Pullman Porter Blues

Pullman Porter Blues

Posted by: Ashley Smith at 09/23/2013 12:00 PM

This emotionally, uplifting, and powerful musical drama leaves you speechless. Uncovering the lives of three generation Pullman Porter workers, whose world completely unfolds when drama reaches its peak. A truly moving story that happens to be very logical and understanding considering the set is very “modern.” When I say modern, I mean the phrases that was said during the play by the actors, the exciting humors used to spice the play up, and also the very calm sharp clothing. It honestly impressed me because for a play set in the 1930s , you would think the clothing is very classic and exaggerated. It was a good sight for me because it took my attention from the beginning of the play, all the way to the ending. I feel that the play is very comfortably understood and interpreted, which is a good thing of course. The majority of audience undertsands the struggles and hardships that took place back in the 1800s when slavery, segregation, and racial issues was extremely controversial. 

Last generation Porter, Cephas Skyes, played by Tosin Morohunfola- 19 year old college student tended to be very confused about society in the 1930s. He and his grandfather's,  Monroe Skyes played by Larry Marshall close relationship leads to the revealing of things not quite supposed to be revealed. Digging deeper, Cephas Skyes never got a chance to open his eyes and explore the options he wanted to decide of, dealing with his understandably strict father. The fact that as an African American teenager living in those times, actually had the opportunity to attend college and take it as his best advantage, decides not to. That point left me to the fact that personal options are important because Cephas is told to attend college to enter the medical field, which is not his dream; its his dad's: Second generation Porter worker, Sylvester Skyes played by Cleavant Derricks doesn't want his son experiencing life on that train. He knows the troubles it would cause and he doesn't want that occupation being passed on to his son. Honestly, Sylvester lead me to believe that his son was too “good” to be working as a Porter to begin with. I felt that his intentions for Cephas was much greater. The fact that he missed the step of asking his son what he really wanted to do was not harmful misunderstanding. Simply, he felt that all the things he (Sylvester) and his dad (Monroe) went through on the train, was nothing compared to the future Cephas could have had ahead of him.

A very exciting part to me was the way the conductor Tex, played by Francis Guinan  treats the workers. The grandfather always seems to “kiss up to him” and that was the only thing keeping him on good terms. However, that’s not going to last too much longer. After so much torment, Tex must prepare himself. However, during those times (1930s) I greatly understand why Monroe showed him the “respect” he demanded, actually if the current generations was to step inside his shoes, they would do the same thing. Its not the fact that they are scared , it simply shows how much the value their lives and loves ones. Either way, Monroe stands his ground and demands that African Americans are human and shall be respected at all times and under no circumstances.

After a significant character comes along, they all seem to recognize her in a different way and actually learns to have respect for her. As she opens their eyes to different aspects of what seemed like the worst tragedy, they learn to accept Sister Juba, played by E. Faye Butler. When I say accept, I mean her bravery and courage she has in order to keep herself up dealing with past obstacles she faced. Sister Juba plays a huge role in the play. Her humorous antics and talented singing brought tears and joy. She faces so much and her big voice and heart shows it all. As a former Pullman maid, she quickly turns herself around to a popular blues singer.

However, this play is not completely sad or bleak. There is much humor and excitement which is well thought out and put together by Cheryl L. West and Chuck Smith. The audience reaction is truly pleasing. It was greatly recognized, the clapping, cheering, and agreeing all throughout the play. The music and songs get the play even deeper at all the right parts. You can not blink an eye watching this fascinating work of art. Its truly a must see!

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