What I Learned in Paris

by Pearl Cleage

This play is dedicated to the people who lived it and ones who stayed around to tell the tale

What I Learned in Paris
William C. Mitchell, L. Scott Caldwell, Karan Kendrick, Shon Fuller

Scenic Designer
Costume Design
Lighting Design
Sound Design
Properties Design & Set Dressing
Scenic Art
Production Stage Manager
Public Relations
Technical Director
Assistant to the Director
Wigs and Hair
Assistant Lighting Designer
Assistant Scenic Designer
Assistant Scenic Artistsr
Set Construction
Production Crew

Light Board Operator
Sound Board Operator
Stage Crew
Key Art
Production Photography

Saundra McClain
Charles Erven
Dianne K. Graebner
Jared A. Sayeg
Dave Mickey
John McElveney
Orlando de la Paz
Leesa Freed
David Elzer/Demand PR
Robert T. Kyle
Zuri Adele
Rhonda O'Neal
Hilda Kane
Mikayla Blanchard
Mikayla Blanchard, Luc Hediger, Selina Loggerman
Red Colegrove/Grove Scenery
Watson Bradshaw, Karen Forest, Rene Parras
Cuyler Perry, Christopher Rivera
Kathryn Horan
Brian Cordoba
Brie Quinn, Genetra Tull
Michael Lamont

(in order of speaking)

Ann Madison
"J.P." Madison
John Nelson
Lena Jefferson
Eve Madison

Joy Brunson
William C. Mitchell
Shon Fuller
Karan Kendrick
L. Scott Caldwell


Atlanta, Georgia, 1973

Election night, 2 AM, and the following days

There will be one intermission
Running time: Approximately 2 hours 30 minutes


Maynard Holbrook Jackson Jr. was born on March 23, 1938, in Dallas, Texas, where his father, Maynard H. Jackson Sr., was a minister. The family moved to Atlanta in 1945, when Maynard Sr. took the pastorship at Friendship Baptist Church. His mother, Irene Dobbs Jackson, was a professor of French at Spelman College, and in 1959 became the first African American to receive a card to the Atlanta Public Library, thereby integrating that institution.

Maynard JacksonJackson entered Morehouse College through a special early-entry program and graduated in 1956, when he was only eighteen. He attended Boston University law school but was unsuccessful, probably due to his youth. He received his law degree from North Carolina Central University in 1964, and during the late 1960s, worked as an attorney for the National Labor Relations Board and a legal services firm.

In 1968 thirty-year-old Jackson undertook an impulsive, quixotic, and underfunded race for the U.S. Senate against entrenched incumbent Herman Talmadge. Although he won less than a third of the statewide vote, he carried Atlanta and immediately became a force to be reckoned with in city politics. The next year he was elected vice mayor, the presiding officer of the board of aldermen.

Under Atlanta mayors William B. Hartsfield and Ivan Allen Jr., the city had developed a political tradition of electing leaders by a voting coalition of blacks and liberal/moderate whites. The white Jewish real estate developer Sam Massell had been elected mayor with strong African American support at the same time that Jackson became vice mayor. Traditional black political leaders expected to support Massell for a second term and then seek to elect a black in 1977, by which time the city's electorate would be overwhelmingly African American. Jackson thought differently, and polls demonstrated his popularity with voters. Impressed, influential black business leaders joined Jackson's campaign to unseat the incumbent in 1973. The Massell-Jackson runoff election became racially polarized, but Jackson won with just under 60 percent of the vote and, at age 35, became the first black mayor of a large southern city.

As mayor, he increased the number of minority businesses receiving municipal contracts from less than 1 percent to more than 35 percent, and increased minority representation in the Police Department, enabling blacks to rise in the ranks. He calmed a terrorized city during what became known as “the Atlanta Child Murders,” a series of murders of black youths. His lasting achievement was building the massive new terminal at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport with significant minority participation, and in his own words, "ahead of schedule and under budget." In 2003 the airport's name was changed to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in his honor.

Jackson died of a heart attack on June 23, 2003. He lay in state at City Hall and at Morehouse College, and the memorial service at the Atlanta Civic Center drew more than 5,000 mourners.


A friend once told me about an experience he had at a first-run movie. The theatre was packed, and the audience laughed uproariously throughout. He enjoyed it so much he stayed for the next showing. Again the theatre was packed. And they didn’t laugh. Oh, they chuckled occasionally, and there was sporadic laughter from a few individuals, but it was nothing at all like the first time. "And you know what?" he said. "It wasn’t as funny." Of course the performance hadn’t changed – it was a movie. What had changed was the audience.

This anecdote illustrates one of the great mysteries for those of us who work in live theatre and watch audiences night after night. The legendary actress Colleen Dewhurst spoke of "that wonderful moment when the audience comes together and all those people begin to respond as one." Every good comedy writer knows to put in three sure-fire, audience-unifying laughs early in the play. And every actor knows that if all three fall flat, it’s going to be a long night. (The actor’s description of this type of audience is "wallpaper.")

That’s the magic of live performance. Some audiences are thoughtful and attentive. Some chuckle quietly and sigh gently. Some laugh heartily and gasp audibly. And yes, some are simply wallpaper. Every audience member’s response, positive or negative, changes the dynamic in the room, and contributes to every other audience member’s experience. Put another way, every performance is different because every audience is different.

Lately, there’s been a lot of gloomy discussion about the demise of live performance, as more and more entertainment is delivered directly to individuals who are experiencing the performance by themselves through their computers, smart phones, and other technological gadgets. I am not worried. It doesn’t matter how brilliant the performance is – watching it alone on a screen will never, ever be the same as sharing the experience with an audience of living, breathing human beings.

Barbara Beckley
Artistic Director


Brad Brown   Kate Bergh   Ron Gwiazda, Abrams Artists Agency
Paul Manganiello   Christina Wong & Eric Hulme, Tender Greens   Wadler Data Systems