CONTACT: WINSTON BARCLAY
300 Plaza Centre One
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0073; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: June 24, 2002
(NOTE TO BROADCASTERS: Cleage is pronounced kleeg.)
Iowa Summer Rep 2002 expands with Pearl Cleages Bourbon at
Iowa Summer Rep 2002 festival of plays by Pearl Cleage will expand with the
opening of Bourbon at the Border -- a tale of revenge, murder,
racism, insanity, disillusionment and forgiveness -- in Theatre B of the University
of Iowa Theatre Building. The UI Department of Theatre Arts summer Actors
Equity company will perform this story at 8 p.m. July 5-7 and 10; 2 p.m. Sunday,
July 14; and 8 p.m. July 18 and 21-27.
In Bourbon at the Border, first staged at the Atlantas
Alliance Theatre in 1997, Cleage deals with the aftermath of American historical
events: A middle-aged couple in mid-1990s Detroit copes with the memory of
their experience as young Civil Rights activists, when their attempts to register
black voters in Mississippi during the Freedom Summer of 1964
met with violent resistance. Now they struggle to live a simple, peaceful
life, but some wounds will simply not heal. The bridge from Detroit to Windsor,
Ontario, is visible from the apartment window of May and Charlie, and in guest
artist Scott Bradleys scene design, this border imagery looms over the
Bourbon at the Border is a complex, delicate love story,
says guest director Marvin L. Sims, the head of performance at Virginia Commonwealth
University. The play demonstrates the unending love and bond between
two beings who are victims of their own dreams for a satisfying and meaningful
life together. May has remained Charlie's champion for over 30 odd years,
through all kinds of turmoil and tragedy. We meet both of them in the play
at their most vulnerable points of saturation from life's thrashings.
I am directing the play using the metaphor of an incoming severe storm.
The characters are on a tall ship in the midst of uncharted waters. Cleage
uses the following quote from LeRoi Jones Dutchman as a
preface to this script: If Bessie Smith had killed some white people
she wouldn't have needed that music. She could have talked straight and plain
about the world. No metaphors. No grunts. No wiggles in the dark of her soul.
Just straight two and two are four. Money. Power. Luxury. Like that. All of
them. Crazy niggers turning their backs on sanity. When all it needs is that
simple act. Murder. Just murder! Would make us all sane." It is a very
unfair world in which we live, and sometimes innocent bystanders are the victims
of life's unfairness.
It was important to Cleage, a Detroit native, that the characters in Bourbon
at the Border were depicted as regular working people, not legendary
radicals or rarified intellectuals. Theres this feeling that everyone
in the civil rights movement was either martyred and killed or they not only
survived but went on to be elected mayor or go to Congress, Cleage to
the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. Its a feeling that everybody
involved was a great warrior.
Calling the play tight, dramatic, and very powerful Raymond Dean
Jones wrote for Colorados Urban Spectrum, I highly recommend this
play for its historical content and its powerful dramatic effect. It may leave
you wondering what, indeed, is insanity; or, more to the point, what is sanity.
A review on KDHX radio in St. Louis described Bourbon at the Border
as a richly complex story that is profoundly tragic, yet one with a
UI alums Ajeye Feamster and Michael T. Kachingwe are joined in the Bourbon
at the Border cast by UI faculty member Tisch Jones and Equity actor
Geoffrey D. Williams. The production features lighting by UI graduate student
Liza Williams and costumes by UI Master of Fine Arts student Cynthia Galikin,
craft shop supervisor at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis.
Now an Equity actress, Feamster had several prominent roles when she was
a UI student, including Ma Raineys Black Bottom, Aint
Misbehavin, King David and A Midsummer Nights
Kachingwe is a Summer Rep veteran, and in addition to acting a recurring
role on the soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful he has performed
and directed for many regional theaters, and he taught for several years at
Northern Illinois University.
Williams, a guest from Atlanta, has performed in numerous regional theatres,
and his film and television credits include Ill Fly Away,
In the Heat of the Night, Black and White, World
Traveler, the HBO special Boycott, and Separate But
Equal with Sidney Poitier and Burt Lancaster.
Jones is a UI alumna -- she taught and directed Black Action Theatre as a
graduate student -- who joined the faculty of the UI Department of Theatre
Arts last fall after teaching at Spelman College and the University of Northern
Cleage, who has been playwright in residence at Spelman College and at the
Just US Theater Company in Atlanta, has written plays that have been produced
professionally for more than 20 years. But she was boosted to a new level
of public awareness when Oprahs Book Club recommended her novel What
Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day in 1997. Her most recent novel,
I Wish I Had a Red Dress, won the top fiction honor in the 2002
Literary Awards of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Inc.
The themes of Cleages plays began to form early in her life, as the
daughter of a minister and a school teacher. She recalled, By the time
I was eight or nine, I understood clearly that slavery and racism had created
a complex set of circumstances that impacted daily on my life as an African-American.
. . I also knew that as a person who had the advantage of growing up in a
house where there were books, it was my responsibility once I achieved adulthood
to work consciously to uplift the race, or at least as much of
it as I could, given limited resources, human frailty and the awesome implacability
of the group itself.
Before dedicating her energies to writing, Cleage worked at a variety of
jobs in the media, including host of a black-oriented interview program in
Atlanta. In the mid-1970s, she served as director of communications for the
city of Atlanta and press secretary for Mayor Maynard Jackson.
Cleages essays have appeared in Essence, the New York Times Book Review,
Ms., Atlanta Magazine, Pride, Black World, the Afro-American Review and other
publications. She has been a columnist for the Atlanta Gazette, the Atlanta
Tribune and the Atlanta Constitution, and she was the founding editor of Catalyst,
a literary magazine.
Cleages other books include the poetry collections We Dont
Need No Music, Dear Dark Faces and One for the Brothers;
the essay collection Deals with the Devil: And Other Reasons to Riot;
the short-story collection The Brass Bed and Other Stories; and
the non-fiction work Dreamers and Dealmakers: An Insiders Guide
to the Other Atlanta.
Tickets to the Iowa Summer Rep 2002 production of Bourbon at the Border
are $17 ($13 for senior citizens and $9 for UI students and youth. Tickets
are available in advance from the Hancher Auditorium box office. Any remaining
tickets for each performance will be available one hour before curtain time
at the Theatre Building box office.
Bourbon at the Border tickets are also available at a substantial
discount as part of an Iowa Summer Rep 2002 subscription. A subscription,
which also includes tickets to Cleages Blues for an Alabama Sky
and Flyin West, is $40 ($31 for senior citizens and $22
for UI students and youth).
Free Iowa Summer Rep 2002 brochures are available, including Cleages
bio, information about the plays, a full festival schedule and order forms
for series packages. The brochures are available for pick-up at the Hancher
Auditorium box office or the Theatre Building lobby, and they may be requested
from either the Hancher box office or the Department of Theatre Arts, 319-335-2700.
Hancher Auditorium box office business hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. weekdays.
The Hancher box office may be contacted by phone at 335-1160 in the local
calling area or toll-free at 1-800-HANCHER, or by e-mail at < email@example.com
>. People with special needs for access, seating and auxiliary services
should dial (319) 335-1158, which is equipped with TDD for people with hearing
impairment who use that technology. Iowa Summer Rep individual tickets will
be on sale online at < http://www.uiowa.edu/hancher
Light picnic fare from the food service of the Iowa Memorial Union will be
available on the Theatre Building plaza, overlooking the Iowa River, before
8 p.m. performances. The Cotton Club Cafe will begin serving at
6 p.m. Reservations are recommended, by calling 319-335-3105.
The department of theatre arts is part of the Division of Performing Arts
in the UI College of Liberal Arts. For UI arts information, visit < http://www.uiowa.edu/artsiowa
> on the World Wide Web. To receive UI arts news by e-mail, contact <
For many seasons Iowa Summer Rep has pursued a unique focus in American summer
theater with its single-playwright festivals, but three seasons ago Iowa Summer
Rep also became an Actors Equity Company, elevating its status as a
professional theater company. Iowa Summer Rep is made possible by the support
of the University of Iowa Community Credit Union.