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A Lesson Before Dying Review

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A Lesson Before Dying adapted by Romulus Linney was a moving play which explored many aspects of life revolving around the character Jefferson and his community. The unique flavor of the play is that it takes a tragic event and highlights the transformation of the community as well as Jefferson for the better. The play discusses racism prominent in the mid 20th century, conflict between social expectations and personal dreams, religion, and the journey into manhood. Basically, Jefferson is a young man accused of murdering a white store owner. In the white dominated justice system Jefferson is convicted of murder and sentenced to die by electrocution. Professor Wiggins is called upon by Miss Emma to try to get Jefferson to die like a man. Jefferson is scared, alone, and confused and his turmoil is shown when he takes his lawyer's statement comparing him to a "hog". Wiggins has a difficult time talking sense to Jefferson since Wiggins himself was conflicted with dreams of moving on with his life. The Professor later manages to realize the importance of his role as a teacher in the community and the impact he has upon the children after arguing with Vivian about how Jefferson's lost cause. With a renewed sense of purpose, Professor Wiggins tries to befriend Jefferson and just focus on helping him sort out his situation. Wiggins confronts his fears and gains a new sense of confidence and awareness of his role in the community. There is another conflict between Professor Wiggins and Reverend Ambrose since both think of themselves of teachers and have differing views on how to die like a man. However with Jefferson's sentence coming up both men agree to come to terms since they have the same goal of helping Jefferson die with dignity. Paul has a conflict with Sheriff Guidry since Paul is sympathetic towards Jefferson and believes that he was not guilty whilst Sheriff Guidry is blinded by ambition and racism. In the end, Jefferson becomes a hero to the African American community. Jefferson dies honorably and wisely advises Wiggins to continue teaching and passes him the mantle of heroism.

In terms of the technical aspects of the play, Professor Wiggins interacts with the audience on a number of occasions by addressing the audience as his class and having the audience recite the pledge of allegiance. The black box theater design was extremely effective in involving the audience and focusing audience attention on the acting. A black box theater allows for simpler lighting and design since the acting is eye level to the audience and in A Lesson Before Dying, the actors used the actual doors in the room as entrances. The stage consisted of scenes at the jail as well as the Rainbow club while the floor was divided into the classroom on the right and Professor Wiggin's dining room on the left. There are two traditional exits on stage. Lighting was limited due to the location of the play however the lack of lighting was



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