Hughes' ‘Tambourines to Glory' opens at Acrosstown on Friday


“Tambourines to Glory” features Elois Waters as Laura Reed, Stan Richardson as Buddy Lomax and Angela Gaskin as Birdie Lee in a stage-read musical production of Langston Hughes' play opening Friday at the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre. Brett Le Blanc/Correspondent)

Published: Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, March 18, 2013 at 3:21 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 Langston Hughes and directed by Carol Velasques Richardson at the Acrosstown Repertory Theatre.

Facts

‘Tambourines to Glory'

What: Langston Hughes' musical about two women who open a church in Harlem
When: Opens Friday with a preview performance at 8 tonight, showtimes are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through March 31
Where: Acrosstown Repertory Theatre, 619 S. Main St.
Tickets: $12; $10 for students, educators, veterans and seniors, in advance and at the door.
Info: 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 opens Friday and runs through March 31. A special preview starting at 8 tonight benefits the Altrusa House, an adult day health care facility for elderly and disabled adults ages 18 and older.

Velasques Richardson said the production will be presented as a “reader's theater,” with actors reading from the script but leaving their chairs to sing and dance to live music from a keyboardist. 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 described “Tambourines” as 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, it was well received, Velasques Richardson said, but it also was 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.”

Performances begin at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. on Sundays. Tickets are $12 general admission, $10 for students, educators, veterans and seniors in advance by calling 352-505-0868 and at the door.

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