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ENTERTAINMENT eta presents…. Tangleda play by Nicole Anderson Cobb

The tragic death of Trayvon Martin has outraged communities worldwide. People have been protesting in the streets, gathering in churches and schools, and posting comments and pic- tures on social media sites. Most notably, individuals have donned hood- ies as a symbol of solidarity and justice for the seemingly wrongful death of an innocent African American youth. Racial profile killings are as American as apple pie and continue to evoke painful outcries. But what if Trayvon’s assailant was


American? Does Black on Black crime warrant the grandiose emotional reac-

tion and media attention? Would com- munities en masse protest against senseless shootings of Black children by Black children? Playwright Nicole Anderson Cobb raises these questions in her play, Tangled, now running thru May 19th at eta Creative Arts Foundation.

The story centers on three African American women who put forth great efforts to manage their family business - Elliott Funeral Home. A business located in the heart of one of Chicago’s most violent-infested communities. Vee Elliott is the straight lace sister with a large craving for sweets. Her upper

class mentality, however, is her tragic flaw masking what is really a very fear- ful persona. Clo Elliott is Vee’s sister. She is an old school party girl who des- perately needs a drink and a smoke to get through everyday life. Clo and Vee’s niece, Dee Elliot, is a free spirit. Dee is also a single parent working hard to keep her teenage son - Mell - off the streets and on the right track. Clo’s character emerges as the lead- ing voice in this journey of mourning and breakthrough. The rising violence in their community is emotionally tax- ing. Day after day, the women are arranging funerals for neighbors, asso-

ciates, and friends who are shot and killed with guns triggered by Black hands. Not knowing how to react, Clo blames everyone for the violence…. from President Barack Obama to the reckless behavior of Black youth. Her perspective is further complicated by the ghost of her grandmother haunting her sub-conscious. Grandma appears periodically to remind Clo of the strength of her ancestors. Her presence and words of wisdom provide the cata- lyst for Clo to breakthrough.


Clo’s close friend Bren is shot and killed and her nephew Mell is caught in crossfire, she begins to un-Tangle.

Nicole Anderson Cobb wrote the play in response to the growing vio- lence in American communities.


has programmed post show discussions - “Talk Back Thursdays” -in efforts to explore, understand, and inspire posi- tive resolutions to gun violence.


series welcomes prominent speakers to dialog with audience members starting Thursday April 5th. Confirmed speak- ers are WVON personality Kendall Moore (April 12), Fr. Michael Pfleger (April 19), Ameena Matthews (May 3), and Diane Latiker (May 17).

-Angelique Westerfield The Under Shepherd takes a controversial look at the Black church


The latest foray into movie making by nationally syndicated morning DJ Russ Parr is astounding. He wrote and directed his fifth movie entitled, The Under Shepherd. It’s sure to have people, partic- ularly those deep in the Black church, say- ing a lot more than amen. For example, this one scene from the movie illustrates what I mean. “You’re a fraud and an insult to this church (First Baptist Church) and God.” Deaconess Carter, with controlled anger, deftly portrayed by Vanessa Bell Calloway, said to the Rev. Lawrence “LC” Case. He’s played by Isaiah Washington, whose character was a doc- tor in the ABC network drama, Grey’s Anatomy. Looking at her straight in the eye, with an air of self righteousness, Rev. Case replied, “I am God.”

It seems Parr was destined to write this

story. His mother took him to the Black church as a young child. However, it was not a good experience he said. “I was real- ly invested into the church and the church I was going to. Then I started seeing things that didn’t make sense. My mom, who was a very religious woman, pulled me out of the church. She thought I was losing myself.”

Politics also had something to do with why he felt the need to make this movie explaining, “It was the 2004 election and I had a Republican friend of mine say, hey I’ll tell you a little secret when the election is over. We’re going into a lot of swing states and buying off the Black ministers and giving them talking points.” Parr said he did research and found something out six months after George Bush won the presidential election. “I saw evidence of what he said. A lot of these pastors would donate money to their church. Alot of these pastors would put it in their pockets. Then he started to see a lot of the pastors were under federal indictment.”

Parr was quick to point out the pastors CHICAGO DEFENDER / APRIL 4-10, 2012 13

were not all Black. There were White pas- tors involved in corruption too. After looking at the situation he said, “That encouraged me. There’s a story here.” But he says he held back when he wrote the script. “I didn’t want to go too far with it. I didn’t want to get into the Bishop Eddie Long stuff. (Long was accused of sexually abusing several teenaged male members of his church.) I wanted just enough on this man’s plate that it was real and honest and very believable.” Being Rev. Case wasn’t easy especially when he was extremely verbally abusive to his wife Cassandra, played by Malinda Williams. So much so that Washington said he needed to take a break after film- ing one intense scene. “I stormed out after every take. I think I maybe did two takes. I almost walked back to my trailer. I think

the wardrobe person asked me where was I going. I said I hate Russ Parr. (laughing) I told them I’m not being difficult. But, if you don’t get it in this take, I’m not doing this again.” Williams, perhaps best known as the hair stylist Tracy “Bird” Van Adams in the Showtime acclaimed drama series, Soul Food, came into this film during an extraordinary year last year. She made five other films in 2011.

She heaped much praise on her co-star husband. “Isaiah was so incredibly pow- erful in this role, as he is in all of his roles. For me it really was somewhat of a dream come true when Russ told me that Isaiah would be playing LC. Because once he said that I said, of course, there is no one else who can do that. I don’t think there’s anyone else who could have brought the emotion from that type of pain that was to

be in the film inflicted who could bring it out in such a true filet that Isaiah did. And I tell you every time I went back to my trailer; I had to say to myself quietly, I for- give you Isaiah.” Williams said she wanted to show the face of abuse for personal reasons. “I’ve lived it. I’ve had friends who have lived it. I’ve had family members who have lived it. Various levels of abuse. And, initially when Russ approached me to be a part of the film, he approached me about playing Deaconess Carter. So, I took a look at the script. But, immediately Cassandra res- onated with me. Part of the reason why she resonated with me is because I do understand certain levels of abuse. I understand them on a personal level and I understand them on a level, you know, just watching someone else go through a situation.”

However, The Under Shepherd is not a single issue movie, about a pastor abusing his wife. Williams, when asked to describe the movie said. “The character is representative of many ills that we have to address, particularly in our community when it comes to power and how one abuses it, misuses it or underuses it or undervalues it. There have been many of our leaders that have been put in situations of power and for some reason it’s been corrupted. Probably, historically for very simple reasons, maybe it's just different philosophy, ideology, maybe money. I think what Russ was able to do or trying to do is create a character that would put a face on how one has to be accountable for every action that they do. ” Anumber of other top-notch actors are in the film, including Lou Gossett Jr., Lamman Rucker and Keith David.

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