‘Serious’ Celebrities Take On Comedic Roles in New Play

By A. Scott Walton Executive Editor | 9/6/2013, 1:29 p.m.
The influential trio take turns playing the most powerful figure in Atlanta politics this weekend at the Southwest Arts Center, when theatrical maverick Kerwin Sims presents “Hank & Frank”.

This may come as backwards-staggering, heart-clutching “Elizabeth, I’m coming to join you, Honey!” news, but three of Atlanta’s most prominent personalities are starring in a staged take-off on the “Sanford & Son” sitcom.

The influential trio take turns playing the most powerful figure in Atlanta politics this weekend at the Southwest Arts Center, when theatrical maverick Kerwin Sims presents “Hank & Frank”.

Sims makes no apologies for “borrowing” from the themes and characters that made stars out of the unfettered comic Redd Foxx and his acting sidekick/son Lamont (Demond Wilson) during their TV ratings heydays in the 1970s.

And Sims wasn’t bashful about reaching toward the highest rungs of Atlanta’s “Who’s Who?” ladder to get the debut play from his Ovation Productions company off the ground.

The legendary WSB-TV news anchor Monica Pearson, the Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell, and high-powered business executive Tommy Dortch have their acting skills tested during the play that re-enacts comedic conflicts between father and son, extended family and the powers that be.

“I don’t even know (Sims),” Pearson said by car phone as she was commuting from the University of Georgia campus back to her home in the south Atlanta suburbs.

Since retiring in July 2012 from her post as the queen of local news, Pearson’s been pursuing a Master’s degree in Mass Communication and fielding offers to teach on the college level.

“(Sims) just e-mailed me out of the blue, and appearing in a play sounded like fun. I read the script, which is really funny, and I said, ‘Yes!’.”

Pearson said learning from Sims that Council President Mitchell had already agreed to put a different spin on the same role offered to her – along with her deep-seated desires to explore opportunities to sing and act in the next phases of her life – convinced her to take the plunge.

“Like I always say,” Pearson chuckled, “I’m not going to rust out, I’m going to wear out.”

Mitchell, too, said playing a cameo role in the “Hank & Frank” play was an offer he couldn’t resist.

“No, I don’t have any acting experience,” said Mitchell. “But I’ll give it the old college try.”

“I don’t think it’s what they want me to do, but I can yell, ‘You big dummy!’. I can do all that. I can even do Aunt Esther if they want me to.”

Sims, a programming and fund-raising manager at WCLK-FM, launched his production company and the “Hank & Frank” project soon after gaining his Masters degree in Entertainment Business. He hopes the mojo that True Colors Theatre director Kenny Leon has infused at the Southwest Arts Center’s Performance Theater rubs off on him.

“I didn’t want a venue that was too large, because this is an intimate and family-friendly show,” Sims said. “I looked around town, and it just so happened that (SAC) was available when others were not. It’s such a beautiful venue with about 350 seats and such great acoustics that I found it ideal for this production.”

Carole Sykes, the arts center’s Program Director, said the initial three-day run of “Hank & Frank” blends well with the mix of offerings the center hosts.

“We like to give new companies and emerging artists the opportunity to present great work and debut it here,” Sykes said.

Other featured performances and expos on the upcoming schedule for the Southwest Arts Center (915 New Hope Road S.W.,) include: FunkJazz Kafé Film Festival and Music Conference (October  4-5 Performance Theater & Studio Building

October 4, 5:00 p.m.; October 5, 4:00 p.m.) ; Ballethnic Dance Company Repertoire Concert (October 17-20 Performance Theater October 17, 7:30 p.m.  Pre-show Reception October 18, 7:30 p.m.

October 20, 3:00 p.m.  Post-show Reception); and Threads Dance Company (November 1 - 2 Performance Theater November 1, 7:30 p.m.; November 2, 7:30 p.m.)

For theater-goers seeking to pick and choose which installment of “Hank & Frank” to attend, take note: Dortch appeared last night; Mitchell’s appearance is slated for Sept. 6; and Pearson will close the show’s initial run on Sept. 7. A cast member will play their role during a matinee performance on Sept. 8.

To reserve tickets and get more details, visit: www.ovationentertinment.com.