An actor best known for roles in hit science fiction fare is now bringing real history to the stage with “Frederick Douglass: In the Shadow of Slavery," a one-man portrayal of the man some consider the father of the civil rights movement.
Mel Johnson Jr.'s educational and entertaining performance, chronicling Douglass' life from his childhood as a slave to his eventual role as a leading abolitionist, will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6, in The Theatre of Eastern Illinois University's Doudna Fine Arts Center.
A pre-show reception, open to all ticket-holders, will feature remarks by Tom Dugan, the playwright of the show. Refreshments will be provided.
The production, which includes a look at Douglass' friendships with Susan B. Anthony, John Brown and Abraham Lincoln, incorporates gripping plantation songs in the telling of Douglass' life.
Johnson, an accomplished actor and director in movies, television and on Broadway, is perhaps best known roles as the mutant cab driver Benny in the 1990 science fiction film "Total Recall."
Fans of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" will recognize him as Broca, the Cardassian who becomes leader of the Cardassian Union in the show's final two episodes.
On television, Johnson was a regular on David Lynch's "On the Air," and he has guest-starred on many shows, including "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" and "The Practice."
On Broadway, Johnson recently starred as Mufasa in "The Lion King." His other Broadway credits include "On the Twentieth Century" with Kevin Klein, "Eubie!" with Maurice and Gregory Hines, "The Rink" with Liza Minnelli and Chita Rivera, "Big Deal" directed by Bob Fosse, and "Jelly's Last Jam."
Johnson was the executive producer of Big City Pictures, as well as the artistic director of the award-winning arts organization The Imagination Workshop.
Johnson will be available for autographs following the show.
Seating is reserved. Tickets -- $15 for the general public, $12 for senior citizens and EIU employees, and $7 for students -- may be purchased in the Doudna Fine Arts Center box office (217-581-3110) from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, or one hour before each performance. Tickets may also be reserved via email at email@example.com. The production is presented in partnership with EIU African-American Heritage Month activities.
The Doudna Fine Arts Center, a division of EIU's College of Arts and Humanities, is located one block west of Ninth Street at Garfield Avenue in Charleston.
For more information, visit the Web site at http://www.eiu.edu/doudna.