THE ENSEMBLE THEATRE
Artistic Director of The Ensemble Theatre EILEEN J. MORRIS
THE GREEN BOOK
By Calvin Alexander Ramsey
Directed By Shirley Jo Finney
January 23 - February 23, 2020
For more information, click on www.EnsembleHouston.com
The Ensemble Theatre Drives into the New Year with “The Green Book”
Inspired by Victor Green’s “The Negro Motorist Green Book”
Who/What: The Ensemble Theatre drives into the new year with the regional premiere drama The Green Book, Inspired by Victor Green’s “The Negro Motorist Green Book” written by Calvin Alexander Ramsey and directed by Shirley Jo Finney.
Ramsey is an award-winning children’s picture book author, photographer, and painter. The Green Book is Ramsey’s first work as a playwright highlighting the difficulties African Americans faced while traveling in the Jim Crow era. His research in developing this play recaptures personal narratives elderly African Americans recalling their emotions and fear of peril while traveling in the South.
The story takes place during a weekend when the Davis’ are celebrating the arrival of Dr. W. E. B. DuBois for a lecture. The appearance of a white visitor, who turns out to be a Jewish Holocaust survivor, sets off a chain of events that shows that racism and anti-Semitism cannot be ignored. This play integrates historical context of The Negro Motorist Green Book as it investigates the impact of Civil Rights on contemporary American issues.
Featured cast members include: Timothy Eric (DAN DAVIS); Rachel Hemphill Dickson (BARBARA DAVIS); Christian Simon (NEENA MOLLY DAVIS); Kendrick 'Kay B' Brown (CPT. GEORGE SMITH); Brianna Odo-Boms (JACQUELINE SMITH); Jarred Tettey (KEITH CHENAULT); and John Stevens (JACOB LEVINSKY)
Show Run: January 23 – February 23, 2020
Thursdays: 7:30 p.m.
Fridays: 8:00 p.m.
Saturdays: 2:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m.
Sundays: 3:00 p.m.
Where: The Ensemble Theatre
3535 Main St, Houston, TX 77002
Ticket Prices: $26- $57
Special Pricing: Group Rates and Weekday Matinees for Schools Available
The Ensemble Theatre's 2019-2020 Season is sponsored in part by grants from the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance, Texas Commission on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. United Airlines is the official airline sponsor for The Ensemble Theatre. The Green Book is generously supported in part by ExxonMobil and the Anti-Defamation League.
The Ensemble Theatre was founded in 1976 by the late George Hawkins to preserve African American artistic expression and to enlighten, entertain, and enrich a diverse community. Forty-two years later, the theatre has evolved from a touring company operating from the trunk of Mr. Hawkins’ car to being one of Houston’s finest historical cultural institutions.
The Ensemble is one of a few professional theatres in the region dedicated to the production of works portraying the African American experience. The oldest and largest professional African American theatre in the Southwest, it holds the distinction of being one of the nation’s largest African American theatres owning and operating its facility and producing in-house. Late Board President Emerita Audrey Lawson led the capital campaign for The Ensemble’s $4.5 million building renovations that concluded in 1997. The Ensemble Theatre has fulfilled and surpassed the vision of its founder and continues to expand and create innovative programs to bring African American theatre to a myriad of audiences.
THE GREEN BOOK starring (L-R)
A COMMUNITY COMES TOGETHER
Interview with Calvin Alexander Ramsey
Playwright of THE GREEN BOOK
By Theresa Pisula
By Theresa Pisula
January 23, 2020
Born in Baltimore, Maryland and raised in Roxboro, North Carolina, Calvin Alexander Ramsey is a playwright, author, photographer and visual artist who now resides in New York. His first work THE GREEN BOOK, a two-act play about the difficulties African-Americans faced while traveling during the Jim Crow era, was based on his research on The Negro Motorist Green Book, a manual directing Blacks to “safe” restaurants, hotels and gas stations. The play had its world premiere at Atlanta’s Theatrical Outfit, selling out many performances. In June 2004, it won recognition as a finalist in the 12th Annual Last Frontier Theater Conference held in Valdez, Alaska where it was critiqued by prominent playwrights, actors and directors including Edward Albee, Tony Kushner, Lloyd Richards, Courtney Vance and Patricia Neal.
Mr. Ramsey’s other works include the acclaimed 2010 children’s book Ruth and the Green Book and Bricktop the Musical. Mr. Ramsey is a recipient of the Martin Luther King Jr. Drum Major for Justice Award. His documentary film, Green Book Chronicles is in post-production and will feature Houston Green Book locations.
Theresa: I’ve seen the movie The Green Book (2018). But I believe your play was written before the movie came out.
(L-R) Playwright Calvin Alexander Ramsey, Theresa Pisula, Director Shirley Jo Finney and
THE GREEN BOOK starring (L-R)
Brief History of Negro Motorist Green Book
The Negro Motorist Green Book was developed by Victor and Alma Green and published 1936-1967. The Green book was a directory of services for African Americans traveling during the Jim Crow era that included lodging, restaurants, medical care, and gas stations. Travelers were able to use the guide to avoid the dangers of violence in the segregated South. The Green Book was distributed nationally and was supported by ExxonMobil predecessor Standard Oil through their chain of Esso retail stations which welcomed African American travelers.
Theresa: now, I’ve seen the movie. This play is not at all like the movie….
Jarred: not at all. This play is written by a totally different person, with a completely different point of view than what the movie explores.
Theresa: did you audition for this role?
Jarred: Well it was quite unexpected. I was waiting tables at my previous restaurant job and Eileen J. Morris (Artistic Director of the Ensemble Theatre) came to eat at the restaurant. She had recently seen me in the show I was in called The Royale, which was at the Rec Room last spring.
Theresa: and she recognized you as a server in a restaurant?
Jarred: I’ve known Eileen for a number of years. But our schedules haven’t aligned. And the stars haven’t aligned to bring us together….
Theresa: until that night.
Jarred: Until that night. She had given me the feedback about the show. And she urged me to come and audition for this season. Auditions were this past summer and she asked me to audition for The Green Book.
At first, I was reticent to do it because I was doing A Christmas Carol at the Alley and my schedules were, you know, I had an overlapping gig. I didn’t think I could do it. And she said, “No, no, no. We’ll work it out, we’ll work it out.”
Theresa: so, she asked you to audition specifically for this role?
Jarred: I believe so, yeah.
Theresa: that’s amazing. She has a crystal ball.
Jarred: yeah, she knows exactly what she wants. That’s one thing I love about her. That’s my favorite thing about a director. If I meet a director who seems to know what they want, I’m all in.
Theresa: (laughs) that’s very specific. She has you pegged for this role.
Jarred: (laughs) she seemed to know. She wanted me in this show. It’s always great when you get that feeling. I’ve been wanting to work at the Ensemble Theatre for a while.
Theresa: but you still had to audition?
Jarred: yeah, I auditioned. I came in and read, I felt good about it. I felt like, I had a good sense of the character. Shirley Jo (Finney, the director) gave me some direction. Eventually, we worked out the schedule, there was a little bit of overlap. But it worked out pretty well.
Theresa: where are you from?
Jarred: I was born and grew up here in Houston (laughs). So, I’m a hometown boy.
Theresa: what made you want to become a stage performer?
Jarred: It’s kind of a typical story. I was a kid who was overactive, a disruptive class-clown type….
Jarred: There was always this sense of chatter, chatter, chatter. Performing was within my body, within my spirit. I didn’t really get into acting until middle school. I had a middle school teacher Miss Kathleen Kennedy who really encouraged me to audition for a play, to be a part of Speech and Drama and the Performing Arts. Miss Kennedy was so encouraging. When you think about who brought you into the world, I credit her one hundred percent. She was the one who was like, “Well channel that into this….”
That carried into high school where in freshman year I auditioned for a play since I had fun with it in middle school. It ended up being my extracurricular activity, I was part of the thespian troupe in high school. Eventually studied it in college at Texas State, I got my degree in acting.
My first job right out of school is here in Houston, at the Houston Shakespeare Festival. My acting career sort of took off from there. I met a lot of really cool professionals at the Houston Shakespeare Festival like stage managers, actors, a whole lot of people. Over the next couple of years, that kind of got the ball rolling. And the rest, as they say is history.
Theresa: is there anyone else who influences you as an artist?
Jarred: currently, I follow Billy Porter. He is somebody who is unabashedly himself. He has proven that you don’t have to be anything anyone expects you to be in order to rise to the occasion. Sometimes, it doesn’t happen immediately, sometimes it happens 10 years, 20 years or 30 years after you’ve been doing stuff. There’s no perfect time line for people. It is only when it is right for you.
Theresa: What would you like the audience to gain from watching this play?
Jarred: Especially in today’s world, there are a lot of different opinions that people have and different ways of thinking. People come from different backgrounds and it influences the things they believe and their behaviors. I would hope that people will learn Tolerance. Understanding that just because you believe something, that doesn’t mean that is the only way to believe. And that is right way to believe. Having different opinions and listening to different people can help you understand their point of view. Think about the other perspective. Think about how your decisions affect other people.
My character has a strong argument on one particular decision. But he’s narrow-minded in thinking only the way he believes. The story I want to tell is allowing other people to influence you, especially other people you respect and look up to. Even if they believe something different, listening to them, and letting that understanding help you make better decisions that you realize will affect other people.
Theresa: What would you like to say to the Houston Theatre going audience?
Jarred: There’s so much theatre out there. You may find yourself loyal to one theatre, but there’s so many other theatres that are waiting for you to absorb their content as well. I encourage everyone who enjoys going to see the theatre to go the extra step and look at some other theatres that you may not have been to, because chances are, they’re providing some other type of programming they offer this season.
Theresa: That’s a novel idea. Open your mind and go beyond your comfort zone to discover new and exciting ideas.
Jarred: Absolutely! Especially if people come to midtown and see shows at the Ensemble, MATCH (Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston) is right down the street. There’s so much theatre to see.
THE GREEN BOOK starring (L-R)