Acrosstown theater will present ‘Tambourines’

Published: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 2:39 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 13, 2013 at 2:39 p.m.

You will want to tap your feet and sing, laugh a lot and maybe even shed a tear or two at "Tambourines to Glory," a musical written by author/poet Langston Hughes and directed by Carol Velasques Richardson, a local playwright and director.

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From left, Elois Waters plays Laura Reed, Stan Richardson portrays Buddy Lomax and Angela Gaskin plays Birdie Lee in “Tambourines to Glory,” opening Friday at the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre.

BRETT Le BLANC/Special to the Guardian



What: “Tambourines to Glory,” a play directed by Carol Velasques Richardson.
When: Friday through March 31, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays; special preview 8 p.m. Thursday.
Where: Acrosstown Repertory Theatre, 619 S. Main St.
Tickets: $12; $10 for students, educators, veterans and seniors, in advance and at the door.
Information: Call 352-505-0868.

Hughes (1902-1967) was an African-American poet, writer, playwright, columnist and social activist known for his insightful portrayal of black life in America. He is one of the best-known writers of the Harlem Renaissance, a cultural movement during the 1920s and 1930s known for the flourishing of great literature by black authors.

The musical will be presented beginning Friday through March 31 at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays, with a special preview at 8 p.m. Thursday at the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre at 619 S. Main St. in the Baird Center. The preview will benefit the Altrusa House, an adult day health care facility for elderly and disabled adults ages 18 and older.

Tickets are $12 general admission and $10 for students, educators, veterans and seniors in advance by calling 352-505-0868 and at the door.

Velasques Richardson said "Tambourines" will be presented as a "reader's theater," with actors reading from the script. She said the play is filled with inspiring old and contemporary gospel music and old Negro spirituals, or songs created by enslaved African Americans to express faith, freedom, hope and salvation.

The play centers around two unemployed women — Laura Reed, played by Elois Waters and Essie Johnson, played by Sebrenah Phillips — who decide to establish a storefront church in Harlem.

"They built the church for the wrong reason," said Velasques Richardson. "Their purpose was not to bring souls to Jesus, but as a way to make money."

Other characters in the play are Buddy Lomax, a mysterious playboy-type, portrayed by Stan Richardson; Birdie Lee, a member of the church, played by Angela Gaskin, and C.J. Lewis, a deacon in the church, portrayed by Jovante Johnson.

Velasques Richardson called "Tambourines" a comedy with a lighthearted look at the serious topic of religion for money. "This play is a dramatization of the war between good and evil and its role in the making of choices," she said.

When "Tambourines" hit the stage in 1956, Velasques Richardson said it was well received, but it was also controversial because of the theme of the play.

Waters said her character — Laura Reed — is a good-hearted person who really wants to help her friend, Essie, as well as herself, but she doesn't know the true meaning of church.

"Laura can be influenced," Waters said. "This play parallels real life. Some people have a misconception of church. I think people will be able to identify with her in and out of the church."

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