By the end of summer, Jubilee Theatre is expected to announce its new artistic director, the fourth since co-founder Rudy Eastman died in 2005. But it had to come up with a 2018-19 season, and did so with the help of interim director Bernard Cummings, who is on the theater faculty at Southern Methodist University.
Cummings assumed that role not long after the board fired William “Bill” Earl Ray, who had been the artistic director for about a year. The new season was announced at Jubilee’s fabulous gala fundraiser in late spring.
“They were beginning a national search for someone,” Cummings says, “and wanted to take their time and see where Jubilee could go in the future. I came in to help.”
Cummings, a native of the east Texas town of Bethlehem (near Gilmer), graduated from SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts in 1987, then earned a master’s from Yale School of Drama. He lived and worked in New York and D.C., has a rent-controlled apartment in Harlem that he’s had since 1990, and has taught for Stella Adler, SUNY Purchase and elsewhere. In 2011 he moved back to Texas to be close to his ailing mother, and to take the job at SMU.
The 2018-19 season expands on the themes and types of shows that the first two post-Eastman artistic directors were programming, with three musicals and three plays.
It kicks off with the play Nina Simone: Four Women, to be directed by Regina Washington, who regularly acted with Jubilee before starting her own African American Repertory Theater in Dallas. The other plays are the regional premieres of Aurin Squire’s Obama-ology , about black college students working on Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign, and Dennis McIntyre’s Split Second, which Cummings describes as “a Twlight Zone version of Black Lives Matter.” Musicals on the season include Bubbling Brown Sugar, The Five Heartbeats, and The First Noel.
“I wanted to choose a season where an audience could have this arc,” Cumming says. “From September to July, the shows take is from where have we been, to where are we going, and where we are now.”
Cummings says it will be up to the new artistic director to take Jubilee into the future, but one thing he hopes will become a focus is nurturing young black directors in DFW, such as Tiffany Nichole Greene, who is directing shows at Theatre Three, Second Thought Theatre, Stage West and WaterTower Theatre.
Cummings will direct Split Second, and in addition to Washington, directors for the 2018-19 season include Jiles King, Lisa Devine and Michael Serrecchia.
Below is the Jubilee press release with descriptions, dates, ticket info and more:
Jubilee Theatre, one of the longest running African-American theaters, announces their 38th Season. Under the direction of Interim Artistic Director Benard Cummings, the plays and musicals represent a diversity of voices and styles, including ripped-from-the-headlines dramas, nostalgic musicals, and fresh assessments of the world around us.
“We are excited about our 2018-19 season,” said Cummings. “Building on the success of A Motown Christmas, Detroit ’67 and It Ain’t Nothing But the Blues, we are ecstatic to continue giving our audience fresh, thought provoking content. Jubilee has always been at the forefront of arts creativity and this season will be no different.”
Nina Simone: Four Women
by Christina Ham
Directed by Regina Washington
September 28 – October 28, 2018
“My skin is brown, my manner is tough...” Nina Simone’s velvet voice was unafraid to sing lyrics that cut right to the truth. From the iconic, “I Put a Spell on You” to “Feelin’ Good” to the title protest song “Four Women,” her music was a personal and political exploration branded in the killing of the Civil Rights Movement. Simone’s lyrics weave a story of four women alienated from themselves and each other due to the color of their skin. But, through it all they remain triumphant — women proud “To Be Young, Gifted and Black.” “All I want is equality for my sister, my brother, my people and me...” — Nina Simone
The First Noel
Music and lyrics by Lelund Durond Thompson and Michael Jason Webb
Directed by Jiles R. King, II
November 23 – December 23, 2018
This Harlem-based holiday musical features music that crosses genres—from pop to jazz to gospel — to tell a universal story of love and belonging. It’s a story that follows three generations affected by the tragic loss of a loved one. Time is slow to heal this family’s wounds until an unexpected visit from Grandma reveals some long-absent Christmas joy. The First Noel is about how a community is healed, one family at a time, as everyday people do extraordinary things to help one another receive the gift of love during the holiday season.
by Aurin Squire
Directed by Lisa Devine
January 25 – February 24, 2019
When African-American college graduate Warren takes a job with the 2008 Obama campaign, he’s fired up and ready to go – until he lands in the troubled streets of East Cleveland. But somewhere between knocking on doors, fending off cops, and questioning his own racial and sexual identity, he learns that changing society isn’t as easy as he imagined. A stunning new play that demonstrates the resilience of the human spirit to overcome defeat at the hands of social repression and financial hardship.
Bubbling Brown Sugar
by Loften Mitchell
Directed by Michael Serrecchia
March 22 – April 28, 2019
Journey back in time to the Harlem Renaissance when audiences flocked to the area’s popular nightclubs to see the greatest talents entertain. Artists like Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Billie Holliday created a golden age of music with their exciting sounds and glamorous shows. You’ll jam, jump, and jive to this exuberant, three-time Tony-nominated musical revue.
By Dennis McIntyre
Directed by Bernard Cummings
May 24 – June 23, 2019
This stimulating drama explores the story of a respected African-American police officer who arrests a white man on suspicion of attempted car theft. The suspect taunts the officer with racist insults and verbal attacks until, in the grip of uncontrollable rage, the officer loses his cool and guns down his handcuffed antagonist. There are no witnesses; the cop can probably get away with it. Does he turn himself in or does he cover himself?
The Five Heartbeats
In Collaboration with SPAA Theater
Adaptation by LéRoi Rey
Directed by Amy Poe
July 26 – August 25, 2019
In the early 1960s a quintet of hopeful young African-American men form an amateur vocal group called The Five Heartbeats. After an initially rocky start, the group improves, turn pro, and rise to become a top flight music sensation. Along the way however, the guys learn many hard lessons about the reality of the music industry with its casual racism and greed while the personal weaknesses of the members threaten to destroy the integrity of the group.
Season tickets are on sale now and may be purchased online at jubileetheatre.org or in person at the theater Box Office, located at 506 Main Street or by calling 817-338-4411. Box Office hours of operation are Tuesday – Friday 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. and one hour before each performance.
Jubilee Theatre, the Fort Worth’s only African-American theater producing a full season of shows, exists to create and present theatrical works that reflect the African-American experience. Located at 506 Main Street in Sundance Square, downtown Fort Worth, Jubilee Theatre is easily accessible from anywhere in the DFW Metroplex.