‘Wine in the Wilderness’ promotes thoughtful communication

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Dawn Wilson jumped at the chance to play social worker Cynthia in demaskus Theater Collective’s rendition of Alice Childress’ “Wine in the Wilderness” because of the continuing dialogue the production’s themes will bring up with audiences.

“I hope the audience will have uncomfortable conversations with each other. There are lots of opportunities for healing in the Black community.” Wilson said. “Fundamentally everyone is looking for forgiveness.”

Okema Moore
Okema Moore
Dominique Briggs
Dominique Briggs

Set in Harlem during the summer of 1964 during the night of a riot, “Wine in the Wilderness” explores the perceptions of the Black community from within the Black community. In a dwelling just above the anarchy artist Bill Jameson is painting a triptych about Black womanhood. As he finds his muse in the brash, sassy and sensible and beautiful Tomorrow “Tommy” Marie, to create the final panel with his idea of the ideal Black woman, Tommy deconstructs Bill’s and his pals’ notions of the African American in a discussion about race and women.

The production featured Okema Moore as “Tommy,” LaMar Darnell Fields as “Bill Jameson,” Wilson as “Cynthia,” Steven Strickland as “Sonny-Man,” Chuck Timbers as “Oldtimer,” and Dominique Briggs as “Neighbor.”

LaMar Darnell Fields
LaMar Darnell Fields
Chuck Timbers
Chuck Timbers

“This production grabs the heart of the Black person and I was thrilled to come see it,” explained avid theater goer Carolyn Tardd. “I think more Black people and especially youngsters need to see this play because the themes inspired me and spoke to me personally.”

Audience member and theater lover Mark Freeman agreed.

“Everyone should come and see this production. It really packs a punch because it has themes like education, suspense and the element of surprise. Everyone learns from each other and it shows that ordinary people can be extraordinary,” Freeman said. “I think this should be extended so that school kids can see it because of the underlying social aspects that will push dialogue.”

“Wine in the Wilderness” ran as demaskus’ theater collective’s inaugural two-play season. It ran from March 12-March 15 at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Peirce Studio in the heart of Pittsburgh’s Cultural District.

Darla Holley-Holmes is glad that Shaunda Miles, demaskus’ founder and director of “Wine in the Wilderness,” chose to include such a stimulating show in her line up of productions. Her first production under the demaskus umbrella was “Who Do You Love?” which was performed at the New Hazlett Theater before being performed in New York.

“I’m one of Shaunda’s biggest fans. She does thought-provoking plays that make you be a better woman. You are educated when you leave one of Shaunda’s plays,” Holley-Holmes said. “She has enriched the Pittsburgh community and I appreciate that she involves the community in her productions. It’s exciting to be a part of all this.”

To continue its season of strong women, demaskus’ next production will be “What You Wouldn’t Expect” by Marilyn Barner Anselmi. Based on the true events surrounding the North Carolina Eugenics program, which sterilized more than 7,000 women in the state between 1929 to 1976. It will run from September 17-20 at the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust’s Pierce Studio.

demaskus Theater Collective was incorporated in 2006. Based in Pittsburgh, the collective welcomes artists and administrators from across the nation. demaskus produces touring productions, develops multi-cultural curriculum for educational purposes and assists artists with management. It also consults with churches, schools and community groups in writing and producing of theater projects.

(For more information about demaskus Theater Collective, visit www.demaskus.com.)

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