From Holiday to Hansberry

The lady has company while she sings the blues in Blueprint of a Lady: The Once and Future Life of Billie Holiday<i>.</i>

The lady has company while she sings the blues in Blueprint of a Lady: The Once and Future Life of Billie Holiday.

It seems that African-American issues finally are taking center stage outside of annual Black History Month performances. Three notable professional events are coming up in the next few weeks.

First, the Sacramento Theatre Company (STC) is staging A Raisin in the Sun, the classic 1959 African-American drama by Lorraine Hansberry, from October 5 through October 30. To kick off that production, STC is holding a special event at 7 p.m. on September 25, featuring Ruby Dee. Dee was born in Cleveland in 1924, grew up in Harlem, N.Y., and was a cast member in the original 1959 Broadway production of A Raisin in the Sun, as well as in the 1961 film. She was one of the first black American actresses to play major Shakespearean roles. She also won an Obie for her work in Athol Fugard’s Boesman and Lena in the 1970s and was featured in films by Spike Lee in the ’80s and ’90s. Joining Dee will be Kenny Leon, who directed last year’s Tony-winning Broadway revival of Raisin.

The event will be held at the Wells Fargo Pavilion, located at 1419 H Street, and will feature storytelling, conversation and film clips. Tickets run from $25 to $125 (with VIP seating and a post-show reception). Proceeds will benefit STC. Tickets for performances of A Raisin in the Sun are $22-$36 general, with discounts for seniors and students. Call (888) 4-STCTIX or visit for further details.

Sacramento’s William A. Parker is launching the Sacramento African American Theatre Exchange with a one-man, one-hour solo show October 6-9. The show is called Runt and features writer-performer Michael Philip Edwards, who won a prize for the play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2001, as well as a Sony Radio Academy Award for best radio drama in the United Kingdom in 2003.

Performances of Runt will be held at Monterey Trail High School, located at 8661 Power Inn Road in Elk Grove. Tickets are $20, and all shows start at 7:30 p.m. Call (916) 271-8202 or visit for more information.

Finally, the Mondavi Center is hosting a piece that it co-commissioned, called Blueprint of a Lady: The Once and Future Life of Billie Holiday, on October 7 and 8 in Jackson Hall. This jazz concert and dance performance features a concept and vocals by five-time Grammy nominee Nnenna Freelon, choreography by Ronald K. Brown and film by Robert Penn. Performances are at 8 p.m., with a pre-performance lecture at 7 p.m. on October 7 and post-performance question-and-answer sessions on both October 7 and October 8. Tickets are $29-$39 for adults and $10-$14 for students and children. Call (530) 754-2787 or visit for further information.