Arts & Culture/Pitt’s Kuntu Repertory Theatre 2006-07 Season Opens Oct. 19

Issue Date: 
September 18, 2006

Collaboration with Pitt’s Center for Minority Health unites art with health, science, technology, and social issues

The University of Pittsburgh Kuntu Repertory Theatre will raise the curtain on its 2006-07 season Oct. 19.

Kuntu’s 32nd season, which runs through June 2007, is being presented in partnership with the Center for Minority Health (CMH), part of Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health.

“We realize the value of the arts in providing education, entertainment, healing, and substantive strategies for eradicating disparities that exist,” said Vernell A. Lillie, Kuntu’s founder and artistic director and an associate professor of Africana Studies in Pitt School of Arts and Sciences. She compares the concept of Kuntu’s upcoming season to the success in 1968 of Pittsburgh poet/playwright Rob Penny and poet/director August Wilson with the Black Horizon Theatre.

“They, along with many others, decided that they would use art, dance, music, poetry, and visual arts to examine the human conditions of education, economic development, medical issues such as drug abuse, and man/woman relationships,” said Lillie.

Stephen Thomas, Philip Hallen Professor of Community Health and Social Justice and director of CMH, said, “We are anticipating a very exciting and informative season designed to illustrate the disproportionate burden of chronic disease experienced by African Americans, the challenges they face in accessing quality health care, and the racial and gender bias they often are faced with when interacting with the healthcare system.”

The season will include the following productions:

In the Midnight Hour
(Oct. 19-Nov. 4)
By Kathleen Collins
Directed by Vernell A. Lillie

In the Midnight Hour explores the struggles, dreams, and ambitions of a middle-class family during Harlem’s midnight hours.


(Jan. 25-Feb. 10)
By Mbongeni Ngema
Directed by Olusegun Ojewuyi

Sarafina! is a musical drama that tells the story of a day in the life of a South African township as seen through the eyes of a group of high school students. An exploration of the journey of the South African struggle against apartheid in the mid-1970s, Sarafina! played on Broadway during the 1980s and was nominated for three 1988 Tony awards—Best Choreography, Best Direction of a Musical, and Best Original Score.

(March 22-April 7)
By Cassandra Medley
Directed by Talvin Wilks

Set in a genetics lab at Johns Hopkins University, Relativity explores the question of stem cell research and theories of racial superiority. The play centers around a dilemma faced by a young geneticist, Kalima, and her activist mother, Claire, who heads the Philadelphia Melanin Foundation. The foundation supports the theory that people with higher levels of melanin in their skin are more highly advanced than others. Kalima is torn between her love and loyalty to her parents and her commitment to science and her career as a molecular biologist.

Healthy Black Family
(May 17-June 2)

This world premiere, commissioned for Kuntu, will capture the essence of the healthy family concept, incorporating music, dance, and song as a way of reinforcing the idea that art, science, technology, and social issues can have an impact on the lives of all people.

Kuntu performances are in the Seventh-Floor Auditorium of Alumni Hall at 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and 4 p.m. Sundays. For information on matinees, tickets, group sales, or auditions, call