The United States of America was founded on the ideals that “all men are created equal.” This phrase was written into our Declaration of Independence by Thomas Jefferson, but how could he, in all honesty, declare this when he owned over 150 slaves? Also, many of the other signers had slaves. Did they not believe these slaves were creations of God just like they were? This question has been debated time after time through history, and the United States’ bloodiest war was fought because of it. Even after that war ended with a Union victory, equality of the races did not automatically come about. It took over 100 years for the process to really gain ground, and that was only accomplished through the hard work and self-sacrifice of both black and white Americans, who did believe that all men are created equal.
How many kids of any race know the history and plight of these people that were finally able to be called African Americans? Well, they can now see this history reincarnated on the stage of the world class Cannon Center in Memphis on February 4 and 5, 2016, when the cast of “The Juneteenth Story” takes you from the beginning to present day in the history of Africans in American and how they finally became African Americans.
“The Juneteenth Story” is a play, co-written by Larry G. Batchlor and Levi Frazier, Jr.. They are also the producers. It is directed by Jackie Murray, and has a cast of talented actors. There will be a series of articles on this production before the play opens on February 4, 2016, but for now, let’s take a look at some of the cast members.
Kenon Walker as The Soldier: Kenon is not new to the acting scene, and is an accomplished stage, film and voice-over actor, lyricist, media journalist and tour guide. He has performed in over 50 stage plays including “Purlie Victorious,” “One Monkey Don’t Stop No Show,” “Black Soap 2-6,” “Indigo Blues” and “Love on the Rocks.” Kenon strives to inspire people through the art of entertainment.
Tymika Chambliss as Big Momma: Tymika is a native of New Orleans, Louisiana, and has been blessed with opportunities to share her acting talents in movies “The Cellular Effect” and “The Awakening of a Troubled Mind.” Tymika has also appeared in commercials, including “Toyota Go for the Gold” and “The Man Store promo.” Her stage acting has included “The Man Store,” “The Convert at Hattiloo,” “The Break-up Chronicles, “Girls Night Out,” “Simply Simone the Musical” at Hattiloo Theatre and “Here Come the Jacksons.”
Zakary Taylor as Corey: Zakary Taylor has been interested in theatre since the age of five. He had his first stage experience when he was in the sixth grade and started again after graduating high school. He has been in numerous projects around the city, including a few local movies and TV shows, such as “Quarry” and “Mystery Man.” Zakary pursues an aspiring career in acting and plans to take his talents to further levels.
Brandon Macario as Julio: Brandon Macario is very delighted to join the cast of “The Juneteenth Story Play.” As an actor, visual artist, and musician, Brandon hopes to inspire others through the arts to follow their dreams. Brandon is a resident actor and production assistant of Cazateatro Bilingual Theatre Group, a non-profit organization based here in Memphis, Tennessee. Living life in the here and the now, Brandon strives to follow his passions and inspire others along the way.
Kaja Kelson as Shauntae: Kaja Kelson is third grader at HLIS and a native Memphian, Kaja is thrilled to be cast as Shauntae in “The Juneteenth Story.” Theatre credits include: Young Kangaroo in “Seussical Jr,” Orphan in “Annie Jr.,” Lobster in “Story Tales”, and Katelyn in “Lost in Minecraft.” Commercial credits include: Patient at Delta Medical Center. Television Credits include: Guest Starring in “Devil’s Creek” and Cynthia in “Mystery Man Series.” Also, Kaja is a gymnast who loves to praise dance at church.
Tony T. Patterson as Mr. Johnson/African King/African Slave: Tony Patterson is an Arkansas native, who is glad to be a part of this wonderful production again with a new character twist. He has been in theatre in productions, including “Seven Guitars” and several films, including “Three Rookies,” “Champion Road Arena,” and “Take Me Back to Bill.”
Andee Evers as Maggie/Harriet Beecher Stowe: Andee Evers is the founder and CEO of the Studio for the Arts, celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. As the director of The Imperial Dinner Theatre in Pocahontas, AR, she is excited to have this opportunity to work with the esteemed Jackie Murray, who is directing this show. Originally from St. Louis, Evers was honored with the 1996 Arkansas Arts Award and was named the 1997 Arkansas Woman of Achievment, her plaque is in the National Museum of Women in Washington D.C. She has been recognized by the Arkansas Thespian Festival, Modern Woodmen Community Service Recognition, Arkansas Literacy Council and is a Rotary Paul Harris Fellow.
James Cook as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: James is a graduate of Florida State University, who’s latest credits include “In the Heights,” directed by Patdro Harris & Carlton Leake, “If Scrooge was a Brother” & “Hurt Village,” directed by Ekundayo Bandele. It is a pleasure to be under the direction of Jackie Murray and can’t wait to hit the stage of the Cannon Center.
Molly McFarland as Megan: Molly is a seventh grader and is thrilled to be playing the role of Megan in “The Juneteenth Story.” Molly has performed in several theatrical productions, including “Suessical Jr.” (Bird Girl), “Willy Wonka Jr.” (Mike Teavee), “Shrek Jr.” (The Ugly Duckling), “Annie Jr.” (Orphan), “Nutcracker” (u/s Marie/Mouse Guard), “Best of Broadway 3” (Soloist), “Broadway Showstoppers/Les Miserable” (Young Cosette), and “The Little Princess” (Lottie). Molly has also appeared in the Christian film “Louis & Skeeter: Search for Buried Treasure.”
Gordon Ginsberg as Abraham Lincoln/Slave Bidder/White Preacher: Gordon is a 40-year veteran of stage, film, and video, and has performed with various Memphis theatre companies, among them: Circuit Playhouse, Beale Street Repertory Co., Playhouse on the Square, Theatre Memphis, Our Own Voice Theatre Troupe, University of Memphis, The Tennessee Williams Theatre Festival, The Emerald Theatre Company, Bluff City Tri-Art Theatre Co., and others. Favorite roles have included: Dwight Carter in “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” (U.S. premier), Brick Pollitt in “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” multiple roles in “The Laramie Project,” and Gilbert Marshall in “The Royal Family.”
Thomas “Lè TeKay” King as Paul/Black Preacher: TeKay has performed in Memphis since 2008 with DeltaCappella, Opera Memphis, POTS, Emerald Theatre, Stage Door Productions, Southwest Tennessee Community College, Hattiloo and Theatre Memphis. Last August saw TeKay touring with his band DeltaCappella in Shanghai, China (deltacappella.com). He’s excited to be working again with Jackie since the production of “Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope”. There’s a strong jubilee with this cast! TeKay is a recipient of the 2014 Diversity On Stage Award. Past shows include the a cappella opera “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (world premiere), “Ragtime,” “Dreamgirls,” “The Wiz” and “8: The Play.” With an MA in performance/directing from UNC, TeKay won a 2008 IndyWeek best director award for “The America Play”. Broadway performances include staged concerts of “Children of Eden,” & “Pippin” with Stephen Schwartz and “Oliver!” for the Irish Rep.
Nichole Tate Jackson as Pregnant Slave: Nichole Jackson is excited to be a part of this production. A native Memphian, she has had the opportunity to perform in various venues. Notable credits include, “KING HEDLEY II” (Hattiloo Theatre), “The North Star: An Urban Nativity” (Hattiloo Theatre), “If Scrooge Was a Brother” (Hattiloo Theatre) and the Ostrander Award winning “Hurt Village” (Hattiloo Theatre). She has additional stage credits, as well as, experience in television, commercial, film, and industrial work. Nichole thanks God first as well as her family for loving her and supporting her and allowing her to chase her dream!
This is only part of the cast of “The Juneteenth Story,” and more will appear in future articles. Tickets are selling fast, so get yours soon. They can be purchased online at The Juneteenth Story tickets, or at the box office at 901-576-1269 or 901-576-1200. Be sure to check out the slideshow and video in this article. Please make plans to see this performance, and learn more about this country’s history. Also, if you haven’t already subscribed to the Memphis Performing Arts section of the Examiner, you can do so by clicking on the subscribe link near the bottom of this page.