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Arts and Entertainment

‘Amen’ to that!
Ruth Sloane directs On Q Productions’ ‘Amen Corner’
Published Thursday, January 19, 2012 7:48 am
by Ryanne Persinger

The “Amen Corner” isn’t your typical play.

It has 32 cast members, two intermissions and runs for 2 hours and 50 minutes.
“The Amen Corner” is playing now through Jan. 28 at the Duke Energy Theater.

“It’s old-fashioned classic theater,” said director Ruth E. Sloane. “Plays like these aren’t written or commissioned anymore.”

“The Amen Corner,” written by James Baldwin in 1954 and set in Harlem in the 1940s is centered on the life of a storefront preacher.
“This play is extremely well-written,” Sloane said. “Baldwin knew all of the triggers to put in this play to make it exciting.”

The play, presented by On Q Productions, kicked off its official opening Wednesday and runs through Jan. 28 at the Duke Energy Theater at 345 N. College St. Tickets start at $17.

This is Sloane’s first time working with Quentin Talley, founder of On Q Productions.

In addition to directing “The Amen Corner,” Sloane’s work has been seen in Charlotte before. She has penned “The Second City,” about the history of Charlotte’s Brooklyn neighborhood and was also commissioned by the Mint Museum of Art for “Romare Bearden 1911-1988.”

Below is a Q&A with Sloane about “The Amen Corner.”

Q: How did you become director of the play?

A: (Talley) approached me and asked me to do it. I had to think about it for a long time. I was familiar with it, but I had not directed “The Amen Corner” before.

Q: Tell me about “The Amen Corner.”

A: The play is religious based and that is one of the things that make it so exciting and important. It’s about the Pentecostal church. Baldwin wrote the play in the late 1940s and finished it in 1954. Baldwin left home and went to Paris to become a writer. The first book Baldwin wrote was “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” then he penned “The Amen Corner.” The church scene takes up the first 20 pages of the script. Baldwin wanted people to have the experience of a worship service. People can get the enjoyment of church out of coming to the play. The choir director had to research the hymns used in the play. He had to go back to reference old 18th century hymnbooks.

Q: What is the play about?

A: It’s the story of Sister Margaret Alexander, the leading lady of the play. She is the pastor of the church and is self-anointed and self-righteous. We watch her move into a battle with the members of the congregation who are out to crumble her world. Her husband, whom she has been separated from for 10 years, comes home to die. He has tuberculosis. Her son leaves home to become a musician and this other character, Sister Moore, is trying to take her church away from her. Basically she goes through this conflicting struggle with people in the church and with her family but in the end she elevates to a different level with God.

Q: What can the audience expect to see and learn from the performance?

A: You’re going to see excellent acting and people dressed in wonderful costumes. It’s an exciting play. People are going to be at the edge of their seats. I’ve had one person tell me that if a person has never been in a African American Pentecostal church they are going to learn something because it’s educational. It’s religious-based and spiritually-based. 

Q: What has it been like working with Talley?

A: This is my first time working with Talley, but believe or not my daughter, Aisha Dew, has directed two plays for him in the past. I’ve really enjoyed it. It’s been a joy and the cast is really wonderful.

For tickets or for more information, call (704) 372-1000.

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