Cast celebrates black history with ‘Crowns’


Allie Douglass/The News

Allyson Putman
Staff writer

Hats of all shapes and sizes will dominate the stage as Playhouse in the Park presents its production of “Crowns” by Regina Taylor this weekend and next at Calloway County’s Playhouse in the Park.

“Crowns” was originally produced by the McCarter Theater Center in Princeton, N.J., and Second Stage Theatre in New York City.

Stephen Keene, coordinator in the Adventures in Math and Science office, is directing the show. Keene said the show is meant to celebrate the use of hats in black female culture particularly in weddings and funerals as it follows a young woman’s move from Brooklyn, N.Y., to South Carolina to live with her grandmother. He said the hats worn by the women are meant to symbolize crowns worn by royalty.

Keene said Murray State students are heavily involved in this production, with seven of the nine cast members being students or staff on campus.

Dominique Duarte, senior from Memphis, Tenn., is the leading lady in this performance as the young woman from Brooklyn, N.Y., who goes to live with her grandmother upon her brother’s death.

Duarte said the production is a gospel musical, with her character singing many solos. This is not Duarte’s first performance, as she has performed classical solos on many occasions – including the Miss Black and Gold Pageant held by Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., last semester.

“This kind of singing is a little out of my comfort zone,” she said. “I’m glad, though. It’s good to do something different.”

She said the cast has been rehearsing since the beginning of January to prepare for the opening night.

Carruth Kitrell, administrative assistant in the department of geosciences, has been a large part of the production as well. Kitrell, also known as the “hat lady,” said she enjoyed taking part in the “hat making workshop” held last Saturday.

She said the workshop hosted roughly 30 people, including women from the community and cast members. The women who attended the workshop received free tickets to the show.

The hats created in the workshop will be displayed in the play, with a select few being worn by the cast members. Kitrell said she made her first hat in the workshop.

In the play, Kitrell said she plays a hat consultant who teaches the characters how to wear their hats to best showcase their unique styles. This is not a stretch from Kitrell’s attitude toward hats in real life, as she said she wears hats for a variety of reasons.

“Hats say you are unique, different and not afraid to show it,” Kitrell said. “I get so many compliments from males and females on my hats every day.”

She also said she likes how her hats can brighten up a person’s day.

To fund the show, Keene said the executive director, Lisa Cope, wrote a grant proposal from the Kentucky Foundation for Women. The money made through ticket sales goes toward the royalties for the show and any production costs associated with the production.

“Crowns” will be performed at 7 p.m. today and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets for children 12 and under are $8, senior citizens 60 and up are $9, students with an ID are $10 and general admission is $11. For ticket information or for group pricing, call Playhouse in the Park at 270-759-1752.