DEBBIE NORRELL

DEBBIE NORRELL


Several years ago, I wrote a story about my vision for the August Wilson Center. I was there last Saturday and the vision has come to light. When I left the house that night, my intent was to stop in and take some pictures of the “Fences” display. Yes, some of the original costumes and a few of the props are on display right in the lobby of the August Wilson Center.  The exhibit is an ode to the production that was filmed right here, in Pittsburgh. The set design was completed by Mark Clayton Southers, Diana Melchitsky and Lonzo Green. The videos that can be watched, which were produced by Emmaiw Alaquiva, tells the story of the Pittsburgh production,  and the exhibit was co-curated by Jill Thompson and Janis Burley Wilson.

Last Saturday night was the opening of the exhibit, and Sandy Dowe and Kevin Brown performed one of the most moving scenes from “Fences.” There was also a great photo book on display with scene photos, which was provided courtesy of Paramount Studios.

During this same evening,  I made my way upstairs to see “Interpretations.” This is a most creative exhibit. It features Joy-Marie Thompson emulating prominent African American dancers and choreographers. Think Eartha Kitt, Josephine Baker and Geoffrey Holder. I was blown away. The photographs are by Rachel Neville. Jill Thompson, Joy-Marie’s mother, assisted in creating the concept. Interpretations will be on display until Feb. 26.

Another exhibit worth seeing is “Teenie Harris Photographs: Erroll Garner and Jazz from The Hill.” This exhibit includes photos of legends, such as Earl “Fatha” Hines, Billy Eckstine, Duke Ellington, Louis “Satchmo” Armstrong and Ahmad Jamal, during their performances at Pittsburgh music halls and night spots. I can never get enough of Harris’ photographs and I always seem to find some that I have never seen before. This exhibit helped me to identify one of the photographs in my gallery.

You may think that the three exhibits and the mini play would be enough for one evening, but no there was more. The actual center-piece of the evening was a one-man identity play by Michael Phillip Edwards called  “I Am Not Sam.” The play was a powerful 50-minute drama on identity and race, and the toll racism takes on American men of color. Edwards is an award-winning writer, director and actor, originally from Kingston Jamaica.

This was just one night at the August Wilson Center and there is so much more to come. Next month, a crowd of favorites return:  “Showcase Noir” will run Feb. 24-26. Some of the most beautiful artistic pieces will be available to purchase.

Also, the Black Bottom Film Festival will run from Feb. 24-26. It will feature  age old classics as well as contemporary masterpieces. This is a first for the Black Bottom Film Festival.

And lastly, April 1-June 30, witness “Instill and Inspire,” it’s a collection of 58 paintings and drawings.

Now go mark your calendars; I’ll see you there.

(Email the columnist at debbienorrell@aol.com)

 

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