By Jeff Cummings
Last Friday night, I attended a preview of “Savior Samuel,” a play by local playwright Mark Clayton Southers. I am a big fan of Mr Southers’ work. He is a former steelworker, an award-winning playwright, photographer, scenic designer, theatrical producer and stage director.
He is also the founder and producing Artistic Director of the Pittsburgh Playwrights’ Theatre Company, the company that is producing this run of “Savior Samuel.” Southers has produced well over 150 full-length and one-act plays with the Pittsburgh Playwrights, including August Wilson’s complete 10-play American Century Cycle. As a young working-class man of color living in Pittsburgh, Southers was privileged to have had the opportunity to be mentored by August Wilson.
Southers has garnered recognition of his own around the world. His play “Ma Noah” was the recipient of the 2004 Theodore Ward Prize at Columbia College, Chicago. His poem play “Angry Black Man Poetry AKAEndangered Species” had a successful run at Teatr Śląski in Katowice, Poland, in 2009. He was the Artistic Director for the 2016 year-long August Wilson Festival at Short North Stage, Columbus, Ohio. His play “Miss Julie, Clarissa And John” was featured at the 2017 National Black Theater Festival and had a three week run at the 2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland.
“Savior Samuel” was written in 2002, but this is the first time it has been produced. If you are a fan of Mark Clayton Southers’ work, I recommend that you go see this play.
If you are not a fan of Mark Clayton Southers, I recommend you become one immediately. He is a very important local artist of international acclaim. He is passionate, creative, humane and bold in all the works of his that I have seen.
One other important highlight of this play is an excellent performance by Aaliyah Sanders, a 10th Grader from the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. Ms Sanders is cast as Essie, the deaf teenage daughter of Black pioneers in late 19th Century Kansas. The entertainment industry is full of stories where actors are hired to portray minority characters, while actors from those same minority communities are so often overlooked and underemployed. It is so refreshing to see a production company do the intelligent thing by casting a minority actor to play a minority character. It’s not surprising, though, when that production company is the Pittsburgh Playwrights’ Theatre Company, an institution dedicated to diversity from its inception.
Please do check out “Savior Samuel” at the Trust Arts Education Building until March 16th.
By Mark Clayton Southers
Directed by Monteze Freeland
Dramaturgy by Dr. Kyle Bostian
Feb 8 thru Mar 16, 2019
At the Trust Arts Education Center, 805 Liberty Avenue
$30 per ticket
Please Note: Many Sunday matinees feature free talkbacks led by dramaturg Dr. Kyle Bostian following the performance. ASL interpretation provided for the Monday March 4th and Sunday March 10th performance.
Jeff Cummings is a fundraiser, writer and activist.
(TMC newspaper VOL. 49 No. 2 March 2019. All rights reserved.)