University of Pittsburgh
January 12, 2006

Pitt's Kuntu Repertory Theatre Presents Mahalia Jackson: Standing on Holy Ground Jan. 26-Feb. 11


Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH-Pitt's Kuntu Repertory Theatre presents a joyous musical celebration of the life of renowned Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson in Mahalia Jackson: Standing on Holy Ground, to be performed from Jan. 26 to Feb. 11 in the Seventh-Floor Auditorium of Pitt's Alumni Hall, 4227 Fifth Ave., Oakland. Written and directed by Kuntu founder and artistic director and associate professor of Africana Studies Vernell A. Lillie, Mahalia Jackson, last performed during Kuntu's 2000-01 season, is part of Kuntu's "Revival on 5th Avenue" season, which has been featuring works presented by the theater company during its 30-year history.

The role of young Mahalia will be played by Genna Styles. The role of the older Mahalia will be performed by Teri Bridgett, the African American Council's Onyx Award winner in 2004 for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. She has performed in August Wilson's Ma Rainey's Black Bottom and, more recently, in Joe Turner's Come and Gone. Deryck Tines Mitchell is pianist and musical director for the show, which will feature traditional Mahalia Jackson favorites.

Jackson was considered the Queen of Gospel Music. She began singing at age four, in the Plymouth Rock Baptist Church in New Orleans. As a teenager in Chicago, she absorbed the sounds of Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, but continued singing Gospel, eventually recording in the 1930s and touring in the 1940s. Her unique contralto voice was heard on radio, television, and in concert halls around the world. An appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956 catapulted Gospel music into America's mainstream. She died of heart failure in 1972 at age 59.

Performances of Mahalia Jackson: Standing on Holy Ground are at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays. Matinees are scheduled for 1 p.m. Feb. 4 and

11 a.m. Feb. 9. For ticket and group sales information, call 412-624-7298 or visit