Gustavus Celebrates Black History Month with New Play by David Barr III

Posted on February 12th, 2007 by

Gustavus Adolphus College and the Gustavus Artist Series commemorate Black History Month with the performance of a new play, Jackie, Vi and Lena, by playwright David Barr on Saturday, February 17 at 7:30 p.m. in Jussi Bjorling Recital Hall. Jackie, Vi and Lena celebrates the lives of three early veterans of the American Civil Rights Movement.

Perhaps the most famous of these figures is Jackie Robinson– who triumphed over
ridicule and racism, becoming the first African American to play Major League Baseball
for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Later in his career, this Baseball Hall of Famer put his life in
serious danger as an advocate and activist for Civil Rights.

Equally noteworthy but less well known is the Detroit housewife, Viola Liuzzo.
Moved by the beatings of Civil Rights protesters in Alabama, she drove over 1,000 miles
to join the protest march led by Dr. Martin Luther King. Shot by the Klu Klux Klan the
night it was over, she paid the ultimate price for her beliefs. She is the only white person
enshrined on the National Civil Rights Memorial.

Finally comes the legendary star of stage and screen Lena Horne– the first
African-American to sign a contract with a major Motion Picture Studio. Lena
refused to become the “token performer” Hollywood tried to make her. With her sharp
tongue and brilliant musical talent, not only does she tell her own story but she also
narrates Jackie and Viola’s as well.

In Jackie, Vi and Lena, these remarkable people come together in
a pivotal event in the Civil Rights Movement—and our History–the tumultuous Selma to
Montgomery March led by Dr. Martin Luther King.

The National Tour of Jackie, Vi and Lena is presented by the The JENA
Company of New York, producers of award-winning original works.
To mount and music direct the production, JENA looked no further than two
people who were responsible for the company’s success with its most recent
mountings. First is Joy Vandervort-Cobb, an Emmy Award winning actress,
regional theatre director and professor at The College of Charleston, who brought
together the stories and songs in in last season’s My Soul is a Witness, a dramatic
chronicle of the Civil Rights Movement.

From gospel to jazz, music is an important ingredient in Jackie, Vi and Lena.
To create its diverse score, JENA is pleased to be working again with New York and
West Coast Musical Director and composer Kevin Christopher Teasley who was the
much-acclaimed onstage pianist and musical supervisor for the National Tour of
Unforgettable, the Nat King Cole Story.

Tickets for the February 17 performance of Jackie, Vi and Lena are available by calling the Gustavus Ticket Center at 507-933-7590 or may be purchased at the door. Ticket prices are $12 adults, $10 students, seniors and Gustavus staff and $5 Gustavus students. The performance begins at 7:30 p.m. in Jussi Bjorling Recital Hall.


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