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Tallahassee Author's Book Inspires Latest Young Actors Theatre Production

Large beige building with a marquee out front that reads "Young Artists Theatre."
Tom Flanigan
/
WFSU News
The Young Actors' playhouse on Glenview Drive.

Tallahassee's Young Actors Theatre is embarking on a new and very different kind of stage production. its latest effort is a serious play based on a book by a Capital City author. That author is Adrian Fogelin, who many recognize as one-half of the musical duo Hot Tamale.

"I always think of these books that I write as children who go out into the world. 'Crossing Jordan' is that child of mine that has walked the farthest and knocked on the most door," Fogelin mused.

One of those doors happened to be the Glenview Drive playhouse door of Young Actors Theatre, where Lori Roberts is a board member.

"She put something on Facebook and said, 'Anybody want to do this on the stage? We've worked out a little script.' And it just jumped out at me as something Young Actors would want to do," Roberts said.

Veteran Young Actors' player Mallory Greisl was tapped to play the part of 12-year old Katherine Margaret Bodine, better known as "Cass." Her world, in a small, working-class town of several decades ago, is changed when an African American family moves in next door. Cass's father does NOT approve.

"He's a bigot, basically. And this is really different for Cass because she's never really had any Black friends and then she meets her neighbor Jemmie Lewis and she becomes friends with her instantly. And it's a secret friendship because her dad doesn't know about it."

And even though the story is set in a time before Greisl was born, she believed the tale resonates strongly today.

"The whole situation that Cass has to go through with her dad not understanding that just because someone has different skin color doesn't make them any less human. And I think it is relevant no matter what's going on in the world because you should be kind to people no matter what they look like or who they are."

Greisl said this is also a very different kind of production for Young Actors Theatre. And herself.

"Whenever we do a YAT show, a lot of times it's a musical. I've done one straight play with YAT. It's different this time because we're bringing in some people who aren't YAT members and also it's a show that's never been done on stage before. Which makes it super exciting and nerve-wracking because you're creating this whole new world."

Some of those non-YAT folks will be the author, Adrian Fogelin, the Reverend Henry Steele, Riley House Director Emeritus Althemese Barnes and the Village Square's Bill Mattox. They'll hold a pre-play panel discussion this Saturday evening at 6:30 p.m.

YAT Board Member Lori Roberts saw this as the beginning of a new era of Young Actors' productions.

"We've been working with the Riley House on this project and as soon as this is over we want to talk about some more things. We want to work with the community at large and this has been such a wonderful experience working with Adrian on bringing her book to the stage. It's so exciting! And we have so much talent in Tallahassee; let's use it!"

Opening night for "Crossing Jordan" is this Thursday evening, Aug. 26 at 7:30. And the story's creator, Adrian Fogelin, plans to be in the audience.

"I can't wait to see how they do it and I'm hoping to bring three of my library kids with me to the opening night."

Until the pandemic hit, Fogelin also ran a small neighborhood library and community center in her parents' former house in southwest Tallahassee.

After Thursday night's opener, "Crossing Jordan" performances will be on Friday and Saturday nights, both at 7:30 p.m. and a Sunday afternoon matinee at 2:30 p.m.

The show is sponsored by the literature and music festival Word of South.