Teaching someone how to die with dignity… it’s not an easy task for anyone, much less teaching someone who’s been told they are nothing. In Showtimers’ A Lesson Before Dying, this idea is explored in a touching and very emotional way. The story takes place in Louisiana in 1948. An African-American man named Jefferson, is caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. He is wrongfully convicted of murder and sentenced to death by electrocution. But even with all the bleakness surrounding him, there is hope. That hope is found in a local teacher and a minister, both of whom help to comfort and encourage the condemned man. Both men, in their own ways, help Jefferson understand the situation and show him what it means to die with dignity. A memorable line from the play and one that captures the essence of the performance is when local teacher, Grant Wiggins, tells Jefferson, “I want you to show them the difference between what they think you are and what you can be.”
It is a superbly acted performance on all accounts… the audience feels drawn to the actors who pour their hearts and souls into every line. Director Patrick Kennerly worked meticulously to produce a very authentic “period drama” by making sure all the props and clothes were true to that time in history. He even included period music between scenes previously recorded by local musician Chris Shepard.
Showtimers Community Theatre chose this play as its 2013 season opener in order to honor Black History Month. Since the play is set during a time when “Jim Crow” laws enforced strict segregation, the audience is drawn into the world of what life was like for African-Americans during this sad time in history. A Lesson Before Dying is based on the novel by Ernest Gaines and is said to be “meticulously faithful to his work.”
The drama includes a relatively small cast with seven actors. The cast list is below:
Jefferson — Mike Johnson
Grant Wiggins — James Wise Jr.
Deputy Paul Bonin — Tim Kennard
Emma Glenn — Barbara Sanders
Sheriff Sam Guidry — Barry Bedwell
Vivian Baptiste — Aisha Mitchell
Rev. Moses Ambrose — William Penn
A Lesson Before Dying will be performed at Showtimers’ McVitty Road theatre at 8:00 PM February 13 – 24 Wednesdays – Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m.
Tickets are $12.00 for adults and $5.00 for those under 18. Bring cash or check! Or reserve your tickets online, here.
Groups, especially educational ones, are encouraged to contact Showtimers’ Box Office (540-774-2660) for information about group rates. Presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service.