Saturday, January 14, 2012

The story of Zora Neale Hurston African American writer of the Harlem Renaissance

To kick off Black History Month events at the College of Lake County, the American Place Theatre’s Literature to Life® Stage Presentation of “Zora” by Lawrence Holder will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 1 in the James Lumber Center for the Performing Arts.

Performed by Cheryl Howard and adapted and directed by Wynn Handman, this dramatic biography tells the story of Zora Neale Hurston, an African American writer of the 1930s who was a celebrated figure from the Harlem Renaissance. The audience will experience Hurston’s life through intimate portraits of her contemporaries and excerpts from her significant body of literary work.

This theatrical biography was adapted into a solo performance from the original play by Laurence Holder in 2000. The show features 50 minutes of performance by this seasoned actress who captures the extraordinary spirit of the Queen of the Harlem Renaissance, Zora Neale Hurston. Incorporating music from the era and some of Hurston’s southern folklore, the story focuses on her battle to preserve her people’s culture and to live an authentic life against all odds. The presentation features a pre- and post-show interactive discussion.

Hurston’s most famous book is “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” According to the National Endowment for the Arts’ The Big Read website, to call the book “an ‘African American feminist classic’ may be an accurate statement -- it is certainly a frequent statement -- but it is a misleadingly narrow and rather dull way to introduce a vibrant and achingly human novel. The syncopated beauty of Hurston’s prose, her remarkable gift for comedy, the sheer visceral terror of the book’s climax, all transcend any label that critics have tried to put on this remarkable work.

Cheryl Howard stars in Zora on Feb. 1 at CLC.

Cheryl Howard stars in “Zora” on Feb. 1 at CLC.
First published amid controversy in 1937, then rescued from obscurity four decades later, the novel narrates Janie Crawford’s ripening from a vibrant, but voiceless, teenage girl into a woman with her finger on the trigger of her own destiny.”

The role of Zora is played by Cheryl Howard, who has toured and performed extensively throughout the United States and Europe.

Regionally, she has starred as the witch in “Into the Woods,” Mazeppa in “Gypsy,” Pattie Mae in “Home, the Musical,” LaLa in “The Colored Museum,” Josephine Baker in “Lucky in the Rain,” Miss Monisha in “Tin Pan Alley Rag” and Muzzie in “Thoroughly Modern Millie.” She was seen on Broadway as Bebe in “Dance a little Closer.” She played Deena Jones in “Dreamgirls” in Germany and Josephine Baker in “Josephine: The Musical,” which toured throughout Europe. Howard holds a B.A. in theatre arts from Rutgers University and a master’s degree in drama from Washington University in St. Louis.

General admission tickets are $26, with discounts for seniors, staff and Alumni Association members; tickets for CLC students and teens 12-17 are $16; and children’s tickets are $13 (prices include a $1 JLC facility fee). Tickets are available at the Box Office in the James Lumber Center on the Grayslake Campus, 19351 W. Washington St. For more information, call the Box Office at (847) 543-2300. The Box Office is open Monday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 90 minutes prior to each performance. Discounts are also available for groups of six or more. For group sales information, call (847) 543-2431 or email

College of Lake County, 19351 West Washington Street, Grayslake, IL 60030-1198 (847) 543-2000 +sookie tex

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