On June 12, 1967, in the landmark civil rights decision Loving v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously struck down laws that prohibited interracial marriage in the 16 states where such statutes were still on the books.
Exactly six months later, a landmark feature film about interracial marriage, “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner,” premiered in Hollywood.
The film, starring Sidney Poitier, Katharine Houghton, Spencer Tracey and Katharine Hepburn, remained very popular in television reruns for the next 45 years. But nothing else had been done with it.
That changed this past summer when a stage play of the same name, written by Todd Kreidler and directed by Kenny Leon, premiered to wide acclaim at True Colors Theatre in Atlanta.
New Orleans will be the second city to host the stage version of “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” when the production opens at the Joy Theater on Friday.
Produced and directed by Tommye Myrick, the production will run for six performances, ending March 3. The staging of this production coincides with National Black History Month.
The all-local cast will bring to the stage some of New Orleans’ most notable veteran actors, along with some talented, young, up-and-comers in the lead roles.
Vicky Illk plays the role of the white Joanna “Joey” Drayton opposite Nicoye Banks, her African-American, near-perfect love interest, Dr. John Prentice.
Dane Rhodes (Matt Drayton) and Janet Shea (Christina Drayton) are Joey’s parents — supposedly liberal and open-minded until the issue hits home with them and they struggle to reconcile themselves with it.
Harold Evans (John Prentice Sr.) and Gwendolyn Foxworth (Mary Prentice) are the other set of parents who are equally uncomfortable with the situation.
Myrick, a seasoned producer and director and Big Easy Entertainment Award winner, was urged to bring the production to New Orleans by friends who had seen it staged in Atlanta.
Despite being very dialogue-heavy and political, “This is not a boring production,” Myrick emphasized. “You get caught up in it. It just moves you right along and it’s high energy. I’m confident that those who come to see it are going to be moved by it.”