Crossroads Theatre Company kicks off its 2012 - 2013 season of insightful, compelling and entertaining plays with Charles Smith's acclaimed KNOCK ME A KISS, a fictionalized look at the drama surrounding the ill-fated marriage of W.E.B. Du Bois' daughter. The production is directed by Chuck Smith (no relation to the author). The play will be on stage at the New Brunswick theatre with a run beginning October 25 and continuing through November 4. Tickets are on sale now.
Set in 1928, at the height of the Harlem Renaissance, KNOCK ME A KISS shares the story of the "Wedding of the Century" between Yolande Du Bois, and Countee Cullen, a poet and protégée of W.E.B. Du Bois, the author, civil rights activist and one of the leading thinkers of the early 20th century.
It was a wedding that W.E.B. Du Bois called "the symbolic march of young and black America… it was a new race, a new thought, a new thing rejoicing in a ceremony as old as the world."
But just two months after the nuptials, Countee Cullen traveled to Paris with his best man, Harold Jackman, leaving Yolande behind. Countee and Yolande were divorced in December 1929. Smith's play is a fictionalized account based on the true events, and follows the unraveling of the young couple's marriage after Yolande learns of her husband's secret life.
"What happens is you're just born a few generations too early and you are socially obligated to keep your sexual identity in the closet, especially if you're famous," says Producing Artistic Director Marshall Jones. "KNOCK ME A KISS use humor and pathos along with a brilliantly funny and insightful performance by André De Shields to bring to life the complexities of race, class and sexuality in the 1920's."
The play is thoughtful and touching, but also has a sense of humor and lots of laughs. The humor stems from the humanity Charles gives to these recognizable characters. While portraying Du Bois truthfully, De Shields has audiences laughing through such characteristics as Du Bois' dedication to order and planning, and his view on male-female relations.
Charles also brilliantly weaves humor into scenes between Yolande and her confidant, even as the characters discuss the serious events in Yolande's life. The play's humor helps modern audiences relate to these important figures who lived 85 years ago.
KNOCK ME A KISS will feature the same acclaimed cast that made the show a hit at the New Federal Theater. Playing W.E.B. Du Bois is two-time Tony Award® nominee André De Shields, who directed the smash hit AIN'T MISBEHAVIN' at Crossroads last season. De Shields starred in the original Broadway run of AIN'T MISBEHAVIN'. Other Broadway credits include The Wiz, The Full Monty and Impressionism.
In KNOCK ME A KISS, De Shields captures the intelligence and stature of W.E.B. Du Bois, while also creating a complicated character who is concerned with his daughter, the future of the country and his view of the world at large and at home. But De Shields also brings a sense of humor to the role, bringing laughter to the evening.
Erin Cherry plays Yolande Du Bois. Cherry's credits include Crossroads' SHEILA'S DAY (2009) and regional productions of A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM and MACBETH. Appearing on the Crossroads stage marks a homecoming to New Brunswick for Cherry, who earned an MFA in acting from the Rutgers University Mason Gross School of Arts.
Playing the role of Jimmy Lunceford, the musician who's in love with Yolande, is Morocco Omari. Omari was an understudy in the recent Broadway revival of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. His TV credits include Joan of Arcadia, Prison Break and NCIS.