University of Pittsburgh
October 10, 2005

Pitt's Kuntu Repertory Theatre Open Its "Revival on 5th Avenue" Season With Rob Penny's Little Willie Armstrong Jones

Lead actors to conduct free on-campus workshops

Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH-The University of Pittsburgh's Kuntu Repertory Theatre opens its

2005-06 season with Little Willie Armstrong Jones-the story of a brash young man growing up in the Hill District-which will run Oct. 20-Nov. 5 in the Seventh-Floor Auditorium of Pitt's Alumni Hall, 4227 Fifth Ave., Oakland. Directed by Kuntu founder and artistic director and associate professor of Africana Studies Vernell A. Lillie, it is the first play in Kuntu's "Revival on 5th Avenue" season, which will feature works presented by the theater company during its 30-year history. Little Willie was last performed by Kuntu in 1994.

The two lead actors will each hold a free workshop geared toward those who want to improve their fine arts and performance skills.

Acting Workshop

Nov. 2, 5:30-7:30 p.m., Seventh-Floor Auditorium, Alumni Hall

Benjamin Cain (Little Willie) will cover acting techniques, the use of the monologue in auditions, and tips on breaking into the business.

Musical Theatre and Dance Workshop

Nov. 5, noon-2 p.m., Seventh-Floor Auditorium, Alumni Hall

Candice Smith (Estelle) will focus on dance and acting preparation related to the musical theater audition

Little Willie Armstrong Jones was written by the late Rob Penny, a native of the Hill District, a Kuntu playwright-in-residence, and a chair of Pitt's Department of Africana Studies. In the play, the title character makes entrepreneurial and spiritual choices that are challenged by the community, as he struggles to keep his family stable.

The cast includes:

Cain, who recently played Loomis in August Wilson's Joe Turner's Come and Gone by Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company as well as C.J. in Charles Fuller's A Soldier's Play by the New Horizon Theater. Cain has recently finished an off-Broadway and London tour of Tim Robbins' Embedded. His film and television credits include The Temptations, Dogma, Law and Order, and New York Undercover.

Smith, a Pittsburgh native living in Brooklyn, N.Y., received the 2005 Debbie Allen Scholarship. She has worked with Lillie in previous Kuntu plays, including Blues in Jazz Waters, On Sacred Ground, and Black Nativity.

Linda Hunt (Mama), who toured with Kuntu in Grahamstown, South Africa, has appeared in Mahalia Jackson: Standing on Holy Ground and The Crawford Grill Presents Billie Holiday.

Kuntu performances are held at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays. For information on matinees, tickets, and group sales, call 412-624-7298 or visit