Monday, February 7, 2011

The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World Opens February 18th

The 2010-11 Berea College Theatre season continues with The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World by Suzan Lori-Parks. Performances are 8pm February 18, 19 and 23-26 in the McGaw Theatre in the Jelkyl Drama Center. There will be a sign interpreted performance Friday, February 25th.

Considered to be Suzan Lori-Parks’ masterpiece says Director Adanma Barton The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, is a piece that is rarely performed due of the nature of its absent discernable plot; “ [Death] is a non-linear play…I love that.” Says Barton. The play also delves into the African American stereotype; “The figures themselves, these African American stereotypes… how do you stay true to the script and make it … relatable?” While Death is a show that is engaging, it can be a hard show to produce; although Barton says she likes a challenge. “I have always wanted to tackle directing this play. I love the way Parks uses repetition and revision, and how she explores the rhythm of language.”
One of the biggest things you can hear in the show is its ties to African American music, which has greatly influenced Parks’ work, according to Barton. Berea College theatre alum Thomas Usher will be involved in bringing music to the production. “What we are doing is keeping with Susan Lori-Parks' evocation of jazz with her words through hinting at various American genres like jazz and blues, all at the same time blending Afro-influenced percussion styles from several areas like Haiti, Ghana, Senegal and a few others,” says Usher.

Parks was born in Fort Knox, Kentucky, and began creative writing at a very young age, though she began exploring writing for the stage during her time at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts. Parks wrote The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World in 1992 and it premiered at the Brooklyn Arts and Culture Association. She has written nineteen full length plays including In the Blood, Topdog/Underdog, and the screen play Their Eyes Were Watching God. She has won several awards including the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play Topdog/Underdog, and the 2008 NAACP Theatre Award for Ray Charles Live! as well as receiving the MacArthur Fellows Genius Grant.

Berea College has produced Parks’ Topdog/Underdog as well as participating in the year-long premiere of 365 Days/365 Plays.

Tickets for The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World are on sale now. Performances are 8pm February 18, 19 and 23-26. Convocation performances are February 23 and 25.

Call the Berea College Theatre box office at (859) 985-3300 Monday through Friday, from 1-5pm and one hour prior to all performances. Tickets range in price from $5 to $10.

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