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STARS bring something different to Emma Kelly Theater
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STATESBORO — There is a growing excitement about a somewhat “different” production at the Emma Kelly Theater. On Oct. 19, 20 and 21, the Averitt STARS will present Blessed Assurance, a tense, action-filled drama set in 1964. The play is directed by Mical Whitaker and features five seasoned actors.

Set in a small town southern café, Blessed Assurance tells the story of what happened one day in 1964 when the tide of racial strife crossed the border and entered the lives of the citizens of fictional Sunflower County.  

Playwright Laddy Sartin, a former resident of Statesboro, chronicles a brief, yet explosive, Mississippi morning when the café’s black cook, Olivia performs a most heroic and dangerous act for her time — walking up the steps of the county courthouse demanding to register to vote.

The ensemble of five include some of the finest dramatic talent in the area, Kristyl Dawn Tift plays the pivotal character Olivia.

A 2008 MFA graduate of New York’s renowned Actors Studio (New School University), she is an actress, singer, writer and a current assistant professor of theater at Georgia Southern University.

Alan Tyson, a Statesboro native and a regular to community theater, plays the café’s owner, Harlan.

The play’s most bizarre character, Slick, is being played by Jeff Kozee, a GSU graduate with a BA in theater and a MA in English. He is currently on the faculty in the writing and linguistics department at GSU.

Jeff’s wife, Julie Kozee, also a graduate of GSU’s theater department, plays Sally, daughter of Harlan. Rev. Allen Webb rounds out the ensemble playing Lewis, and has been featured in A Place to Call Home and Black Nativity at the Emma Kelly Theater.

This production of Blessed Assurance marks a reunion for director, playwright and set designer, Anna Sartin who was on GSU’s theater faculty with Whitaker in 1983 and 1984. It was during that time when playwright Laddy Sartin, then an aspiring writer, shared his original script with Mical Whitaker and a staged reading of the play was presented in the Black Box Theater. Since that time, the play has enjoyed several regional productions and wide critical acclaim.

This will be the first time that Anna, a member of the theater faculty at South Carolina’s Winthrop University, has designed her husband’s play. She is working closely with the Averitt Center’s Technical Director Robert Faller, who is building the set for the Emma Kelly stage.

Blessed Assurance is being sponsored by the African-American Business Owner’s Coalition (AABOC), Statesboro’s alliance of African-American entrepreneurs. Curtis Woody is president of the organization.

The play opens Oct. 19 at 7:30 p.m. with reserved seating. It will be repeated on Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m. and on Oct. 21 at 2 p.m. with general admission seating. Tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for youth.

Tickets may be ordered by phone from the Averitt Center for the Arts at (912) 212-ARTS. Box Office is open in the Emma Kelly Theater, Tuesday through Friday, from 1-5:30 p.m.