Monday, January 18, 2010

August Wilson Comes Alive!

While the Black playwright August Wilson is no longer alive, his legacy is vibrant and well at Meadville Lombard Theological School (MLTS). This is due in part to Stephanie Berry and Earnest Perry, two actors extraordinaire and Rev. Dr. John Tolley,faculty person at MLTS and Director of Wilson's play, Piano Lesson. When cast members from Piano Lesson were not able to be present, Stephanie and Earnest stepped in and saved the day. Their fine acting provided a brief glimpse into their finely honed craft. Their performance was mesmerizing. They captivated the audience and pulled them into every word and emotion emitted during their emotional excerpts from Gem of the Ocean and Fences. Gem of the Ocean is unique because it is the only play August Wilson wrote that features a female as the lead character.

Stephanie and Earnest entertained a number of questions from the audience that was primarily composed of seminarians, ministers and their family members. While the audience may have left pondering the role of the arts in ministry, there was no question that drama depicts the human experience in all its complexities using the range of emotions and settings to convey the stories. Drama, good drama reaches way down inside an individual and pulls out the meanings of life for self reflection if we let it. It can transport us to far away places while inviting us to ponder age old questions like, "who am I?" "what am I doing here? and "if I check out will anyone care?

The use of theatre in the classroom is not new its continued use to interrogate complex topics like race and to encourage border crossing can lead to some needed breakthroughs in theological education.

Blessings! Rev. Q

L-R Stephanie Berry and Ernest Perry, Jr. reading lines from Gem of the Ocean and Fences

Stephanie and Ernest do their thing!

Still doing their thing and blowing everyone away with their awesome performance!

Rev. Dr. John Tolley reflecting on his work with the all black cast of Piano Lesson.

Stephanie Berry preparing for her reading with Ernest.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. John Tolley,

Tonight I came upon a little memoir I had written after appearing as Rose in "After the Fall" by Arthur Miller at the First Pres Theater in Fort Wayne. And of course, I thought of you, John.

And after googling, I am thrilled to have found you and to see you sitting on the director's stool.

I, too, direct now and, of course, act! Directed "Murder in the Cathedral" in February here in Florida.

Please contact me: Marjory Lyons