Michelle Tyrene Johnson’s winning play, The Green Book Wine Club Train Trip, is getting two staged readings at Olathe Civic Theatre Association. After winning OCTA’s New Works Playwright Competition in March, she now brings her Jim Crow-era script to OCTA’ Winner Workshop Friday, July 7 and Saturday, July 8 at 8pm.
Her play already received a staged reading in New York City and the Black National Theatre. The play’s main character is a soft-spoken librarian named Marie who is researching a memory book for her grandmother’s 80th birthday. She invites her friends to tag along with her on a weekend train trip to St. Louis. As part of her research, Marie has been studying “The Negro Motorist Green Book.” This is an actual guidebook published from 1936 to 1966, when discrimination limited the safe places black people could stay in while traveling. When the train stops in Boonville, Missouri, Marie steps out to get some fresh air and is accidentally transported back to the 1940s.
Johnson has worked on this story for a year and a half and says that her goal as a playwright is “to keep writing plays that travel well to other communities – to make people think, laugh, cry, and see citizens of the world through the new eyes an engaging story inspires.”
Director Teresa Leggard feels audiences will love “the larger-than-life characters and the time travel element.” When asked what drew her personally to the play, she responded “This play is the essence of intersectionality; we’ve got a diversity of black womanhood, across age, class, orientation, generation—literally across time.”
Johnson and Leggard first worked together on a project during their time at UMKC and continue to collaborate on projects in Kansas City. Regarding this script, they’re “pretty tickled at how The Negro Motorist Green Book seems to be emerging in the zeitgeist right now. From Huffington Post to CBS News to The New York Times. It’s nice being ahead of that curve.”
They bring to the workshop the following remarkable local artists, some of which are UMKC theatre alumni: director Teresa Leggard (also a poet, playwright, and she holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC)), and cast members Marica Davis (Marie), Rasheedat “Ras” Badejo (Saige/Lucy), Lanette King (Alicia/Cotton Blue), Amber McKinnon (Toni/Henrietta), Aisha Ogbeh (Lynn/Bertha), and Earl McWilliams (Stage Directions/Male Voices). Alexa Cioffi will run light and sound for the two workshop readings.
Spearheading the competition is local actor and playwright, Andrew Joseph Brown. “It’s something we’ve been working on for over a year now and we hope audiences will be just as thrilled to see this brand new story on the OCTA stage.”
The two staged readings are Friday, July 7 and Saturday, July 8 at 8:00 pm. Suitable for ages 12 and above with some strong language. Regular tickets are $10. Tickets for OCTA subscribers are $5. Tickets and more information are available at: www.olathetheatre.org.
About Olathe Civic Theatre Association
Olathe Civic Theatre Association is a 501c3 organization producing theatre in Olathe since 1974. Performing in the Buddy Rogers Family Playhouse, OCTA produces five high-quality, engaging, and thought-provoking theatre productions a year. Through the generosity of volunteers, season ticket holders, donors, and the City of Olathe, OCTA has grown into one of the most progressive community theaters in the Kansas City metropolitan area.
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