U.S. Representation: Baylin Artist Management
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John Ball's In the Heat of the Night
Adapted by Matt Pelfrey - Touring 2014-15
While John Ball's 1965 novel, In the Heat of the Night, takes place in Alabama, the above signs were still seen throughout much of America during the 1960s as the country grappled with integration and an evolving acceptance of the Civil Rights Movement. This was the era of sit-ins and tear gas, of marches and assassinations. This was the era of Martin Luther King Jr., the Kennedys, and LBJ and an America finally, deliberately, moving towards a future of equality regardless of skin color.
Nearly fifty years later, have we arrived? Perhaps not. Just as Ball's white, Southern, police Chief Bill Gillespie's personal prejudices are tested by working with African-American detective Virgil Tibbs, America continues to confront prejudice, stereotyping, and fear.
Playwright and screenwriter Matt Pelfrey sets his riveting stage adaptation of this classic American thriller in the environment of gradual change, rebellion, anger, frustration, and stubborn clinging to old ways of life. Ball's novel reflected the difficult and personal clashes of the time - the kind of daily encounters that showed ingrained racist attitudes and behaviors. The play demonstrates the slow evolution of attitudes, but leaves the characters, and America, with a long way to go.
In 1967, one year before the Martin Luther King, Jr assassination, Sidney Poitier played Virgil Tibbs in the film In the Heat of the Night directed by Norman Jewison. The big-screen version crossed fraught political lines, marking one of the first times in a motion picture an African American man reacted to - rather than accepted - provocation from a white man. The film won five Academy Awards and spawned a hugely popular television series. In the Heat of the Night remains shockingly emblematic of America in the 1960s, and how, almost half a century later, our nation is still conquering the demon of prejudice.
JOHN BALL’S IN THE HEAT OF THE NIGHT was commissioned and produced by Godlight Theatre Company, New York, NY. Joe Tantalo, Artistic Director, www.godlighttheatrecompany.org.
CRITICS ARE RAVING!
“Brilliant, electrifying, moving, and timely… As soon as the stage went black, the audience was on its feet in a standing ovation.”
— Folsom Telegraph
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“FIVE STARS… searing, disturbing, and flatout brilliant”
— DC Metro
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Michael Blachly, Director
University of Florida Performing Arts:
As you know, we’re just out of our three-night run of In the Heat of the Night. It went brilliantly from my vantage point. The piece is well-crafted, equally well-executed and timely—regardless of the fact that it was written in 1965. Susan, “Brava!” to you and your creative team both on- and off-stage for a brilliant evening’s work.
As I believe you all also know, this was a required event for the “Good Life” course for all first-year students at the University of Florida that are enrolled in the class for Fall Semester. Hence, some additional contextualization became critical to the proper framework for experiencing the work. This led me to cancel a trip to New York for a Chamber Music America Board of Directors Meeting but it was too important not to be present since it was required of many young people who would have never experienced anything like this work; some of whom it was their first time in a theater for live performance.
Darren Richardson and I did a brief “tag-team” top of show announcement that covered the normal “please turn off all cell phones and electronic devices…no recording of any kind is permitted…and, the like. My comments prior to Darren taking over were “The script of In the Heat of the Night includes mature language that is authentic to the period and underscores the deep-seated prejudice that is at the heart of the work set in the 1906’s in Argo, Alabama. In particular, the use of obscenities and racially-charged epithets are present in the script. For the Good Life students in tonight’s audience, please use these words and phrases as “talking points” for your in-class discussions; don’t let them take away from the intent of the play or block your ability to grasp the meaning inherent in the work.”
Again, with my thanks, admiration and appreciation.
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