5950 Golf Course Rd.
Spring Green, Wisc.
June 3 – September 15, 2016
Written by Carlyle Brown
Directed by Derrick Sanders
Role: Papa Shakespeare
“Johnny Lee Davenport, who delivered a stunning Shylock 10 years ago when Milwaukee Shakespeare staged a memorable and innovative ‘The Merchant of Venice,’ is saddled with the broadly drawn Papa Shakespeare, a Caribbean expat who was saddled with his nickname due to his difficulty with the King’s English. Davenport pours his heart and soul into this character, who provides almost all of the comedy in the production.”
—Dave Begel, On Milwaukee (June 13, 2016)
“The very fact that APT can now stage plays like this one – with five meaty roles for black actors, each one of them solid in this wellacted production – confirms how far APT has come in living up to a more inclusive meaning of the word “American” in its name.
And it’s why Hewlett pays insufficient heed to Papa Shakespeare (Johnny Lee Davenport), a wizened griot who is mocked for the way he speaks his lines, even as he insists that what counts isn’t how he talks but what he says, with a musicality that he’s sure would have delighted Shakespeare.”
—Mike Fischer, The Journal Sentinel (June 13, 2016)
“Brown’s dialogue meanders and preaches. He leans heavily on direct addresses from characters like the affable but thinly sketched Papa Shakespeare, played by the fine classical actor Johnny Lee Davenport with dreads and an island patois.”
—Lindsay Christians, The Capital Times (June 14, 2016)
While APT stretches for further ethnic diversity the past few seasons, Brown’s play offers rich roles for actors of color: Greta Oglesby, Jennifer Latimore, Cedric Mays, Johnny Lee Davenport and Gavin Lawrence command center stage while David Daniel and Tim Gittings provide the white resistance to The African Company’s success.
Underneath the surface, an older Sarah, Oglesby, matches wits with the colorful drummer Papa Shakespeare, Davenport. The man was nicknamed by his master because he faltered with King’s English and now lives as a free man in New York. One delightful scene highlights the interplay of what these servants of color contended with as Papa Shakespeare transfers the meaning of what one person says to another. These two characters, Sarah and Papa Shakespeare, also generate a growing affection and respect that enhances the story.”
—Peggy Sue Dunigan, BroadwayWorld.com, Milwaukee (June 20, 2016)
“Papa Shakespeare (Johnny Lee Davenport) is a griot adorned with garlic and shell-bead necklaces, punctuating the action with a traditional drum slung at his side . . . . Davenport’s mischievous nature provides most of the humor in the show; he steals the scenes where he acts as a translator and intermediary for two disagreeing parties.
—Gwendolyn Rice, Isthmus (June 23, 2016)
“Because of the quality of the APT repertory company, you will see the quality of acting that most small theaters could never otherwise afford. So it is with ‘The African Company’ . . . it is a remarkably powerful play.”
—William R. Wineke, Channel3000.com (July 1, 2016)