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“Grand Slam” coming to Salisbury this weekend

This weekend, the Renaissance Arts Program and Eastsquare Artworks will be presenting the play “Grand Slam.”

Larry Wright wrote and directed the play.

The play is about an African American baseball player named James Jones, a player for the Negro League in 1954. Jones struggles with the temptations of the high life — gambling, women and drinking. Now Jones has to face the even greater seduction in the form of a bribe from the all-white National League to throw the game the Negro All-Stars are playing against the All-Stars from the National League.

Jones’ character is a mixture of two real baseball players, Willie Mays and Hank Aaron.

Some of the proceeds from the play are going towards the after school programs for the proposed charter school, the Paul L. Dunbar Charter School. An application for the school was submitted in September to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction’s Office of Charter Schools. The board hopes to open the school in East Spencer.

“It’s about a ball player who made a series of bad choices and the things he struggled with and how he overcame those things,” Nan Lund, secretary of the Governing Board of the Paul L. Dunbar Charter School, said. “To give people a sense of hope and what their futures could be like.”

The play was performed for the first time at the Greensboro Fringe Theatre Festival and was “A” listed at the National Black Theatre Festival in 2005. It was also a finalist at the Urban Media Film Festival in Atlanta in 2008.

Julian Martin, a 23-year-old who linked up with RAP to get involved in the arts, said there really is not anything for young people to get involved with in the area when it comes to arts.

“The play is important to me because I feel like it will bring something to Rowan County, to the Salisbury area, that isn’t here,” he said. “It allows children to have an outlet. It allows children to have opportunities and something positive to do.”

The Renaissance Arts Program aims to integrate the arts into education, business, industry and the high poverty and low employment areas of the community, according to a document provided by Nan Lund.

The program organizes workshops, after school programs and community-based projects for the community.

The document states that RAP believes that the arts “are fundamental to growing innovative, powerful thinking skills, giving individuals and groups the ability to creatively expand and actualize their visions.”

Kenneth Muhammad El, board chairman, said Wright, who is actually his brother-in-law, is good at taking historical situations and making them relevant to today.

“What we wanted to do is use it as a way to draw these young brothers in, sisters too, to come in and look at art, look at theater, look at film as an alternative to the lifestyles that they’re kind of forced into right now,” he said.

Board member Whitney Peckman said the board hopes to integrate Wright’s From Paper to Film program into the charter school’s after school program. The From Paper to Film program helps encourage young people to first write and then develop their own films.

Peckman said when the arts are integrated into learning, anyone can find a home in the arts.

“Any interest that you have, we can find a way to fit you in,” she said.

Lund said performances like “Grand Slam” and other events are helping bring hope to the young people of the community.

“We want to get to these people and say there are ways to restart your life,” she said, “and we’ll do whatever we can to help.”

Performances will take place at Eastsquare Artworks at 120 East Innes St. on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. and on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. for a matinee. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at the door or online at www.ricmayer.wix.com/renaissance.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.

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