Publicists exist to give journalists free stuff. (Alternatively, they also coordinate attempts to prevent us from trying to get the information we really need vs. what they want to tell us.) They may also make a mean meat loaf or run a four-minute mile, but in the grand scheme of things, their ultimate purpose is free stuff distribution to people like me. When publicists aren't present, getting things like gratis tickets for theater review purposes can be rather difficult.
Which is why I was the only white girl in sight Saturday night at the Music Hall at Fair Park, standing at the will-call booth. It was minutes before the sold-out performance of Madea Goes to Jail, writer/director/producer/cross-dresser Tyler Perry's play featuring his alter ego and "mad black woman," Madea. (There's also a hit movie out right now, Madea's Family Reunion.) The play is unusual not only because it's geared toward a black audience with strong Christian themes, explores plots of social injustice and cracks frequently riotously funny jokes, but it also has no publicist.
With my professional reporter's notebook prominently on display in my left hand, I had nonchalantly asked the box-office worker to grab the ticket that was waiting for the Observer theater reviewer--a ticket I suspected did not exist, as I'd never actually been able to tell any public relations people I'd be coming to do the review. I did not want to engage in unsavory dealings with the scalpers outside, though I was prepared to do so for the sake of keeping a job with good health insurance. But my Music Hall peeps came through. Someone had abandoned one lonely ticket up in the balcony.
Thus the only white girl at will-call became the only white girl in the balcony, laughing and clapping and yelling alongside Tyler Perry's dedicated fans. Though the play is occasionally so thickly drenched with Jesus-lovin' sappiness I think it may have actually blurred the stage lights, the moments of honest comedy are what you remember most.
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Madea's run at Fair Park is over, unfortunately, but if you're going to be in Little Rock on March 28, you might scoop up some tickets to the next show before they sell out and you have to convince the box office guy you're from the Atlantic. Yeah, right. You? --Andrea Grimes