‘Papa's Blues' focuses on family and loss

The award-winning play “Papa's Blues,” with Amanda Edwards as Pearl Reynolds and Turbado Marabou as Nathan Reynolds, opens Friday at the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre. (ELIZABETH HAMILTON/CORRESPONDENT)

Published: Thursday, October 11, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 10, 2012 at 12:22 p.m.

Nathan Reynolds struggles because he feels like he hasn't lived up to his father's legacy as a civil rights activist who died for the cause in the 1960s.


‘Papa's Blues'

What: Javon Johnson's award-winning play about a black family struggling to overcome the loss of a family member during the civil rights protest era.
When: Previews at 8 tonight, opens Friday and runs 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 28
Where: Acrosstown Repertory Theatre, 619 S. Main St.
Tickets: $12, $10 for students, seniors, educators and military personnel; proceeds from tonight's preview performance benefits the Star Center Children's Theatre.
Info: 234-6278, Acrosstown.org

Not only has he not achieved the things he wanted, he also can't support his family the way he wants to. He doesn't own a home; instead he and his family live with his mother-in-law.

These are the conflicts that face the lead character in “Papa's Blues,” a play about a black family in the 1980s that opens Friday and runs through Oct. 28 at the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre.

The play, which won playwright Javon Johnson a Lorraine Hansberry Award in 1998 for its expression of the African-American experience, deals with overcoming obstacles, says Rhonda Wilson, director.

“It's how people can take nothing and make it into something,” Wilson says.

The story is told in a series of flashbacks to 1982 from the perspective of Nathan's son. It's the year that sticks out in Rashon Reynolds' mind as he prepares to go on a civil rights march with his dad, Wilson says. It's the year his family endured a lot of hardships.

Even after Nathan switches jobs to make more money, his family still faces hard times, and Nathan realizes that it's more important for his family to love and respect him than for him to provide them with a lot of money.

His wife, Pearl Reynolds, is a teacher who works in a diner due to a lack of teaching opportunities for her in North Carolina, where the Reynolds live. She's trying to keep her family together as Nathan tries to work through his burdens from the past.

Amanda Edwards, 26, who portrays Pearl, said the play deals with familial relationships in a very realistic way.

She says people will be able to relate to the play because the struggles the family faces are similar to struggles that people face after college now. With the current economy, people aren't able to get the kinds of jobs they want out of college, Wilson says.

“How do you maintain your dreams and identity when you're not getting what you want?” she says. “How do you remain resilient?”

Those are the challenges the Reynolds and people now face, Wilson says.

Performance times for “Papa's Blues” are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 28. Tickets are $12, $10 for students, seniors, educators and military personnel.

Ticket sales from tonight's dress-rehearsal performance will raise funds for the Star Center Children's Theatre, a nonprofit entity that provides education in the arts for children.

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