A Lesson Before Dying - Mesmerizing Play Produced by Russ Andrade

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A Lesson Before Dying

Jefferson, Deputy Paul Bonin and Grant Wiggins

A Lesson Before Dying is a captivating play, Executive Produced by Russ Andrade and Cooper S. Anderson and Directed by Cort King and Shaheed Chapple.  It is being showcased at the Studio Stage.

Studio Stage

A Lesson Before Dying was written by Romulus Linney and is based on a novel by Ernest J. Gaines (published in 1993) which was included in Oprah’s Book Club (1997).

Jefferson, played by Shaheed Chapple, is an innocent black man, condemned to death in 1948 in backwoods Louisiana. A local black school teacher, Grant Wiggins, played by Cort King must maneuver around the harsh and cruel Sheriff Guidry, played by Cooper Steve Andersen and teach Jefferson to die with dignity.

The story begins with the murder of Mr. Grope by two black men. Jefferson is an innocent bystander and is charged and convicted of the murder. He is sentenced to death in an electric chair.

Jefferson’s lawyer explains to the jury saying:

“Justice gentlemen? Why I would as soon put a hog in the electric chair as this”.

Morgan Mulbay, Cooper Steve Anderson, Lorinda Hawkins and Cort King

Jefferson’s godmother, Emma Glen, played by Lorinda Hawkins asks Grant Wiggins to turn Jefferson from a “hog” to a “man”.

Fawn Stone, played by Vivian Baptiste is dating Grant Wiggins and offers him good advice. Deputy Paul Bonin, played by Morgan Mulbay forms a friendship with Grant Higgins which was unusual for that time.

The cast of actors are highly skilled, mesmerizing to watch and move you to tears with their heartfelt performances. You feel like you are experiencing that era (1948) in the South while watching them from scene to scene.

Cort King and Shaheed Chapple did a brilliant job with both directing and acting. Cort King, as Grant Wiggins, played an excellent teacher educating his class. Many of his scenes with Jefferson were so intense that tears fell down his face several times. His performance in the play was outstanding!

Director and Actor, Cort King

Cort King as Grant Wiggins

Shaheed Chapple, as Jefferson also gave an excellent performance as a black man from the backwoods of Louisiana. Shaheed displayed the primeval nature (hog-like) of Jefferson’s character by both his body movements and voice. Shaheed’s performance as a black man wrongfully accused and condemned to murder, moved you to tears and tore at your heart emotionally.

Shaheed Chapple as Jefferson

Lorinda Hawkins, as Emma Glenn, was dressed like the perfect nurturing Godmother every person would love to have in their life. Her performance was endearing, humble and motherly. Red, hot tears filled her eyes during the play many times so that you felt the pain she was going through while trying to be brave and knowing that her godson would be executed soon.      

Lorinda Hawkiins as Emma Glen

Loriinda Hawkins and Cort King

Fawn Stone, as Vivian Baptiste, played Grant Wiggin’s pretty girlfriend. She was beautiful to look at in her green dress and with her lovely face. Her character was compassionate, especially when she got to meet Jefferson for the first time.

Fawn Stone as Vivian Baptiste

Wayne Woods, as Rev. Moses Ambrose had an amazing voice that resonated loudly and with clarity.

Wayne Woods

Cooper Steve Andersen, as Sheriff Sam Guidry, also gave an excellent performance as a harsh and tough Sheriff with his booming, strong, powerful voice giving out commands and making sure there was order and that justice was served. Cooper definitely had stage presence!

Cooper Steve Anderson as Sheriff Sam Guidry

Morgan Mulbay, as Deputy Paul Bonin, played the role in a natural and effortless way so that you really felt like he was from Louisiana and from that era. He did show a good transformation of character from the “bad cop” to one that you liked.

Morgan Mulbay

“A Lesson Before Dying” was not only brilliantly directed but the music, staging, set décor, lighting and sound and costumes were perfection too!        

 Adrian Michael Ramon’s lighting and sound were flawless, adding mood and ambience to every scene. The music chosen for the play such as songs by Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Bessie Griffin, etc. also made the audience feel like the setting was in Louisiana in the 1940’s.

Adrian Michael Ramon

The costumes were perfect for each character. Emma Glen’s bright red dress and Fawn Stone’s pretty green dress stood out and added flair to the play. Costume design was done by Katie Witkowski.

The staging and décor was simple but brilliant. The stage was sectioned into the classroom, the bar area, the jail and the use of a bench and a window added extra dimension to the set. The Execution Chair was abominable to look at with its monstrous size and appearance. A 1940’s chest of draws, furniture and “the radio” added nice touches to the décor and props.     

Execution Chair

This was a tremendous effort - bringing talent of this caliber and this beautiful story to life all because of Executive Producer, Russ Andrade! Russ discovered acting late in life but quickly built a resume as an actor in film, stage and television. He also produced his first play in 2012 with the production of Oscar Wilde’s “Salome” at the Luna Theatre in Glendale. Russ has always been a liberal, political activist growing up during the civil rights movement in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

Some of the cast of actors congratulating Producer, Russ Andrade

“You cannot legislate away prejudice. It requires education, interaction and understanding”.

Therefore, he found significant resonance in and decided to produce “A Lesson Before Dying”.   

Executive Producer, Russ Andrade


“A Lesson Before Dying” is a stunning play and will move you to tears! If you want to see a beautifully acted play and brilliant staging – this is an absolute gem of a play!  





CA 90004

Quote from the Play



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