By Laurie D. Willis
Special to The Post
Fred Forte Jr. is the son of a preacher. He loves God and writing and producing plays.
Forte’s newest play, “For the Love of Money,” will be performed at 6 p.m. Saturday in Varick Auditorium on the Livingstone College campus. Admission is $10 and tickets will be sold at the door.
“In today’s trying times it seems people are realizing more and more the importance of having a strong spiritual base in their lives,” Forte said. “I’m a preacher’s kid, so God has always been central in my life. I grew up in the church and absolutely love writing, directing and acting, so the fact that I’m now producing gospel plays is apropos.”
“For the Love of Money” is about real estate agent George Burrell’s rise to fame and fortune — and eventual fall from grace. It is the third play Forte has written since founding ForteJr Productions in 2009.
“This play exposes the audience to a man who experiences what many consider a good life,” Forte said. “He’s successful, makes good money, lives in a big house and drives a luxury car. But as the play progresses you see how Burrell strays from God and how his life takes a turn for worse as a consequence. I think most people, no matter their circumstance or their relationship with God, will be able to glean something from this play that will benefit and enhance their lives. The play will make people laugh at times, but it will also make them cry. But I really believe audience members will leave with a life-changing message.”
Ashley Blaire, an eighth-grader at Knox Middle School in Salisbury, portrays Burrell’s teenage daughter in the play. Ashley is the daughter of Paul and Gloria Blaire of Salisbury. Her mother is chief of police at Livingstone College.
“She’s playing the role of a 17-year-old, but she’s only 13 so she’s had to make some mental adjustments to adequately play that part,” Gloria Blaire said. “I was concerned about her playing the part of a 17-year-old at first, and so was her father, but we have watched her performance in the play and more importantly have seen how she acts otherwise, and it has not had a negative impact on her. In fact, a large part of her role is to spiritually encourage others, and we knew she could handle that because she has been saved since she was only 5 years old, and God comes first in our house.”
The play was performed at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro just before Christmas; however, students were away on break so Forte wasn’t able to collaborate with them as he would have liked.
He’s excited because several Livingstone College students will either perform on stage or work behind the scenes to make this Saturday’s show a success.
“We’re working in conjunction with Livingstone’s theater department and have been very impressed with the talent many of the students possess,” Forte said. “I’m thankful we were able to bring our play to Livingstone College, and I hope this is only the beginning of a long, rewarding partnership with the college. I also hope people in Mecklenburg, Iredell and other surrounding counties will come out to support the play. Taking about two hours to watch ‘For the Love of Money’ is a good, inexpensive way to spend a Saturday night.”
On March 26, the play is being performed at 6 p.m. in Pease Auditorium at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte. The play has already had one run at Pease Auditorium, Forte said.
“Right now we’re sort of doing the college circuit, but we’re amenable to performing the play at most any venue,” Forte said. “We’re particularly interested in performing it at as many HBCUs as we can. We would love to perform it at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, for example.”
By Laurie D. Willis