JOYCE MEGGERSON-MOORE, PH.D., chairperson of the Board of Directors for New Horizon Theater.
In the Black community, ‘One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show’
Is there a difference between working-class and middle-class African Americans? Or, better yet, the “blue collar” and the “bougie?”
What happens when you put “love” in the mix?
It’s a dynamic that director Eileen Morris is going to tackle in “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show,” playing at the Carnegie Library of Homewood beginning Friday, May 27 through June 12. It plays Fridays at 7:30 p.m., Saturdays at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at Dorsey’s in Homewood (Frankstown Avenue), www.brownpapertickets.com or by calling 412-431-0773. The play is the final part of non-profit organization New Horizon Theater’s 30th season.
EILEEN MORRIS, director of “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show” for New Horizon Theater. Morris is also the artistic director for The Ensemble Theatre in Houston, Tex., one of the largest African American theaters in the world.
“It’s all about love and the different stages of love,” Morris told the New Pittsburgh Courier, May 20. “And how this family comes together to find love in various ways. The son, Felix, falls in love with someone who is not necessarily in the family dynamic.”
Pittsburghers might be able to relate. The “Sugar Top” was always known as the part of the Hill District where Black professionals resided. Organizations like Jack and Jill of America and the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Links come to mind when speaking of African Americans in at least the middle class, often the upper-middle.
Morris told the Courier the play will bring in African Americans of all “classes.” It’s a funny depiction of the two “worlds” and how they interchange.
“Life doesn’t stop, you just keep going,” Morris said, referencing the play’s title. “Love makes the world go ‘round, it’s a beautiful thing, but it also has its comedic (side) and sadness and all of that. These people coming from different walks of life, falling in love and coming together.”
“Our audience enjoys comedies,” added Joyce Meggerson-Moore, Ph.D., chairperson of the New Horizon Theater Board of Directors, a position she’s had for roughly 25 years. Dr. Meggerson-Moore has been involved with New Horizon Theater since “Day 1,” when Elva Branson founded New Horizon Theater in 1992.
“It was Elva’s idea to come up with plays that would showcase community talent and plays,” Dr. Meggerson-Moore said. “I was one of the original members who helped to craft it and keep it moving.”
When people converge at the Carnegie Library of Homewood for this play, they’ll see familiar faces. The actors are based in the Pittsburgh region. Dr. Meggerson-Moore told the Courier, May 20, that showcasing local talent is paramount to New Horizon.
“Sometimes there are no other places for them to get showcased at the time, so the community gives them a great start,” she said. “Even if they move up and move out of the area, they’ve always (received) a great start in the community.”
The Carnegie Library of Homewood’s auditorium will be transformed into a “set,” and Dr. Meggerson-Moore said that sometimes, people don’t realize all of the work it takes to make a venue “play-friendly.”
“We have to make all of these spaces theater-friendly, the design, the lights, so it will be a professional performance,” she said. “We make sure that the actors are comfortable in their ‘dressing rooms.’ We’ve had more than 400 people as crew members to serve with New Horizon Theater (over the years).”
New Horizon’s 30th Anniversary Season began last fall with “Kings of Harlem,” written and directed by Layon Gray, “de Moor” (also written and directed by Gray), “The Green Book” (written by Calvin Alexander Ramsey), an annual fundraiser featuring the R&B group The Manhattans (with Gerald Alston), and now, “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show,” originally written by Don Evans.
In December 2021, the philanthropic organization The Heinz Endowments (in collaboration with the POISE Foundation) awarded $5.4 million in grants to “Cultural Treasures” in Pittsburgh. New Horizon Theater was selected as a “Cultural Treasure,” and was awarded $250,000. Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company, led by another African American, Mark Clayton Southers, was also awarded $250,000.
“Pittsburgh’s Cultural Treasures is a wonderful opportunity not only to support and celebrate cultural organizations that offer so much to southwestern Pennsylvania, but also to encourage growth within those organizations and collaboration among them,” Heinz Endowments former President Grant Oliphant said, in a statement. “We are grateful to be able to invest like this in the future of local Black cultural organizations and the amazing contributions they will continue making to our region.”
“We’re a presence in the community and we’re happy about that, too,” Dr. Meggerson-Moore told the Courier, “because that’s what we’re here for—to try and make sure that we’re offering something the community can be proud about.”