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'Spunk' Honors The Work of Zora Neale Hurston

By Stan Washington Executive Editor | 9/20/2013, 4:49 p.m.
Because of the connections he made, blues great Theodis Ealy finds himself reprising the same role he performed years ago ...
Geoffrey D. Williams in 'Spunk.'

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Blues guitarist Theodis Ealy

Because of the connections he made, blues great Theodis Ealy finds himself reprising the same role he performed years ago in a production of “Spunk”. True Colors Theatre Company returns “Spunk” to the Atlanta stage Sept. 20 – Oct. 13, at the 14th Street Playhouse.

Both times he did not seek the role, but was recommended for the part.

Ealy’s first foray to the theater stage came 12 years ago through his friendship with former WRFG-FM station manager and blues promoter Tom Davis who recommend him to the producers at the now defunct Atlanta theater company Jomandi Productions for the role of a blues guitarist.

“They came out to see me play and liked what they saw and I got the part,” Ealey said during a phone interview from his Stone Mountain home.

Twelve years later, when True Colors founder Kenny Leon and director Hilda Davis were looking for someone to play the role of a blues guitarist Ealey’s name resurfaced.

“I have to thank my friend Lisa Watson, the production manager for True Colors. She was working with Jomandi Productions when I did ‘Spunk.’ She recommended me and they looked me up on YouTube and I guess they liked what I said during the interview and I got the role,” he said.

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Gilbert Glenn Brown in 'Spunk.'

The play adapted by noted playwright/producer George C. Wolfe (“The Colored Museum”) with music from Chic Street Man is based on three short stories by the late acclaimed author Zora Neale Hurston.

The first tale is “Sweat” about a washer woman who is betrayed and abused by her estranged husband. The second story is “Story in Harlem Slang” about two street hustlers who try to out do one another. The final tale, “The Gilded Six Bits,” is a bittersweet story of an adoring husband’s betrayal by his loving but innocent wife.

“We have added more music and movement to the piece,” said director Hilda Davis. “It’s not a traditional musical as a matter of fact it’s not a musical at all. What it is are tales of survival, redemption, pain and spunk.”

Rounding out the cast are: Cycerli Ash, Gilbert Glenn Brown, Brad Raymond, Geoffrey D. Williams and Ealey’s “new good friend” Bernadine Mitchell.

Ealey said it feels great to be doing “Spunk” again after so many years.

“”Spunk’ is comprised of three great stories that I love. It’s awesome to be a part of going back in time to bringing a part of history,” said the award-winning blues guitarist.

With a few other minor acting roles under his belt, Ealey said his respect for actors has grown tremendously.

“The difference is when I’m on stage I’m not confined to being in a certain spot by a certain time,” he said. “I have the utmost respect for actors because they make it look naturally. Taking those director’s notes and trying to be at the right spot at the right time has been a challenge for me and it’s been really hard work.”

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'Spunk' is playing Sept. 20 – Oct. 13, at the 14th Street Playhouse.

“Spunk” was one of Hurston’s first published stories. The short story won second prize in the Urban League’s journal “Opportunity” in 1925. That same year it was published in Alain Locke’s book “The New Negro”, a compilation of literature by and about “New Negro Artists” and black culture.

Hurston was one of the more popular authors from the Harlem Renaissance era. Later in life she fell on hard times and died of heart disease Jan. 28, 1960 penniless and alone in Fort Pierce, Fl. She was buried in an unmarked grave for 13 years until author Alice Walker arranged for a granite headstone.

www.truecolortheatre.org