University of Pittsburgh
September 8, 2005

Pitt's Kuntu Repertory Theatre Celebrates Its 31st Year by Bringing Back Old Favorites for "Revival on 5th Avenue"

Auditions for three of the plays scheduled for Sept. 23 and 24

Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH-The University of Pittsburgh's Kuntu Repertory Theatre is drawing upon its past successes for its upcoming 31st season, which runs Oct. 20 through early summer 2006.

Called "Revival on 5th Avenue," the season will include works presented by Kuntu during its 30-year history. These plays were deemed popular by audiences and artists alike and will attract young and old, history buffs, and music and theatre lovers.

Auditions for Mahalia Jackson: Standing on Holy Ground, Seven Guitars, and Sing Black Hammer will take place before two guest directors Sept. 23 from 6 to 10 p.m. and Sept. 24 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Seventh-Floor Auditorium of Alumni Hall, 4227 Fifth Ave., Oakland, where the Kuntu performances are held. Men and women of all ethnic backgrounds are encouraged to participate, and be prepared to present a two-minute monologue. They also should bring their own sheet music, a résumé, and a recent photo.

Kuntu's "Revival on 5th Avenue" 2005-2006 season will include:

Little Willie Armstrong Jones (Oct. 20-Nov. 5)

By Rob Penny

Directed by Kuntu founder and artistic director Vernell A. Lillie

Little Willie Armstrong Jones tells the story of a family man from Pittsburgh's Hill District trying to avoid the pitfalls of life in the inner city. Penny, himself a native of the Hill, was a Kuntu playwright-in-residence, a former chair of Pitt's Department of Africana Studies, and a poet, historian, and social activist. He died in March 2003. Little Willie Armstrong Jones was last performed by Kuntu in 1994.

Mahalia Jackson: Standing on Holy Ground (Jan. 26 -Feb. 11)

Written and directed by Vernell A. Lillie

This joyous musical celebrates the life of gospel singer Mahalia Jackson. It is one of more than 150 plays Lillie has written and directed. Called "a performance that will uplift the spirit," Mahalia Jackson: Standing on Holy Ground was last performed by Kuntu in 2002.

Steal Away (March 23-April 8)

By Ramona King

Directed by Shanuneille Perry

Set in the Depression Era in Chicago, Steal Away looks at how five church ladies and the newest member of the congregation venture outside of the law to bestow young Black women with college scholarships. Their faith is tested beyond prayer in this fun-filled production. King is a writer, storyteller, and performer whose stories express a diversity of cultures. Steal Away was last performed by Kuntu in the early 1980s.

Seven Guitars (May 18-June 3)

By August Wilson

Directed by Charles Dumas

A poignant journey of love, laughter, and music, Seven Guitars is one of the works in Wilson's ambitious cycle of 10 plays, each one set in a different decade of the 20th century and all dealing with African Americans' struggles and aspirations. Wilson's other plays include Fences, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson, and Jitney. His works have won him two Pulitzer Prizes, a Tony Award, Olivier Award, five New Play Awards or Citations from the American Theatre Critics Association, and seven New York Drama Critics Circle Awards. Seven Guitars was last performed by Kuntu in May of this year at the August Wilson Play Festival at Penn State in State College, Pa.

Sing Black Hammer (Summer 2006)

By William Mayfield.

Directed by Lenny Sloan

Sing Black Hammer explores a moment in the 1960s when a hard-hitting Black construction worker from Pittsburgh meets a struggling Black singer in Detroit. The resulting explosion echoes around the world as the audience discovers what it takes to make a black hammer sing. Mayfield's works have been performed in New York, Miami, Chicago, Cleveland, Denver, Detroit, and elsewhere. He learned the art of playwriting at a Kuntu Writer's Workshop and wrote Sing Black Hammer while working as a full-time electrician. It was last performed by Kuntu in 1999.

Kuntu performances are in the Seventh-Floor Auditorium of Alumni Hall at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays. For information on matinees, tickets, group sales, or auditions, call 412-624-7298 or visit