Directors' Choice Award Winner
Uncle Jed's Barbershop
Book by Kenneth Grimes, lyrics by Kenneth Grimes & David Wohl, music by David Wohl
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UNCLE JED: Jedediah Johnson (ages from 45 to 79). He is a gifted barber hardworking sharecropper, and a man with a dream.
SARAH JEAN CARTER: Narrator (ages from 18 to 43).
CHILD SARAH JEAN (CSJ): Uncle Jed’s favorite great niece (remains 8). She serves as a guide into the past.
AMOS (GRANDDADDY) JOHNSON: Uncle Jed’s older brother (ages from 60 to 78).
AMOS JOHNSON Jr.: Uncle Jed’s nephew and Sarah Jean’s father (ages from 35 to 46).
Mrs. RACHEL JOHNSON: Mr. Johnson’s wife and Sarah Jean’s mother (ages from 33 to 67).
Mrs. TWYLA REDFIELD: An ex-teacher, seamstress, and a widow with a child (ages from 43 to 77) She becomes Uncle Jed’s wife.
CALLEB STIGMORE: Uncle Jed’s cranky old adversary (ages from 54 to 88). He doesn’t have much hair, a running joke.
Townsfolk (Ensemble) play multiple roles.
Mr. Andrew Jenkins: A janitor at the town bank
Mr. William Thomas: Storekeeper.
Linda Thomas: Storekeeper’s wife and one of Mrs. Redfield’s friends.
'Lissa: A young woman of the 1960s
Ruby: One of Twyla’s neighbors
Peaches: Another one of Twyla’s neighbors
NOTE: Indigenous music is incorporated into scenes throughout the show with the ensemble playing spoons, buttermilk churn, wash board, harmonica and various percussion instruments, as decorated sticks, cowbells, etc.
Based upon the Coretta Scott King Award-winning book by the same name, written by Margaree King Mitchell and illustrated by James Ransome (adaptation rights secured), UNCLE JED'S BARBERSHOP is inspired by the atmosphere, language and music of the late 1920's through the 1960's, evoking rural Arkansas near the Mississippi Delta.
Uncle Jed's Barbershop is a musical celebration of the only black barber in 1928 Monroe County, Arkansas, Jedediah Johnson (“Uncle Jed”).
In 1962, 43 year-old Sarah Jean Carter has returned from Detroit to her childhood home of Monroe County in order to attend the funeral of Uncle Jed, her favorite relative.
After finding herself unable to speak at the funeral, Sarah Jean encounters her nine-year-old self. Adult Sarah Jean and Child Sarah Jean embark on a journey that takes them back and forth between their shared past with Uncle Jed and the present. By show’s end, their interacting and conflicting memories of him challenge Adult Sarah Jean’s capacity (and willingness) to take Child Sarah Jean with her into her future.
In 1928 Monroe County, 45 year-old Uncle Jed’s barbershop is his customers’ porches, living rooms, shops, and sharecropped fields. Through his travels, we meet Uncle Jed’s family, friends, and members of his vibrant community. We also experience Uncle Jed’s ambition and efforts to build his own barbershop. Each time he makes headway, however, there are obstacles that set him back. These obstacles include the life threatening illness of his favorite niece, the Great Depression, resistance from friends and family, and the ongoing challenge of being black in the South of those times. In spite of everything, Uncle Jed never gives up.
In 1962, six months before his eventual passing, Uncle Jed is 79 years old. Ironically, he and Sarah Jean Carter have become the final obstacle to opening the barbershop: The passage of time has challenged their relationship, as well as their relationship with their extended family. Uncle Jed and Sarah Jean Carter wonder, even at this stage of their lives, if they can build a new beginning together. Similarly, Child Sarah Jean and Adult Sarah Jean, in the present, wonder if their relationship will endure beyond the retelling of Uncle Jed’s story.
Sarah Jean's and Uncle Jed’s stories are interwoven until his dream truly becomes a dream for both of them. Ultimately, at the age of 79, Uncle Jed triumphs. He builds his barbershop with the help of his niece and their community. Adult Sarah Jean finally reconciles her inner child with her more adult perspective, and “invites” Child Sarah Jean to return with her to Detroit, and embark on a shared journey into the future. Child Sarah Jean, speaking directly to the audience for the first time, accepts the offer with glee.
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