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Murray's Playhouse in the Park presents "Crowns" February 10-12

Murray's Playhouse in the Park presents "Crowns" February 10-12.
Playhouse in the Park
Murray's Playhouse in the Park presents "Crowns" February 10-12.

Murray's Playhouse in the Park presents Crowns this weekend and next. The musical play celebrates Black history and culture, specifically regarding the hats, or "crowns," Black women traditionally wear at events, celebrations, and church. Director and actor Stephen D. Keene speaks with Austin Carter ahead of the playhouse's performances.

"Crowns is about a girl named Yolanda," Keene begins. "She's a teenager whose brother gets killed. She lives in Brooklyn, New York. She moved to North Carolina to live with her grandmother. Her grandmother, along with four other women, teach her the significance of hats in African American women's lives."

"Hats are what we refer to as crowns in the show," Keene explains. "They talk to [Yolanda] about all the different ways that crowns are used in the African American lifestyle. Crowns can be flirtatious, worn at funerals, celebrations, like weddings, crowns are often worn in church. So, each of the women give different stories and scenarios where hats have affected them in their lives."

Keene grew up in a religious household with six brothers, six sisters, and a mother who is a lifelong minister. "Going to church and seeing my mom wear her crowns was something I grew up experiencing," he says. "Several of my sisters wear crowns as well. So, when I'm thinking about directing this show and dealing with the characters, I often think about those people in my life who I know wear crowns and how they relate to their story as well."

Keene says Crowns is a small ensemble cast, "which is great because you get to know them a little more personally. Our lead role, Yolanda, is Elle Covington. She is a student here at Murray State University [recently] admitted into the nursing program. She's an awesome singer, has a great voice."

"We also have Dr. Pearl Payne, who retired from Murray State years back. She is in the cast as Miss Mabel. She's a sassy woman that talks about 'don't touch her hat.' She gives you the hat queen rules during the show," Keene continues.

"We have Travonda Vaughn, who several people probably just saw at the end of last year in October as Deloris Van Cartier in Sister Act. In this show, her role is Mother Shaw. She plays the grandmother who Yolanda goes to stay with, and she gives her all the insights into what hats mean to her and their family. Travonda's great to work with as well; she's a Murray State alum."

"We also have several new folks that have come along in the show. We have Michelle Jones, who's well-known for working at her beauty shop here in town. She plays Miss Velma. Velma wears extravagant, overdone hats, and they say her hats look like a lampshade. They're too decorative," Keene laughs.

"Then, we also have Jennifer Bomar, who is an alum of Murray State as well. She plays Jeanette. Jeanette is kind of quiet and laid back, a little bit more reserved, but she adds to the show. She has a huge fan dance during the show, where she gets to display her talent as a fan dancer. It's just been a lot of fun."

Additionally, Keene mentions Crowns' ensemble members: Tykevia Morris, a Murray State student; Dylan Covington, who plays Yolanda's brother, Teddy, and is the actual brother of Elle, who plays Yolanda; and Keene himself, who plays the Preacher and the Man in addition to his role as director.

Murray's Playhouse in the Park presents Crowns at the following times:
Friday, February 10th @ 7 pm
Saturday, February 11th @ 7 pm
Sunday, February 12th @ 7 pm

You can reserve your tickets by visiting the Playhouse in the Park website or calling the box office at 270-759-1752.

Austin Carter is a Murray State grad and has been involved with WKMS since he was in high school. Over the years he has been a producer for WKMS and has hosted several music shows, but now calls Morning Edition his home each weekday morning.
Melanie Davis-McAfee graduated from Murray State University in 2018 with a BA in Music Business. She has been working for WKMS as a Music and Operations Assistant since 2017. Melanie hosts the late-night alternative show Alien Lanes, Fridays at 11 pm with co-host Tim Peyton. She also produces Rick Nance's Kitchen Sink and Datebook and writes Sounds Good stories for the web.
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