Humanities Medal from President Clinton, numerous honorary degrees from colleges and universities, and the only high school diploma ever issued by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. He is an alumnus of New Dramatists, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a 1986 inductee into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

"Ashes to Africa" by Mark Southers (Mar. 20-April 5)

A quest to fulfill the wishes of a loved one—that her cremated remains be sprinkled over Africa—ignites into an explosive internal family struggle of love and honor.

Pittsburgh native Mark Southers has been associated with Kuntu Repertory Theatre since 1980 as a photographer, actor, and playwright. His play "When the Water Turns Clear" was performed in Chicago at the ETA Performing Arts Foundation. His film and television credits include "Hoffa," "Silence of the Lambs," "Striking Distance," and "The Young and the Restless." Southers also is an accomplished photographer whose work has appeared in numerous publications, including Jet magazine, and on the PBS program "Tony Brown's Journal." This past year, "Ashes to Africa" received staged readings in Cleveland and at the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C.

"Difficult Days Ahead in a Blaze" by Rob Penny (May 22-June 7)

The sequel to Penny's play "Nefartari Rising," "Difficult Days Ahead in a Blaze" 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.

Rob Penny was born in Opelika, Ala. and raised in Pittsburgh's Hill District. An Afrocentric poet and playwright, Penny began teaching Africana studies at Pitt in 1969 and was chair of Pitt's Africana Studies department from 1978 through 1984. He is the Playwright-in-Residence of Kuntu Repertory Theatre. He and August Wilson cofounded Black Horizon Theatre in Pittsburgh and Kuntu Writers Workshop. His plays have been produced by Kuntu Repertory Theatre, New Federal Theatre in New York City, ETA Performing Arts Foundation in Chicago, and the Billie Holiday Theatre in Brooklyn, among other venues.

Kuntu Repertory Theatre performances are held Thursdays through Sundays in the Seventh-Floor Auditorium of Alumni Hall (formerly the Masonic Temple), 4227 Fifth Avenue, in Oakland. Thursday through Saturday performances start at 8 p.m., and Sunday curtain time is 4 p.m.

For ticket and group sales information, call 412/624-7298 or visit www.kuntu.org. Season subscriptions as well as student and senior discounts are available.

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