As the innocent Jefferson is accused of murder and sentenced to death, he and his teacher, Grant, must learn what it means to die with dignity.
Entrenched in the ways of Jim Crow South, Romulus Linney’s A Lesson Before Dying is a poignant adaptation of Ernest J. Gaines’ masterpiece.
“The purpose of this play is to get people to think about who we are and who we are as a culture,” said director John Bellomo.
Jefferson’s lawyers defend him by comparing him to a hog, but his grandmother wants him to die like a human not a hog.
She asks Grant, a man of education, to teach her grandson how to die with self-respect and pride.
The majority of the cast is African American with two Caucasians who play the roles of sheriff and deputy.
“Back then in Jim Crow South blacks could really only be teachers or preachers,” Bellomo said . “Or they could be farmers or servants, which was very demeaning.”
While slavery and subjugation is a part of African American history, it is important to remember that it is a part of all Americans’ history, whether you’re black or white, Hispanic or Asian.
“We all want to be a better person,” Bellomo said. “We all want to impact the world on a grand scale, but we just change ourselves, that will have an impact.”
This is what Grant and Jefferson learn from one another. Jefferson’s death symbolizes more than one man’s death; he becomes a symbol for the entire black community.
“It’s much easier to say something can’t be done than to try and fail,” Bellomo said. “But Grant learns to overcome the obstacles he faces in his sessions with Jefferson.”
Grant succeeds in teaching Jefferson that he must become more than an ordinary man and that his death will be more than an ordinary death.
Join Bellomo’s cast this Thursday for the premiere of A Lesson Before Dying at 7 p.m. at the Randall Theater.
Performances run March 17-18 at 8 p.m. with at 2 p.m. matinee on the 18th and March 20-25 at 8 p.m. with another matinee at 2 p.m. on March 25 at the Randall Theater (entrance is inside Annenberg Hall).
Tickets are $18 and are available at the Liacouras Center Box Office, www.ticketmaster.com, or by phone at 215-336-2000.
Tickets are $13 for seniors, children and faculty and are free for all students with a GAF card.
Kaitlyn Dreyling can be reached at email@example.com.