Review of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe presentation of “Spunk”

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Review by: Rodger Skidmore

Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe presents “Spunk”

There are musicals and there are plays. And then there are plays with music. SPUNK, is currently being performed by the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe at the WBTT Theatre just off Orange Avenue, at 1646 Nate Jacobs Way. 

Actually Spunk is three plays for the price of one. And the really nice thing is that they were all written by Zora Neale Hurston. For those not up on the history of literature during the 1930s, Ms. Hurston was a prominent writer during the height of the Harlem Renaissance movement. Born in Alabama, she grow up in Eatonville, Florida,. Because of her writing skills Ms. Hurston was admitted to Barnard and received her B.A. in Anthropology in 1928. In addition to her anthropology research in the Caribbean and the American South, she wrote four novels and over 60 short stories. Spunk’s three short plays come from this body of work.

Two of the plays, Sweat and The Gilded Six-Bits take place in Eatonville but could have been in any small town in any southern state in the 1920s or early 1930s. The middle play, The Story in Harlem Slang” could only have taken place in the New York of the 1930s or early 40s. While all are pictures of their specific time, the theme of each is that a strong woman is something to behold, Yes, Zora Neale Hurston was ahead of her time.

Originally developed at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, Spunk is directed in Sarasota by Jim Weaver. For the list of 5 actors playing 18 different rolls, please see your program while seated just before the performance begins. They are all good. Music is provided by Sammy Blue on his Gretsch metal body guitar.

This is Spunk’s last week (May 17th is the last day) so – if you’re a guy – take your good woman to see Spunk as a belated Mothers Day present. If you’re a woman, get someone to take you, or take a friend. There’s lots to talk about during intermission and after the plays are over. Do yourself a favor and attend this bit of history that is oh so current.

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Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe presents “Spunk”
Production consists of three tales written by Zora Neale Hurston, adapted by George C. Wolfe
SARASOTA, FL – Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe’s 15th anniversary mainstage season concludes with “Spunk,” written by Zora Neale Hurston and adapted by George C. Wolfe. The three stories about love, revenge and redemption take place in the late 1920s – early 1930s, during the Harlem Renaissance, and are animated through dance and the music of the blues.
The first story, Sweat, tells the story of a young washerwoman who is abused and betrayed by her estranged husband and her ultimate triumph over him. The middle story, Story In Harlem Slang, is the tale of two street pimps trying to out-hustle each other and win the favor of a domestic worker on her payday afternoon off. The third tale, The Gilded Six Bits, is a bittersweet story of an adoring husband’s betrayal by his loving but innocent wife. The stories are woven together with narration by Blues Speak Woman and Guitar Man.
“From the language the characters use to the music that helps to tell these stories, Spunk will give audiences an unabashed view of the life of African-Americans in the pre-Civil Right South,” said WBTT artistic director Nate Jacobs. “Zora Neale Hurston was able to see the joy in even the most mundane lives and, with this show, our patrons will be able to celebrate those lives too.”
Starring in the show are Sammy Blue (Guitar Man), Deidra Grace (Blues Speak Woman/Joe Clark/Bertha/Woman/Mother), Candace C. Culcleasure (Delia/Girl/Missie May), Joel Patrick King (Man One/Slang Talk Man/Man/Slemmons), Yohance Myles (Sykes/Sweet Back/Joe) and Earley Dean Wilson III (Man Two/Jelly/Boy). Director is Jim Weaver.
“The mission of Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe is to promote and celebrate the African American experience and there are few authors who did just that like Zora Neale Hurston,” said executive director Richard M. Parison, Jr. “With this show’s mixture of storytelling, dance and blues, we are confident our audiences will enjoy getting lost in the language and music of the Harlem Renaissance.”
“Spunk” runs April 15 through May 17, various dates and times. Tickets are $29.50 general admission, $16.50 students; call the box office at (941) 366-1505 or go to the website, westcoastblacktheatre.org, for show times and to purchase tickets.

 

 

About Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe: 
The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe of Florida, Inc. is the only professional black theater company on Florida’s West Coast. The mission is to produce plays that promote and celebrate the African-American experience, attract diverse audiences, while using its productions as a vehicle for supporting African-American artists and building the self-esteem of African-American youth. For more information on WBTT, visit the website at westcoastblacktheatre.org or call (941) 366-1505.
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