The Ebone Community Theatre presents From the Mother Land to the Promised Land

The Ebone Community Theatre presents From the Mother Land to the Promised Land

By Edith McCauley

By Edith McCauley

Theater Critic

The Eboné Community Theatre under the direction of Charles Clyburn continues to offer poetry, music and dance, tracing the roots of African-American culture from the heart of the Mother Land to the present. For the past several years, the production was staged at Memorial Hall, and the change of venue to New American Theater’s Second Stage gives the entire piece a new feel. A black box theatre is versatile in staging and seating.Dark curtains, the musicians and their instruments in one corner, subdued lighting, and an excellent sound system create the ambience of a basement jazz club.

Clyburn’s choice of musicians, Rick Burns at keyboard and Harlan Jefferson, saxophone and clarinet, is an excellent one. Burns’ ability to play everything from the jazz classics to gospel with Jefferson’s talent on reeds, makes an evening of great American music. Jefferson’s interpretation of Coltrane’s “Wine Light” finalized the well-paced show.

Included in the cast were local high school students moving to the rhythms of the drums, re-enacting the African tale of Anansai, the spider, and delivering the lines of Langston Hughes’ poetry most professionally. Joining them were Climmie Durr, seen in several NAT productions, Beth Ann Beal, Stella Adams and Brent Ward. All have been seen in Eboné shows before. Durr’s role as Ma Rainey relating her experiences on the road was enhanced by an authentic 1920’s costume. Adams and Beal sang several songs with Adams’ gospel and Beal’s more contemporary music, evoking a rhythmic reaction from the small but enthusiastic audience. The young man operating the light board (Verne?) moved to center stage with a rap number involving the thumping rhythms of drums, bringing the music full circle. “It Began With the Drums”, and they remain the heartbeat of every phase of African-American music.

Acting as narrator and tying the evening together is Dan Klefstad of WNIJ, our local National Public Radio station. His knowledge of music and ability to speak with authority adds another level of professionalism. The introduction of the blues segment

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is especially effective. His Saturday Blues show is a “must hear” for me.

From Duke Ellington’s “Take the A-Train” to Thomas Dorsey’s “Precious Lord”, the history of African-American life is traced musically. It came together and provided an evening of fine entertainment. Appropriate for the entire family, From the Mother Land to the Promised Land educates as well as entertains. The show plays Feb. 8 and 9 at 8 p.m., Feb. 10 at 2 p.m., Feb. 15 at 8 p.m. and Feb. 17 at 2 p.m. Tickets are available by calling 964-6282.

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