Based on a true story, Raleigh author Ella Joyce “EJ” Stewart’s new play When I Leave takes you to rural North Carolina in 1957. Here, TJ, the 17-year-old son of a farming family, grapples with the injustices of segregation in his small town. As TJ approaches high-school graduation, he must decide how to respond to current events close to home. Is a better life ahead?
When I Leave will debut at the North Carolina Museum of History in Raleigh on Friday, Oct. 5, at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $8 ($5 for Associates); ages 12 and under are free. Purchase tickets at our website or night of event in the Museum Shop. A Q&A follows the play.
This historical drama centers on a lesson Stewart learned from her late brother TJ. While growing up in North Carolina, she observed her older brother’s questions and frustrations about segregation.
Stewart and TJ were reared in a large family. Their parents, Lillie and Walter Tyson Stewart, worked as sharecroppers for 37 of the 61 years of their married life.
Stewart is a playwright, author, historian and storyteller who “uses literary arts as a way to create better communication across age, race, gender and class lines.” She is a founding member of the North Carolina Association of Black Storytellers and a member of North Carolina Writers’ Network. As a Road Scholar speaker with the North Carolina Humanities Council, Stewart has presented the programs Forgotten Rural Black Women and Sit-A-Spell across the state and beyond.
The Oct. 5 performance of When I Leave will feature local talent. The play is directed by Kenneth Hinton, Assistant Professor of the Visual and Performing Arts Department at Shaw University. Gregory Wade serves as stage manager and scenic designer. He is a Technical Theatre teacher at Millbrook High School in Raleigh.
The actors hail from Raleigh, Durham and Wake Forest. Jimmy Allen Woods, a student at North Carolina Central University, plays the role of TJ. “Mama” and “Daddy” are portrayed by Durham’s Cassandra Lyons-Johnson and Raleigh’s Gary Jones. Veteran New York City performer Lester Hill, a Wake Forest resident, plays the role of “Deacon.” Seasoned actor LaMark Wright of Durham is “Principal Carter,” and Benny Baker of Raleigh portrays a cantankerous neighbor.
Young actors in When I Leave include Jamin Wade, a sophomore at Millbrook High School, and Ollie Noel Marrow, a seventh-grader at Kestrel Heights Middle School in Durham.
Come see this thought-provoking play at the North Carolina Museum of History.
For more information about the museum, call (919) 807-7900, go to our website or connect with us on Facebook or Twitter.