Dominique Morisseau, right, wrote "Paradise Blue," and Dawn Monique Williams directs the play at the Aurora Theatre. Credit: Aurora Theatre

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Paradise Blue, opening at the Aurora Theatre in Downtown Berkeley Jan. 27, tells the story of a jazz club in Detroit’s Black Bottom neighborhood, a vibrant Black community. The people connected with the club are being squeezed between the future of the city, their individual ambitions, and Paradise’s place in the community.

People of the African Diaspora Affinity Night, Feb. 10. Tickets and info here.

The play is part of Dominique Morisseau’s trilogy, based upon her hometown.  The trilogy includes Detroit ’67, which Aurora produced in 2018. Dawn Monique Williams, Aurora’s associate artistic director, directs.

“Urban renewal is very charged in Black communities,” Williams said. “It is code for kicking Black and/or poor folk out of the neighborhoods where they have built businesses, networks, and homes. Today it’s gentrification. Same thing. Urban blight isn’t the cause of redevelopment, it is the consequence, and Morisseau moves us through the very human cost in her three-play Detroit Project, starting with Paradise Blue where the political is personal.”

“Blue, the night club owner, is haunted by questions of his future and his past. Should he sell the club? If he sells, what happens to the house band, the woman he loves, or the ghosts chasing him?” Williams said.

Williams has assembled an accomplished cast of local actors for Paradise Blue. Michael J. Asberry is back at Aurora, where he previously appeared in The Incrementalist, The Bluest Eye, Exit Strategy and Satellites. Michael arrives on the heels of his most recent performance in August Wilson’s Two Trains Running with Marin Theatre Company. 

Paradise Blue cast from left: Titus VanHook, Rolanda D. Bell, Michael J. Asberry, Anna Marie Sharpe and Kenny Scott.

Rolanda D. Bell, born and raised in Oakland, is a former student of Michael Torres, at Laney College.  Anna Marie Sharpe is very happy to make her return to Aurora. She is an actor and teaching artist in the Bay Area. She received her bachelor degree from UC Berkeley where she double majored in theater, dance, and performance studies.  

Oakland-based actor Kenny Scott attended Morgan State University, and was a member of the Laney College Fusion Theatre Project (Más, The Late Wedding, and In The Wound). Titus VanHook was born and raised in East Oakland and completed his MFA at Columbia University. His most recent credits include Twelfth Night with the Classical Theatre of Harlem. His most meaningful experiences have been performing Shakespeare for young audiences of color.

On Feb. 10, Aurora Theatre Company hosts a special performance of Paradise Blue, which is their first People of the African Diaspora Affinity Night to celebrate the community. This special evening will start with a pre-show reception at 7 p.m. with small bites from Oakland’s Michelin-recommended  Ala Mar Kitchen & Bar. The show starts at 8 p.m. and a discussion follows. Youth Speaks, a youth performance and spoken word organization will perform, Author/Owner Tamara Shiloh and her store, Multicultural Books & Games, will be selling books, and other special guests from the community will be announced soon.  Visit Auroratheatre.org to learn more. $30 tickets are available with the code ADAN30. (As always, all are welcome to this special night).

There will be post-show discussions on other nights, as well. Visit the website for more information. Click here to view a link to director Dawn Monique Williams discussing the production.