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College Theater will present Slabtown District Convention: The Comedy with Jazz 8 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday on the main stage of the Williams Center for the Arts. Tickets cost $2 for Lafayette students, $3 for faculty and staff, and $6 for the public, and can be purchased by calling the box office at (610) 330-5009.

Slabtown District Convention, written and directed by Samuel Hay, visiting professor of government and law, was inspired by Nannie Helen Burroughs’ 1909 comedy On Their Way to the Slabtown District Convention. The first known morality play by an African American woman, it teaches the audience to help the poor by helping them help themselves.

Burroughs believed that men hindered women from holding policymaking positions in church and community organizations. She persuaded the National Baptist Convention to found the Women’s Convention Auxiliary of which she served as corresponding secretary (1900-48) and president (1948-61). She founded National Trade and Professional School for Women and Girls, known today as Nannie Helen Burroughs School, in Washington, D.C., in 1909.

Hay first became familiar with the play in the 1960s when the Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in West Palm Beach, Fla., asked him to direct it for a fundraiser. The play’s events reminded him of his childhood when women gathered to raise money for the poor and shut-in and to prepare themselves for leadership positions.

“The Burroughs play inspired mine, which might be called a farce with jazz and spirits,” he says. “[It] pays homage to Burroughs’ love of self-help and to Bill Cosby’s courage to demand nothing less.”

Among the 23 plays Hay has produced are the highly praised Cream and Brown Sugar (1996) and David Richmond (1998). Both won the North Carolina Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival (KC/ACTF) and were invited to KC/ACTF regional competitions respectively. David Richmond won an invitation to perform at the Kennedy Center on April 23-24, 1999, as the Best University Production.

Hay is founder of The National Conference on African American Theatre, Inc. His involvement in the African American theatrical community also includes membership in Association for Theatre in Higher Education, National Association of Schools of Theatre, Black Theatre Network, National Association of Dramatic and Speech Arts, and National Conference on African American Theatre.

He is author of African American Theatre: A Historical and Critical Analysis, published in 1994 by Cambridge University Press, and Ed Bullins: A Literary Biography (1997, Wayne State University Press), which won the 1999 CHOICE Award. The coeditor of the six-volume literature series Focus on Literature, Hay recently edited a study of African American protest drama and theater that will be published by Cambridge.

Production Staff (students’ hometowns and majors included):

  • Director – Samuel Hay
  • Technical director – Richard Kendrick
  • Stage manager – John Kolba ’06, Chelmsford, Mass., electrical and computer engineering
  • Assistant stage manager – Alexis Beveridge ’09, Bethesda, Md.
  • Choreography – Mary Jo Lodge
  • Fight director – Ian Rose
  • Photographer – Timothy Frey
  • House mangers – Amanda Driscoll ’06, Princeton Junction, N.J., electrical and computer engineering; Debra Gilkerson ’06, Albany, Calif., civil engineering; and Lisa Klenn ’06, Quakertown, Pa., psychology


  • Charles Leroy, leader of the Charles Leroy Jazz Combo – Jonathan Meier ’07, Scranton, Pa., mathematics
  • Catherine Evelyn Van Horn, sergeant-at-arms and campaign manager for Baby Rose – Jhenelle Andrade ’06, Bronx, N.Y., psychology
  • Georgia Ruth Peterson, Grover campaign manager – Sherisse Hatcher ’06, New York, N.Y., electrical and computer engineering
  • Elouise “Baby Rose” Blandenburg, president of the Slabtown District Convention – Kelly Hess ’08, Prospect Park, N.J., neuroscience
  • Mamie Lee Grover, candidate for president – Tia Tanelle Kenan ’06, Union, N.J., English
  • Josephine “Josie” Emanuel, vice president of the Slabtown District Convention – Sandra Welch ’06, Philadelphia, Pa., English and government & law (double major)
  • Njaka, spirit of old African man – Kofi Opoku, professor of religious studies
  • Heads of convention delegations – Jasmin Ampaw ’06, Staten Island, N.Y. international affairs; Rasheim Donaldson ’06, New York, N.Y., anthropology and sociology; Charles Felix ’08, Brooklyn, N.Y., A.B. engineering; Eilis Hood ’06, Malvern, Pa., English and government & law (double major); Larry Johnson ’06, Waldorf, Md., anthropology & sociology and government & law (double major); Torian Johnson ’07, Tarpon Springs, Fla., economics and business; Daniel Naab ’06, Westmont, N.J., economics and business; Nkrumah Pierre ’06, Glen Head, N.Y., economics and business; Nangula Shejavali ’06, Windhoek, Namibia, international affairs and Africana studies (double major); Jocelyn Vargas ’06, Corona, N.Y., international affairs and Spanish (double major); Tara Walsh ’06, Newtown, Pa., government and law; and Edward Yao ’08, Bronx, N.Y., government and law.


  • Saxophone – Jack Furlong ’05
  • Piano – Sean Gough ’09, North Plainfield, N.J.
  • Bass – Patrick D. Kelley ’09, Shillington, Pa.
  • Drums – John O’Keefe ’96, director of academic technology services
Categorized in: Students