PHASE EIGHT THEATER COMPANY REVIEW
A DUAL CRITICS REVIEW BY DICK KEREKES & LEISLA SANSOM
The new Phase Eight Theater Company presented the World Premiere of “On Purpose” during April 7 – 9, 2017 on the stage at WJCT’s studio in downtown Jacksonville. This two-act production filled with original monologues was created, written, and performed by Ebony Payne-English. She is a versatile actress, with a fantastic smile, a polished mastery of accents, and a fearless stage presence.
Ms. Payne-English is a literary artist, performer, and educator and the author of “Secrets of Ma’at,” a prize-winning poetry collection (currently available on Amazon). Additionally, she has recorded several albums; “The Hip Hop Gods Have Spoken,” her latest, is scheduled for release this August.
Her show was performed on the large WJCT stage before an enthusiastic audience, and was structured around her portrayal of nine different women, with a wide range of ages, skills, life experiences, challenges, hopes, and dreams.
The stage was bare except for an occasional chair brought on and off. The large screen behind the stage displayed images related to the character she was portraying on stage. Rapid costume changes were required throughout the performance; she made them appear effortless. Two coat racks, just off stage on the left and right, were filled with an array of costumes, which included the casual clothing needed for Abrena, a ninth-grader, professional attire for Melia, a civil engineer, and camouflage for militia leader Oshun.
A note in the program stated that the Duval County Health Department reported over 7,000 new HIV cases in 2016, and a number of the monologues referenced HIV/AIDS issues, as one of the author’s goals for this project was to increase awareness of transmission and treatment.
The production was directed by JaMario Stills, founder and artistic director of Phase Eight. During a brief post-show interview with Mr. Stills, he said it was truly a joy to work with Ms.Payne-English, as she is such an intelligent and natural actress. The audience was certainly mesmerized by her performance.
The production crew included: JaMario Stills (Director); Rochelle Underdue (Choreographer); Theadford Christian (Videographer); Alica Wilson (Costumes); SAX Music Group (Music); Marcus Lundy and Demetrius Ballard (Lighting Design).
Phase Eight has announced the rest of its 2017 season. On the schedule are: MLK Blvd (World Premiere), May 25 – 28; Live Girls (World Premier), August 10 – 13; Jesus Hopped The A Train, September 21 – 24; Love’s Labour’s Lost, December 7 – 10. The theatre company is nomadic at this time and locations will be announced at a later date.