Howard University students are featured in the cast of the critically acclaimed and award winning gospel musical comedy Sanctified, which is running through Nov. 14 at the historic Lincoln Theatre on U Street in Washington.
Joshua Nelson, Kasaun Wilson and Ashley Jeudy, all theater majors, join John McClure of BET’s “Sunday’s Best” fame in the story of a 50-year-old church that has hit hard times and faces the challenge of keeping its doors open.
The young interim pastor, played by McClure, comes up with the solution to have his cousin, a diva and gospel singer, revamp the choir and thus bring in new members. But before he can move on his vision, he must win over the church’s elders, who believe the pastor’s ideas conflict with the church’s long-standing traditions.
Ashley Jeudy, a senior with a concentration in musical theater, plays Monique, a 16-year-old who has grown up in the church. After Monique’s mother dies, she is raised by her Aunt Claire and is forced to suppress her passion for R&B music due to her aunt’s disapproval.
Jeudy, who graduates in May, said being in Sanctified has been special.
“This has been an amazing experience for me, a learning experience,” said Jeudy, a native of Fort Salonga, N.Y. “This play has opened my eyes to a story that needs to be brought to the surface.”
The play has something for everyone, Jeudy said.
“Everyone leaves the theater with a message,” she said.
Nelson plays Mister, a somewhat mysterious delivery guy with a bit of a secret, and a purpose. Nelson, a senior with a concentration in acting, is from Philadelphia and was once featured as a co-host to actor and comedian Bill Cosby in the annual “Year of the Child” celebration. This past year, he was seen in the University’s productions of Zooman and the Sign as Zooman and The Sirens as Bobby.
Kasaun, who is also concentrating in acting, plays Jamal, a wannabe gospel/gangster rap artist. Originally from Jersey City, N. J., Wilson has been a featured actor on the University’s stage in 12:27 PM and on The Life Center stage in Fame. Most recently, Wilson was named “D.C.’s Funniest College Student” by the D.C. Improv.
Two other Howard students, Brandyn Poole and Aurie Ceylon, are working with the production. Pool is a pit singer and understudy and Ceylon is also an understudy.
Sanctified, written by Javon Johnson with original music by Rollo A. Dilworth and directed by Derrick Sanders, is the winner of six 2009 Black Theater Alliance Awards, including the August Wilson Award for Best Writing of a Play, Best Production, Best Direction and Best Musical Director.
Johnson describes the play as “a warm, joyous, hymn-filled show that bears witness to the trials and triumphs of the African-American church.”
“The project set out to explore the traditional world of gospel music and how it has been twisted, turned and constantly revolutionized by the hip-hop and the R&B sound,” he said.
Considered by many to be a protégé of the late August Wilson, Johnson has written such plays as Breathe, Recipes for Love, Whatever She Wants, Cheaters, Hambone and Cryin’ Shame, among others. He has also performed on stage, including locally in Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at Baltimore’s CenterStage, as well as on screen and television.
Gospel artist Zacardi Cortez will make a guest appearance. Cortez, who is featured on the recent #1 Gospel song “I Believe,” with James Fortune & FIYA and Shawn McLemore, will perform Nov. 4 through Nov. 7.
Tickets for “Sanctified” are $37 to $47 and are available at the Lincoln Theatre Box Office, online at www.Ticketmaster.com and via phone at (202) 397-SEAT