Ade Ofunniyin stands in the courtyard of Studio P.S. in front of a palm tree. He's eager to show off the work he and his friends have done to transform the rundown warehouse into a vibrant space for art, music, and theater. He has many visions for Studio P.S. — like a full-service kitchen, art exhibits, and poetry readings. The first idea to materialize is Gullah Theatre, which Ofunniyin says will perform several Gullah-oriented shows in the coming year.
Gullah Theatre will debut with You, The Jury on Dec. 2. It's a comedic court drama directed by Whitfield Sims, the auditorium manager at Burke High School. Sims directed the play in New York and for Piccolo Spoleto in 2006. The plot is centered on the trial of a young boy who is accused of stealing money from his employer. When the evidence proves scarce, it's up to the jury to decide his fate.
That's when things get interesting, Sims says. The jury is chosen from the audience, who will go through a jury selection process in the first act. "There's no real moral to this story because the fate is determined by the audience," Sims says. "It's really a fun piece." Those without acting experience shouldn't shy away, though.
Sims has assembled a cast of 15 actors and actresses with a wide range of backgrounds. "There are some cast members acting for the first time, but all the actors have a strong sense of voice," says Lisa Montgomery, who plays the role of the defense attorney. She's been involved in musical theater her entire life, but this will be the first straight dialogue role she's ever performed. "It's a challenge," she says. "But I think when you stop learning, you need to stop acting, and there's always something you can learn or look at differently."
Montgomery says if you want to learn, Gullah Theatre is the place to do it. Sims' directorial style encourages the actors and actresses to bring their own flavor to their roles, a freedom that Montgomery says puts the cast on an equal playing field.
"I'm excited about being a part of this new venture and being on the ground floor," she says. "No one knows what's going to come of the theater, but we want our voice to be heard. We want people to see what we're doing with the theater, and we want them to come out and support it."
You, the Jury. Dec. 2-4, 9-10 7:30 p.m. $25. Gullah Theatre, 10 Conroy St., Downtown.