Site search
Search type


Celebrate the Stories and History of Zora Neale Hurston

January 29, 2009

Zora is My Name!

Safiya Johnson as Zora

(from left to right) Victoria Weatherspoon, Safiya Johnson, and Taurean Hogan
Zora is My Name!
Adapted by Ruby Dee

Friday, February 20, 2009 at 8 p.m.
Friday, February 27, 2009 at 8 p.m.
Saturday, February 21, 2009 at 8 p.m.
Saturday, February 28, 2009 at 8 p.m.
Sunday, February 22, 2009 at 2 p.m.
Sunday, March 1, 2009 at 2 p.m.

Photo Credits: Chris Nelson

Zora Neale Hurston, a modern-day "griot" for Americans of African descent, was a storyteller and folklorist who gathered stories during the Harlem Renaissance. She lived her life with a determination to collect and pass down African culture before it completely disappeared from America. Her life is presented at the Bonstelle Theatre in a musical, theatrical presentation of Zora is My Name!, adapted by Ruby Dee. Performances are at 8 p.m. on February 20 - 21 and 27 - 28, and at 2 p.m. on February 22 and March 1. The play will help metro Detroiters celebrate Black History Month with powerful, vibrant and inspiring performances by Bonstelle Theatre students.

A griot, in many African cultures, is the person responsible for passing down traditions, culture, lineage and history through oral transmission. Many African-Americans consider their griots to be walking history books because they preserve ancient stories and traditions through song. Griots educate their communities through the stories of the past. This oral tradition easily translates into theatre performance and helps communities learn about themselves and their histories.

Hurston's stories came mostly from New York and the American South. She believed that young African-Americans need to be given the opportunity to learn about their history and their traditions, and she even hoped to begin a modern tradition of passing down history to future generations - like a modern griot. Especially interesting is that Hurston relished in her race and culture at a time when many tried to forget it. She once said, "I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow dammed up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all."

Many in the Detroit area will remember that Hurston's novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, was the focus of last year's "Big Read" in the Detroit Public Library. During this month, the Bonstelle Theatre invites you to celebrate the works of two talented artists - the legendary actress, poet, and activist Ruby Dee and Zora Neale Hurston, an author whose stories resonate not only with the African-American community but the world at large.

Zora is My Name! is directed by Aku Kadogo and stage managed by Eva Gulotty. Original music is composed by Dennis Ryans. The cast includes WSU graduate student Safiya Johnson and undergraduate students George Abud (Detroit, MI), William Eric Bryson (Highland Park, MI), Justin Dejuan Crutchfield (Detroit, MI), Christopher Lamar Edmonds (Flint, MI), Erica A. Fuller (Detroit, MI), Taurean Hogan (Detroit, MI), Ciarah Amaani-Jerri Mosley (Detroit, MI), and Victoria Weatherspoon (Detroit, MI).

The production team includes WSU staff member Fred Florkowski (Technical Director) and from the University of Michigan, Mark Allen Berg (Lighting Designer). WSU graduate students on the design team are Christa Koerner (Costume Designer) and Xiaopo Wang (Scenic Designer). WSU undergraduate students on the design team are Kathryn O'Brien (Properties Master) and Wendy Wojciechowski (Sound Designer).

Zora is My Name! plays at the Bonstelle Theatre February 20, 2009 to March 1, 2009. Advance ticket sales are available at the Wayne State Theatre Box Office, located at 4743 Cass Avenue on the corner of Cass and Hancock, or by phone at (313) 577-2960. Tickets are now available for purchase online at The box office is open Tuesday - Saturday from 2 p.m. - 6 p.m. Tickets may be purchased at the door at the Bonstelle Theatre (3424 Woodward Ave.) one hour prior to performances. Regular tickets are available for $15, and $12 discounted tickets are available to students with ID, seniors ages 62+, and Wayne State University faculty, staff, and Alumni Association members. Group discounts are also available. For more information, please visit the theatre's website at

The 2008-2009 Bonstelle Theatre season is sponsored by CBS Radio, Between the Lines, and the Dearborn Times-Herald. Zora is My Name! is presented by Huntington Bank.