March 16-22, 2006
Arts : ArtpicksLesson Plan
John Bellomo's not just a fight choreographer anymorehe's a theater director soon to receive his Masters of Fine Arts degree from Temple University. He hopes his thesis project, the Philadelphia premiere of Romulus Linney's A Lesson Before Dying, will reintroduce him to area theaters like People's Light & Theatre Company, the Philadelphia and Pennsylvania Shakespare Festivals, The Wilma Theater, and many more that call Bellomoor his wife, Samantha, a fight and dance choreographerfor swordplay and fistfights.
"I'm going to keep working as a fight choreographer," says Bellomo, who is certified by the Society of American Fight Directors and most recently staged comedic violence for Villanova Theatre's Incorruptible. "But I'm capable of more." A Lesson Before Dying, based on Ernest J. Gaines' successful 1993 novel (also an Oprah pick and HBO film), introduces a young black man sentenced to die in 1948 Louisiana. In the Jim Crow South, innocence is irrelevant to all-white jurists and the white defense lawyer who labels him an "ignorant hog." His redemption comes via a reluctant tutor sent by his godmother.
"It's a great play," Bellomo says. "I knew I had to work on it as soon as I read it." Fellow grad student James Ijames, who plays the teacher, suggested the script. "It's fascinating to delve into where we came from and see how far we've come, yet also how much these issues are still relevant today. ... It's not about how you die, but about how you live."
A Lesson Before Dying, Thu., March 16, 7 p.m.; Fri. and Mon.-Wed., March 17 and 20-22, 8 p.m.; Sat., March 18, 2 and 8 p.m., $13-$18, through March 25, Randall Theater, Temple University, 13th and Norris sts., 888-695-7849, www.liacourascenter.com.