The William Carey University Theatre will present “A Lesson Before Dying,” a studio production by Ernest J. Gaines honoring African-American History Month, from February 26-28 at 7:30 p.m. in the Joe and Virginia Tatum Theatre on the Hattiesburg campus.
The play tells the story of Jefferson (Jawoine Hawkins of Grand Prairie, Texas), an innocent young man, condemned to death in Louisiana in 1948. He is held prisoner by Sheriff Guidry (Billy Burkes of Meridian) and Deputy Bonin (Joey Roderick of Blue Ridge, Ga.). At the trial, his lawyer, trying to avoid the death penalty, calls him no more a human being than a hog. Jefferson, distraught by the statement, begins to let go of his humanity and acts like one. He insists that he will have to be dragged like a hog to his death in the electric chair. His godmother Emma (Symone Holmes of Denver, Colo.) asks the schoolteacher, Grant Wiggins (Brandan Lindsay of Simpsonville, S.C.) to teach him how to die like a man. Mr. Wiggins, who is struggling with his commitment to his poor parish school, longs to leave the South. He is forced to face both Jefferson and himself as execution day arrives. Grant’s girlfriend Vivian (Tia Brown of Hattiesburg) and the Rev. Ambrose (Reggie Chapman of Hattiesburg) contribute to the conflict. Based off of the celebrated novel by the same name, “A Lesson Before Dying” is a gripping, moving and finally devastating play.
Tim Matheny, chair of the Carey theatre and communication department, is director. Jana Barkley of Picyaune is lighting designer and Joey Roderick is sound designer. Jaylen Eashmond of Hattiesburg is rehearsal assistant.
Hawkins, Holmes, Lindsay, Brown, Chapman and Eashmond are members of the Carey speech and debate team, currently ranked second nationally according to Pi Kappa Delta Forensics Honorary 2014-2015.
Tickets are $5 and can be reserved by calling (601) 318-6221 beginning Monday, Feb. 23. The box office is open from 1 until 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.