Lives of black Bostonians dramatized on Hibernian stage

Roads to Wisdom: Dan Richardson, Anita Jones, Vernelia Coffie and Carol Carter are among the Bostonians whose stories will be told in a new play about local seniors that opens tonight at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury. Don West photoRoads to Wisdom: Dan Richardson, Anita Jones, Vernelia Coffie and Carol Carter are among the Bostonians whose stories will be told in a new play about local seniors that opens tonight at Hibernian Hall in Roxbury. Don West photoSenior members of Boston’s African-American community will see episodes from their lives acted out on stage this weekend as Hibernian Hall in Dudley Square hosts a new play based on oral histories of real-life Dorchester and Roxbury residents.

Tonight through Sunday, May 17, Our Place Theatre Project is co-presenting Roads to Wisdom: A Community Love Story, in which playwright and director Jacqui Parker salutes elders who are mentoring the younger generation.

In development for three years, the one-act features monologues derived from interviews with role models from the local African-American community. Occasionally these memoirs give way to fully acted-out scenes depicting these intergenerational life-lessons.

Michael Kozu, community coordinator at Project RIGHT (Rebuild and Improve Grove Hall Together), hired Parker in 2013 to interview movers and shakers in the Roxbury/ Dorchester area. In 2014 Parker directed a workshop dramatic version of the material, but continued interviewing more subjects through the beginning of 2015.

Local legends who will have their contributions celebrated include Dan Richardson, Anita Jones, Vernelia Coffie, Carol Carter, Jumaada A-K H Smith J.D., Bertram S. Alleyne II, Saundra Owens-Skerrett and Mary Gray.

Parker, who was just named Visiting Playwright for 2015-2016 at Hibernian Hall, has won many awards for her acting, directing and playwrighting. Parker is the artistic director of the Our Place Theatre Project and the founder of the African-American Theatre Festival at the Boston Center for the Arts, which last year staged an early version of this drama.

Dillon Bustin, artistic director for Madison Park Development Corporation at Hibernian Hall, said, “I’m very pleased that Parker has agreed to grace our stage with her acting and directing as well as her scripts during the next two seasons.”

Parker says she is thrilled with the invitation from Hibernian Hall, and she plans to write and direct two plays in 2015, the first being Roads to Wisdom.

 She says some of the subjects portrayed “you read about every week in the Banner. Others are more the ‘quiet warrior’ types, who use their gardens as a means of showing their younger neighbors what it means to plan for the future.”

Parker has written ten plays in the past ten years. From 2007-2009 Parker was a playwriting fellow at Huntington Theatre Company, where her drama “My Jeanie Don’t Sing No Mo’ ” was given a staged reading.

For her work as an activist in theater diversity Parker won the 2004 Boston Theatre Hero Award from StageSource and the 2009 Drylongso Award from Community Change, Inc. In 2000 Parker won the Elliot Norton Award from the Boston Theater Critics Association for Outstanding Actress in John Henry Redwood’s “The Old Settler” at Lyric Stage Company. She has received seven awards from the Independent Reviewers in New England.

 Currently she’s at work on her latest play A Crack in the Blue Wall about a young black male shot by a white police officer. That play will have a try-out production July 9-12 at Hibernian Hall, and then a fully staged extended run there in November. This very timely drama addresses the breakdown of the family of the victim as well as a breakdown in the justice system.

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