Summers in Suffolk – 6 Plays in One
The Portsmouth Theater Academy, Portsmouth’s newest performance group, will produce all six plays in local playwright, Sheri Bailey’s Summers in Suffolk. Shows begin in October and continue monthly through March. The Academy took over the old Colony Theater located on High Street in Olde Towne Portsmouth. The Colony was built as a movie theater. Vacant for many years, the Colony building now houses this non-profit, educational theater group. For it’s opening season, the Portsmouth Theater Academy presents Summers in Suffolk with performances beginning in early 2021.
About Summers in Suffolk
Summers in Suffolk are six one-act, stand alone plays describing the African American condition in the south from 1870-1992. Performed around the country, from Beverly Hills to Harlem, Summers in Suffolk represent stories about Black southern families who did not migrate north to the big industrial cities but rather opted to stay “down home” on the land. These tales go back 125 years and include bits of folklore, ghost stories, autobiography, and research stitched together over four generations. Author Sheri Bailey’s grandfather was born and raised in Suffolk, Virginia, on the edge of the Great Dismal Swamp. She spent many summers in Suffolk throughout the years. Sheri now resides in Portsmouth.
Summer Storms 1870
The war is over and the slaves are free, but Cleo doesn’t see much difference. The “man up on the hill” is dying. She urges her reluctant son, who was conceived when she was “owned” by the “man up on the hill,” to hasten death’s appearance or risk losing his inheritance once the relatives arrive.
Summer Shadows 1896
Cleo’s son Amos Clark, now in his 60’s, is rich and as respected in Suffolk as the recently deceased Frederick Douglass. Amos has gone to Africa and returned with a young bride who continually escapes into the Swamp to find peace in this strange place so far from her home.
A Summer Romance 1930
From the Roaring 20’s to a Great Depression, Amos Clark’s only child, the spoiled and headstrong Carrie Clark, returns home to bury her father and in the process shakes up the old homestead with new ideas and open desires.
Summer Dreams 1957
To deal with an old lover, a woman finds her way into a secret place in the Swamp where she meets an old Conjure Woman who cautions her that “Sometimes a wish is a curse in disguise.”
A Summer Memory 1970
Successful Hollywood writer recalls her fourteenth summer spent in a Suffolk backyard reading books and befriending the town’s resident genius who helped spark her creative voice.
Summer Solstice 1992
Homecomings and departures mark beginnings and endings as the oldest generations pass the baton to the youngest in this final chapter of Summers in Suffolk, set in the last decade and final moments of the twentieth century.
Accolades for Summers in Suffolk
- Summer Dreams was made into a film in 2003 and shot on location in the Great Dismal Swamp. The short film will be shown at performances along with the play.
- A Summer Memory was performed in Beverley Hills. It received rave reviews in the Los Angeles Weekly, the LA Reader, and the UCLA Bruin.
- A Summer Romance and A Summer Memory were selected for workshop productions in 1991 at the Mark Taper New Playwright Festival.
About the Portsmouth Theater Academy
The Portsmouth Theater Academy is an organization dedicated to healing America from the wounds of slavery without shame or blame by teaching two related but distinct skills — re-enacting and acting. Re-enactors, portraying once living people at actual historic sites, share factual, truthful information with an audience. Actors, portraying fictional or once living characters, creatively illuminate life by performing for an audience. PTA student-artists will be trained to regale tour groups with anecdotes and stories from their lives as lived in the founding revolutionary days of America in the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. In addition to teaching student actors, the Academy will offer productions at the school throughout the year.