By Sara Dudley Brown, Theatre Editor
Earlier this week I had the great pleasure of interviewing an extraordinary man, Jason Ellis, who was recently recognized as a 2018 Living Legend of Alexandria recipient. He was honored for his work as a social commentary playwright, for serving as the executive director of the nonprofit Momentum Collective Inc., for his role as the Director of Resident and Community Services with the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority, and as a Board member for the Northern Virginia Black Chamber of Commerce. Whew! What a guy!
Previously, Mary Wadland, Editor and Owner of The Zebra, asked me to get more information on a project headed up by Jason Ellis, a new musical called “U Street” and, if I thought it warranted it, to help publicize it. Spoiler Alert: this is going to be easy! I learned that the show is family friendly, focuses on homelessness in America, has an interesting story (a mystery which may or may not leave you hanging), a number of gospel presentations that will be sure to interest even the most difficult-to-please audience members, plus lots of dance numbers, many with a distinct Caribbean flavor.
“U Street” also has a very experienced cast of local actors, dancers, and musicians—about 26 in all. Ellis is the playwright and director. I’ve seen snippets of a 2016 version of this musical on YouTube and, trust me, it’s good. Not only is Ellis the playwright and director, he wrote the lyrics, provided the choreography, designed the sets, and will appear onstage too. What? Seriously. And THIS ISN’T HIS JOB! He’s doing this on his own initiative to help fund the work of his real job (see first paragraph above)
Let me fill you in quickly on just who this man is. Please stick with me. This will be short, because I want you to spend your time and money going to see and promote this production! Jason Ellis is a native Jamaican who has been heavily involved in the performing arts since the age of two and went through rigorous training in music, dance, and theatre arts before coming to the United States. When he moved here in 2001 he quickly got engaged in the theatre scene. Now he is using his passion for writing music and creating shows to “edutain” those of us who routinely look the other way when faced with these underserved folks living in our beautiful city of Alexandria. The population he is trying to help, by the way, is not yet living on the streets. Ellis says he is doing all he can to prevent that.
Just a little more background on this show: it’s a fundraiser put on by Ellis’s nonprofit organization Momentum Collective Inc. in partnership with the housing authority, the school system, the recreation department, the library services, and several other community stakeholders. He says the proceeds from the show will help support a variety of programs for low income youth in Alexandria, including providing college scholarships and summer camps. So…anything you can do to help get the word out about this show and to support it will be immensely important.
My takeaway from my discussion with Jason: we desperately need people like him and from my vantage point, those folks who give back everything they have to help the underserved of our community are few and far between. They should be given all the help and support we can muster. You can help! First, buy tickets, second, help us find ways to publicize this worthwhile program. Thank you in advance!
Ticket and Performance Information: “U-Street, The Musical” opens on February 15 and runs through March 3, Thursday–Saturday evenings at 7 p.m. with additional Saturday matinees at 3 p.m. Tickets range from $10-20 and can be purchased online at: www.momentumcinc.org/box-office/tickets/ or at the door on show dates beginning 45 minutes prior to the start of the show. “U Street, The Musical” is being presented at the Richard Kauffman Auditorium (Lee Center), 1108 Jefferson Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.