Blues For An Alabama Sky director and cast (From Left to Right): actress, Robin Givens, actor, Kadeem Hardison, artistic director, Sheldon Epps, actress, Tessa Thompson,actor, Robert Ray Manning, Jr. & actor, Kevin T. Carroll.
Director Sheldon Epps and actress Robin Givens speak about the characters and the play.
By Brian W. Carter, Sentinel Staff Writer
The skies are blue over the Pasadena Playhouse, where Sheldon Epps is directing the play Blues for an Alabama Sky, with executive director Stephen Eich and starring Robin Givens, Kadeem Hardison, Tessa Thompson, Kevin T. Carroll and Robert Ray Manning, Jr.
Epps, with over a decade of experience, has been the artistic director of the Pasadena Playhouse in 1997. Throughout his tenure he has worked as artistic director for the Olde Globe Theatre, co-founded the Off-Broadway Theatre, directed many acclaimed plays and musicals, and worked on television shows such as “Girlfriends,” “Frasier” and “Friends,” among his many other accomplishments and accolades.
Blues for an Alabama Sky, written by Pearl Cleage, takes place in Harlem, NY, in the summer of 1930. The story traverses a shifting landscape for African Americans during the Harlem renaissance, when Black artists and writers changed the world. The five characters fight to find themselves.
Givens plays Angel, a struggling blues singer and nightclub performer who’s trying to find a job. The actress, who’s known for her roles on television’s “Head of the Class,” TV miniseries, “The Women of Brewster Place,” and films such as Boomerang and A Rage in Harlem, spoke about how she came to be involved in the play and about her character, Angel.
“Angel—oh, I love her,” said Givens. “She’s a woman who probably got stuck at a certain time [in her life]. “She’s a little bit of a tough cookie and very fragile all at the same time.”
She recalled working with Epps previously on a shoot for a pilot show and how he had her in mind for “a project.”
“He talked about his staring at me on set,” said Givens. “If I find him looking at me strangely, it’s because he was thinking of me for this role.”
“It’s just a brilliantly written piece,” said Givens. “I mean, it’s just magnificent. It’s simple, it has clarity and there is a familiarity, which I find interesting because it’s set during the Harlem Renaissance.”
Blues for an Alabama Sky enjoyed several productions nationally in the early ’90s. Epps had read the play years ago and admired it for its language and characters. He felt the timing was right to bring the play back into the spotlight.
“It deals with so many issues that are still very, very contemporary,” said Epps. “So even though it’s a period piece, it has a lot to do with issues in our current lives.
Blues for an Alabama Sky sounds like a play that will touch and inspire. Both Epps and Givens believe in its story and characters. They describe the play as a story everyone can relate to right now.
“It’s a play about survival,” said Epps. “It’s about how a community of people come together to support each other.”
“The relationships of four people that love—deeply, deeply love each other—four friends,” said Givens: “They’re dealing with their disappointments and their dreams … everything they’re feeling in their life.”
Be sure to check out Blues for an Alabama Sky at the Pasadena Playhouse, Tuesday-Friday at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday at 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00pm. Regular ticket price ranges from $39-$59, with premium seating available at $100. Tickets are available by calling the Pasadena Playhouse at (626) 356-7529. For more information, please visit www.PasadenaPlayhouse.org