How can a play based on a historic example of legal hypocrisy in the Jim Crow era be presented as vaudeville? As if the real-life atrocity of White supremacy and the possibility of lynching wasn’t horrific enough, who would have the temerity to present African American men in blackface?
The director of “The Scottsboro Boys,” the season opener at Pittsburgh Playhouse, doesn’t view it as a problem.
Interdisciplinary artist Tomé Cousin is a stalwart in Pittsburgh’s acting community going back to his undergrad years at Point Park University. To segue from a nine-year stint on Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood as “Ragdoll Tome” to a faculty position as assistant professor of Dance in Carnegie Mellon’s School of drama, Cousin has a slew of credits and experience ranging from college productions to 70 original theater, dance, musical, new opera, film, and installation works for performance.
Pittsburgh Playhouse concluded its season with the premiere of Cousin’s collaboration with writer/director Jason Jacobs on a reinvention of the Harriet Beecher/George Aiken 1858 play “Uncle Tom’s Cabin or the Most Popular American Play You’ve Never Seen.” Cousins now jumped from the frying pan into the fire directing the 2017-2018 season with “The Scottsboro Boys.” Evidently, controversy doesn’t deter his creativity.
“With ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin,’ I felt there was a direct need to bring to the public’s attention a story that has over the years been very misunderstood and contained characterizations that have become twisted in meaning,” said Cousin. “With ‘The Scottsboro Boys,’ the material was already written by the legendary musical theater team of John Kander and Fred Ebb (who wrote ‘Chicago’ and ‘Cabaret’).”