Colored People's Time

by Leslie Lee
Artwork by John Lawrence
February 10-12 at 8 PM
February 13 at 2 PM
Mendelssohn Theatre

from our newsletter | press release | program
photographs | designs

From our Newsletter

The history of people of African ancestry in America is a tale of majesty, courage, hope and faith, as well as immense tragedy. Americans would not be who we are today had it not been for the contributions that were made - often at the greatest cost - by people of African ancestry. With a story so big, who can tell it? From slavery to civil rights and beyond, the history of African-Americans occupies a central place in our cultural, political, and moral heritage. How can a story of such weight be told?

How? Theatre.

Theatre is a most extraordinary vehicle for telling complex stories. With theatre, we are able to take significant events, complicated issues, the subtleties of personality, and meld them all into an understandable whole. On the stage, it can be done with humor, grace, and verve. This season, we've found a play that we think can tell this very special story. In celebration of Black History Month in the year 2000, the U-M Theatre Department will present Leslie Lee's wonderful history-drama, "Colored People's Time," from February 10 - 13 at the Mendelssohn Theatre. Mr. Lee, an African-American playwright, has written nothing less than the dramatic history of the African-American experience. Told in more than a dozen vignettes filled with song and dance that flow seamlessly over the course of the evening’s performance, Leslie Lee's story is one of ordinary people - African-Americans whose lives unfold before our eyes through the magic of the stage. We are taken into their lives to see the pain of poverty and the joy of hope; the passions, strengths and courage that can be found in the common man and woman. We see riots and war, boycotts and marches, love and pride, all reflected in their music.

"Colored People's Time" will attract audiences from around the state and will be one of the highlights of our season in the performing arts. The show will be directed by Professor Darryl V. Jones. Tickets will go fast, so you'll want to reserve them now.

Press Release
The University of Michigan's Theatre Department will celebrate Black History Month with a exhilarating look at the African-American experience when it presents Leslie Lee's documentary drama "Colored People's Time," from February 10 through 13, at the Mendelssohn Theatre in Ann Arbor. "Colored People's Time" is a theatrical journey back in time to discover the African roots of American history - a celebration of the contributions made to American culture by generations of Black men and women.

Told with sensitivity, music, and dance, Mr. Lee's play is a dramatic meditation on several critical moments in American history. With great skill and beautifully nuanced humor, Lee depicts the lives of common, everyday people who are being changed by the events that occur around them. It is through the eyes of these ordinary people of African descent that we see history as it is being made. This remarkable journey into the past is told in 15 scenes over the course of the two-act play. The story begins in 1859, with a tale of slaves trying to escape antebellum Mississippi; it travels through the Jim Crow South and on to a bloody riot in Chicago in 1919. From there, the play jumps forward to Harlem during the "Renaissance," and on to Pendergast's wide open and swinging Kansas City of 1938. The audience is introduced to the Civil Rights Era after having been invited into the homes of working class Blacks trying to give their tired feet a rest during the 1956 bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama. The trek through the past ends in the present day, in what director Darryl V. Jones calls, "a revelation."

Director Darryl Jones stresses that "Colored People's Time" is a work which "celebrates the African-American experience. The play," he emphasizes, "is a chronicle of our experience in this country, and it captures in a very theatrical manner, our anger, our passions, and our joy. "Colored People's Time" focuses its attention on Black America's remarkable ability to overcome - no matter what the burden might be. Leslie Lee is a truly gifted storyteller who allows us to see and feel how other people's lives affected our own. For me," Jones concludes, "this play gives life to the struggle faced by our ancestors. It moves through time like a Mobius strip, an endless cycle of lives who bring us back to who we are as African-Americans."

"Colored People's Time" features a soundscape by Music Director Andre Meyers, who is a graduate student in the U-M School of Music. His sound design is a wondrous medley of music hearkening back to several different eras as composed and performed by some of America's greatest musicians. The sounds of several Black composers such as King Oliver, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie, will define their eras and highlight the contributions made by African-Americans to our common culture. In addition to this potent musical score, "Colored People's Time" will also feature examples of some of the classic popular dance forms that emerged from out of the genius of the African-American people. The Mendelssohn stage will swing and jump with vibrant portrayals of the cakewalk, the jitterbug and breakdancing as choreographed by director Jones and three members of his student cast: Angela Lewis, Dominique Moriseau and Ayanna Triplett.

Assistant Professor Darryl V. Jones is an active director whose recent works for the Ann Arbor stage have been seen in productions of "Balm in Gilead" (U-M, 1999), "Our Country's Good" (U-M, 1998), and "Avenue X" (at the Performance Network, 1998). This past summer, Mr. Jones directed, choreographed, and starred in "All Night Strut" for a regional theatre in Findlay, Ohio.

Click here to view the Colored People's Time program as a PDF file

Production Photographs

The cast Boyd White III and Cortney Wright

Production Designs

Still to come!