An iconic 1930 photograph of two lynched men is the haunted heart of The Gospel According to James, a new play by Charles Smith running at Cleveland's Ensemble Theatre through Feb. 17. Directed by Celeste Cosentino, the story examines varying recollections of the brutal murder of Tommy Shipp and Abe Smith from two people connected to the event and the influence the day had on their lives. "I saw it as a child," Smith says of the photo. "It was so iconic it became part of the background noise of America. When I found out [the men's] names, it became a murder." Cosentino, one of Smith's former playwriting students at Ohio University, brought her former teacher's Free Man of Color to Ensemble Theatre in 2011 while he was writing The Gospel According to James, which premiered there Jan. 25. "It's kind of a memory play," Cosentino says. "It reflects the way life can be shaped by events." ensemble-theatre.com
Saturday, January 26, 2013 6:08:29 PM by Clarence Connors
I saw it last night and it was haunting. A bit surprising in how a play set in 1930 can be so much about who we are today.