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Alliance premieres historic Atlanta show
by Caroline Young
August 28, 2012 11:13 AM | 1200 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Staff / Nathan Self<br>
From left, playwright Pearl Cleage of south Atlanta and Alliance Theatre Artistic Director Susan V. Booth of Buckhead look over the script during a reading of ‘What I Learned in Paris’ at the Alliance.
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In September, go back in time to Atlanta in 1973 and relive the political campaign of the city’s first African-American mayor, Maynard Jackson. Through a “comedic lens of love and poli-tics,” the characters of the Alliance Theatre’s new historic play relive the social changes of the 1970s.

New York Times best-selling author and south Atlanta resident Pearl Cleage wrote “What I Learned in Paris” to capture the time in her life when she knew her life would never be the same.

“I always wanted to write about that moment. … It was a transitional moment in Atlanta in many ways,” Cleage said. “We knew that bright light shining on him would be shining on us. … These characters really grow out of that.”

“What I Learned in Paris” will have its world premiere at the Alliance Theatre in Midtown Sept. 5 and will run through Sept. 30.

Cleage said the show is a romantic comedy with five main characters.

“I think people in Atlanta will really have a chance to look at story deeply rooted here,” she said.

The play deals with gender politics more than any other political topic, according to Cleage.

“We had our first feminist bookstore in the same year as the first African-American mayor. ...That is reflected in the show,” she said. “There is an endless conversation between men and women as we try to figure out what the other gender is talking about. … I think there will be a lot of laughter in some of those bits of communication.”

Eugene Russell, of Atlanta’s Capitol View community, plays John Stanton, a 35-year-old lawyer and junior partner at the law firm owned by another character, J.P. Madison.

Russell said his character is “quirky and sometimes clueless.”

“I embrace the emerging woman’s liberation movement,” he said about his character. “I've got a heart to do right by everyone and a desire to deal honorably within my individual relationships.”

The four other actors include January LaVoy, who plays Lena Jefferson; Kelsey Scott, who plays Ann Madison; Danny Johnson, who is J.P. Madison and Crystal Fox, who is Evie Madison.

Fox, of Union City, said her character is the “matriarch of the play” and a “bohemian woman of the world,” who is “well-traveled but loving.”

Fox said the show portrays a sense of community in Atlanta.

“I remember the Maynard Jackson campaign and the different ways it brought the community together was very clear to me,” she said. “As far as politics go, that is only a small portion of the play. It’s a love story. That’s the unexpected part of it. It’s about how people connect in various circumstances. … and looking for love, looking for relationships.”

If you go:

o What: “What I Learned in Paris”

o When: Sept. 5 through 30, Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7:30 p.m., Fridays at 8 p.m., Satur-days at 2:30 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.

o Where: The Alliance Theatre, 1280 Peachtree St., Midtown

o Tickets: $25 and up

o Information: (404) 733-5000 or

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