VSU Theatre & Dance Presents 'A Lesson Before Dying' Feb. 23-29

February 21, 2012

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

VSU Theatre & Dance Presents 'A Lesson Before Dying' Feb. 23-29

VALDOSTA -- Valdosta State University Theatre & Dance will continue its 2011-2012 season with seven performances of Romulus Linney’s “A Lesson Before Dying.”

Sponsored, in part, by 100 Black Men of Valdosta Inc., theatre fans are invited to catch this “engrossing, moving, and finally devastating play” at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 23, through Saturday, Feb. 25; at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 26; and at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 27, through Wednesday, Feb. 29, in the Lab Theatre, located on the second floor of the Fine Arts Building. Tickets are free for VSU students with valid identification, $12 for adults, $10 for senior citizens, $8 for children and non-VSU students, and $7 for groups of 10 or more.

Based on the novel by Ernest J. Gaines, “A Lesson Before Dying” is set in the small Cajun community of Bayonne, La., in the late 1940s. The play starts after the story has begun. Jefferson, a young black man, has been wrongly convicted of murder and sentenced to death. In an attempt to save his life, his public defender describes him as no more a human being than a hog, and Jefferson eats his meals in prison on all fours, like an animal. His godmother, Miss Emma Glen, asks the local schoolteacher, Grant Wiggins, to visit Jefferson in prison and teach him to die like a man. As first Grant Wiggins does not want to see Jefferson. Although he was sent to college by the community in exchange for teaching in the plantation schoolhouse, he views his job and Miss Emma Glen’s request as useless. However, with the encouragement of his girlfriend, Vivian, he sticks it out, refusing to run away from his responsibilities. As Jefferson’s execution day nears, it becomes nearly impossible for everyone involved to distinguish between the teacher and the learner.

H. Duke Guthrie, associate theatre professor, said that the play will show audience members “that we all continually have lessons to learn if we are willing to do the work for it.”

“A Lesson Before Dying,” Guthrie added, “was one of the most powerful plays I have ever read, and I thought, with hard work by the cast and crew through the really tough issues the play presents, we could make the play a powerful experience for the audience.”

The VSU Theatre & Dance Box Office is open from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Call (229) 333-5973 for advance reservations. Tickets can be picked up outside the Lab Theatre approximately 30 minutes prior to curtain. Reserved tickets not picked up within 15 minutes of curtain are subject to release to the waiting list.

Parking is available in the Oak Street Parking Deck, in the Toombs Street lot one-half block south of the Fine Arts Building, or in the University Center lot one block east of the Fine Arts Building.


Directors: Dr. John C. Gaston, dean of the College of the Arts, who focused on the characters and cultural issues of the play; H. Duke Guthrie, associate professor of theatre, who focused on the more technical aspects of the play.

Cast: D’Amante Wilson as Miss Emma Glen; John Holladay as Paul Bonin; Jonathan Butts as Grant Wiggins; Clark Franzman as Sheriff Sam Guidry; Mark LaMont Hance as Jefferson; Diamond Do’zia as Vivian Baptiste; Anthony Scott as the Rev. Moses Ambrose.

Crew: R. Keith Pugh, scenic and lighting design; Patrice N. Trower, costume design; Michael Driggers, technical director; Heath McNease, original score; Deborah Morgan, dramaturg

Technical Staff: Shawanna Hall, stage manager; Christa Bynum, assistant stage manager; Esther Iverson, faculty advisor to student costume designer.