What I Learned in Paris
by Pearl Cleage
directed by Susan V. Booth
originally produced at Alliance Theatre,
September 5, 2012
through September 30, 2012
Mini-skirts and bell bottoms were on sale downtown for $8.87. Stevie Wonder was on the radio singing "Livin' for the City." And change was in the air from Buckhead to Butler Street. Set in 1973 on the evening of Maynard Jackson’s election as Atlanta’s first African American mayor, Pearl Cleage has written from her personal experience as Mayor Jackson’s press secretary in the early 1970’s, exploring class, race, and politics through a wholly unexpected lens – a romantic comedy. The play is an homage to Atlanta and its ongoing commitment to being “the city too busy to hate”, but at heart it is a love story between two 50-somethings who thought they had grown too busy to be the people they were when they first fell in love – but the truth is the exact opposite.
(Photo: Greg Mooney. Pictured: Kelsey Scott, Crystal Fox, and January LaVoy.)
While the city of Atlanta stands as the backdrop of the play, and could even be considered a character itself, What I Learned in Paris explores an era in American politics against a heart-warming love story that transcends location. As a celebrated and nationally recognized cultural figure whose plays have been performed on many stages throughout the country, the Alliance is honored to once again premiere one of Ms. Cleage’s plays. What I Learned in Paris bares all of Ms. Cleage’s signature gifts, namely her ability to represent contemporary American life and recent American history from the African-American female point of view as well as creating characters you want to root for, no matter if you are like those characters or not. However, this play is especially significant to the Alliance as it is a new work that Ms. Cleage developed as our Artist-in-Dialogue, a position that she still holds today.
This grant allows the Alliance to extend the rehearsal period for Pearl Cleage’s What I Learned in Paris from the budgeted three week process to four weeks. This extra week of rehearsal will not only provide essential time for the creative team, including the director and actors, to collaborate in person with the playwright, but also will allow the kind of discussion, text analysis and script revision time that a playwright of Ms. Cleage’s stature deserves on a world premiere project.
Additional Funding: What I Learned in Paris is part of the Coca-Cola Series on the Alliance Stage. Additional funders include: Delta Air Lines – Official Airline of the Alliance Theatre; Marriott Residence Inn – Official Hotel of the Alliance Theatre; The Home Depot – Set Construction Sponsor of the Alliance Theatre. What I Learned in Paris was made possible with grants from the City of Atlanta Office of Cultural Affairs, the Fulton County Arts Council, the Georgia Council for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Director: Susan V. Booth
Set Design: Brian Sidney Bembridge
Lighting Design: Ken Yunker
Sound Design: Clay Benning
Costume Design: Lex Liang
Cast: Crystal Fox, Danny Johnson, January LaVoy, Eugene H. Russell IV, Kelsey Scott