College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Theatre Arts Department Presents First All African-American Production

The University of Mississippi Department of Theatre Arts will be making history (Sept. 24) by presenting its first all African-American production.

University of Mississippi theatre arts majors Dominique McClellan (left), a senior from Grenada; Danny Francis, a junior from Franklin, La.; Kellee Fuller, a sophomore from Memphis; Brittany Ray, a senior from Moorhead; and Jay Jurden, a senior from Canton, rehearse a scene from the production of 'Blues for an Alabama Sky.' UM photo by Kevin Bain

University of Mississippi theatre arts majors Dominique McClellan (left), a senior from Grenada; Danny Francis, a junior from Franklin, La.; Kellee Fuller, a sophomore from Memphis; Brittany Ray, a senior from Moorhead; and Jay Jurden, a senior from Canton, rehearse a scene from the production of 'Blues for an Alabama Sky.' UM photo by Kevin Bain

“Blues for an Alabama Sky” is set during the Harlem Renaissance. It is a clear-eyed look into the lives of the artists, dreamers and activists who came out of the renaissance and found themselves in the grips of the Great Depression.

“Just about anything that you can imagine that took place during the Harlem Renaissance is covered in this play,” said Rhona Justice-Malloy, chair of theatre arts and director of the play. “There are subjects ranging from Margaret Sanger to Langston Hughes.”

The show is scheduled in Meek Hall Auditorium at 8 p.m. Sept. 24-26 and Oct. 1-3, as well as 2 p.m. performances Sept. 26-27 and Oct. 4. Tickets are $10.50 for general admission, $8.50 for children and seniors, and $7 for UM students with valid IDs. They are available at the UM Box Office in the Ole Miss Student Union or by calling 662-915-7411.

Justice-Malloy believes that the theatre department is long overdue for an all African-American production.

“I felt that it was time for us to do a show by an African-American, about African-Americans and acted by African-Americans,” Justice-Malloy said.

Brittany Ray, senior theatre arts major from Moorhead, plays the role of Delia Patterson.

“It’s the first all-black cast we have had in the theatre department,” she said. “And that’s pretty historic – I mean first black president, first black cast. Why not? It seems like the right time.”

Jay Jurden, a senior English major and second-year theatre arts major from Canton, plays the role of Guy Jacobs. Jurden says the production has been an enjoyable experience.

Danny Francis and Kellee Fuller rehearse a romantic scene from the production. UM Photo by Kevin Bain.

“It’s a really close and small cast – it’s only five people – which makes an incredibly intimate setting,” he said. “I’ve taken classes or have been in classes with nearly everyone in the show.”

“We are going into our third week of rehearsal and we’re having a great time,” Justice-Malloy said. “One of the things that the cast has enjoyed is having the opportunity to research and expose ourselves to aspects of the Harlem Renaissance.”

“We are going into our third week of rehearsal and we’re having a great time,” Justice-Malloy said. “One of the things that the cast has enjoyed is having the opportunity to research and expose ourselves to aspects of the Harlem Renaissance.”

Justice-Malloy promises that the play will be unlike any other.

“You get to see a different kind of show,” she said. “There is a lot of great storytelling and lots of history. You really get to learn about the heritage of African-Americans in Harlem during that time period. It’s a great show.”

“It’s a wonderful window into the lives of people who changed America but also were changed by America,” Jurden said.

For more information about the Department of Theatre Arts and the production, visit https://www.olemiss.edu/depts/theatre_arts/.  For assistance related to a disability, call 662-915-5816.