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Ingram Column: Adrienne Redding, LaGrange High theater, and ideas

By Richard Ingram
LaFayette Alliance

Sunday afternoon, March 7, 2021, LaGrange High School Theater, and its director Adrienne Redding staged the musical drama “Shade,” in celebration of Black History Month.

Jasmine Towns and Jordan Taylor McIntosh were vocal standouts.  Jimmy Lewis roamed his keyboard seemingly at will; Michael Redding, Jr. offered light touch on drums, no small feat; Sebastian Sanchez a ready beat on bass; and Charles Bronson a saxophone solo, something you have not heard since Boots Randolph.

There must have been twenty or more vocalists, instrumentalists, and actors, and this does not even include the behind-the-scenes tally.

Ms. Redding has a knack for theater.  She sang, as a background vocalist. She also wrote the play, directed and choreographed it. Perhaps of greater moment was her obvious connection to and appreciation for her students, which she worded at last curtain.

“Shade” is musical drama, the heart of it an historical fact, documented in Richard Rothstein’s 2017, “The Color of Law.” The Home Owner’s Loan Corporation, organized in 1933, was to rescue homeowners nearing default. The idea was to provide a new mortgage, better terms, and permit equity accumulation; this last such that when the property was sold the homeowner would have equity takeaway. Wealth accumulates. Appraisals were delegated to local realtors who followed time-and-guild-honored habit of excluding certain neighborhoods, as Rothstein’s record shows, mostly on account of skin color. This resulted in spiraling decline for those neighborhoods. As the play points out at the inflection point of its drama, homeowners had confederates in unlikely places.

“Shade” was well done. Ms. Redding and Company staged an idea whose darker side was redeemed by the appearance of enlightened action on the part of people who were at the time bit players, and the whole of it wrapped in melody and dance. The themes are reminiscent of Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” first staged on Broadway in 1959, its musical version in 1973.  Both, “Shade” and “A Raisin in the Sun,” take on weighty, historical issues with balance. “Shade” adds memorable music and choreography done by the young set, which somehow rejuvenates those of us beyond those years.

The audience, socially distanced and befittingly masked, numbered, I guess, one hundred fifty, more or less.  No one exited at intermission who did not return; at least that I could tell. Here’s the thing: in the course of a couple hours every one of them walked away having taken in history, philosophy, and music, painlessly.