Review: THE JACKSON ROOMING HOUSE: MUSIC'S RESTING PLACE at Sankofa African American Theatre Company and Gamut Theatre

History and Music Come to Life

By: Feb. 11, 2024
Review: THE JACKSON ROOMING HOUSE: MUSIC'S RESTING PLACE at Sankofa African American Theatre Company and Gamut Theatre

Gamut Theatre Group and Sankofa African American Theatre Company join forces to present The Jackson Rooming House: Music’s Resting Place through February 25th. An original play by Sharia Benn and Clark Nicholson directed by Sharia Benn, explores the history of Black musicians in Harrisburg. Benn writes in her director’s note, “The Jackson House…served as a refuge for renowned Black musicians and travelers from the late 1920s up to the 1960s.”

The set, props, lighting, projections, and costumes are gorgeous—blending the past with the present as the spirits of the Jackson Rooming House share the history of music, the experience of Black musicians, and the little-known role of Harrisburg in that history. The band, comprised of Curtis Andrews III, Thomas Bryant, Brian McGrady, and Shine Delphi, is an integral part of the production, bringing the rhythms and sounds of the blues, jazz, swing, gospel, rock and roll, soul, and more to life.

Trystin Bailey and Betty Joyner take on the roles of German and Betty Jackson, welcoming Sun (played by Latreshia Lilly), Shine (played by Shine Delphi), Shayla (portrayed by Kennedy Commissiong), Daryll (played by Kevin Willis), and Ronnie (portrayed by Logan McDonnell) to the Jackson Rooming House. Bailey is a compelling story-teller with wonderful stage presence. He makes the audience feel just as welcome as German Jackson made his boarders feel. Joyner has a powerful voice that speaks to the soul, performing the songs of singers like Ma Rainey with strength and depth.

Shine Delphi and Latreshia Lilly portray Shine and Sun, two musicians who have discovered the history of the Jackson Rooming House and the incredible individuals who stayed there and at other Black-owned establishments in Harrisburg. Delphi’s raspy blues voice and guitar skills are a delightful addition to the production. Lilly embodies her character with so much passion that the audience cannot help but sit up and pay attention. Her vocal range and ability to belt is chill-inspiring, and when she sings with Joyner, it is impossible to not be moved.

Kennedy Commissiong, Logan McDonnell, and Kevin Willis give strong performances as Shayla, Ronnie, and Daryll, three modern-day youth who are each facing changes in their lives and the fear that often accompanies change. Commissiong is completely convincing in her role, and her interactions with McDonnell and Willis are relatable. McDonnell has great energy as Ronnie, and it is fun to watch his character get more and more excited about the music and history he is learning. Willis portrays Daryll, Shayla’s big brother, with authenticity and heart.

This production is a beautiful, joyful, soulful exploration of music, history, and hope for the future. The Jackson Rooming House: Music’s Resting Place is a show that will have audience’s tapping their toes, clapping, and singing along. The cast and crew of Sankofa African American Theatre Company and Gamut Theatre Group bring this story to life in an unique and heart-warming way. Information can be found at gamuttheatre.org/the-jackson-rooming-house.

Photo Credit: John Bivins Photography



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