WMAR to broadcast 'Jook Joint'

February 27, 1993|By Steve McKerrow | Steve McKerrow,Staff Writer

A historically accurate vision of Baltimore as an entertainment magnet for blacks in the 1940s helps provide the dramatic tension of "The Jook Joint," the latest winning production in the annual drama competition for black playwrights sponsored by WMAR-Channel 2 and the Arena Players.

Written by Joe Lee, a Baltimore native now working as radio program director in Syracuse, N.Y., the one-act play can be seen at 7 tonight on Channel 2, starring Arena Players performers Rohn Luckett, Curtis Isaiah, Laura L. Sligh and Karen Waters. (A repeat is also scheduled at 11 a.m. Sunday, March 14.)

The principals portray regulars at a rural tavern for blacks in the South, which were colloquially known as "jooks." For owner Benny (Mr. Luckett), the place represents security. But for his wife Zora (Ms. Waters), it seems a trap that frustrates singing aspirations that beck on her north.

"Baltimore." she says wistfully. "You know, it's not exactly Harlem, but I could get used to livin' there."

Pianist Bone Man (Mr. Isaiah) talks of the string of music clubs on Pennsylvania Avenue, and his girl, Doll (Ms. Sligh) counsels Zora on how to persuade her man to consider heading north.

In the end, however, the unseen force of Big Sam, a tough gambler to whom Benny owes $5,000, helps force a decision.

As with the previous 10 productions in the Black History Month writing competition, "The Jook Joint" plays somewhat woodenly on TV, with limited numbers of characters and sets. But the heart of the drama reflects a historical movement that brought many Southern blacks to Baltimore and other Eastern cities in pre-civil rights days.

The station urges teachers to tape the broadcast, and will provide a teacher's guide for classroom study upon request. For more information call (410) 377-2222.

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