Oct. 30, 2014. It’s 1962. A white man has been murdered on a hot August night in a small town in the deep south, and the local police arrest a black newcomer to town named Virgil Tibbs. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, L.A. Theatre Works brings its unique, radio theater-style production of John Ball’s In the Heat of the Night to the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts on Tuesday, Nov. 11, at 8 p.m.
In Ball’s now classic novel, the police soon discover that their suspect is in fact an expert homicide detective from Pasadena. The staunchly racist members of this rural southern community must come to terms with the fact that Tibbs may be their only hope to help solve the brutal murder that, until now, has turned up no witnesses, no motives and no clues.
Published in 1965, a time when America was grappling with integration and an evolving acceptance of the Civil Rights movement, Ball’s sizzling, Edgar Award-winning noir thriller inspired both an Academy Award-winning film starring Sidney Poitier and Rod Steigner and a long-running (1988-1994) television series starring Howard Rollins and Carroll O’Connor.
“College-educated, well dress, a respected police officer from California and a black man, Virgil Tibbs may never have been written into existence were it not for the efforts of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,”noted L.A. Theatre Works Executive Producter Anna Lyse Erikson.
“King was shot dead at his hotel on April 4, 1968 – just six days before “In the Heat of the Night” was awarded five Oscars at the 1968 Academy Awards Ceremony. Even today, in 2014, there are moments in this story that are all too familiar. In many ways, it seems timlier than ever.”
This performance is funded in part by a grant from South Arts in partnership with the National Endowment for the Arts and Appalachian State University.
Adapted for the stage by Matt Pelfrey and directed by Brian Kite, In the Heat of the Night stars Ryan Vincent Anderson as Tibbs and James Morrison (24) as Chief Gillespie. The production also stars a great mix of actors with stage, film and TV credits. Included is L.A. Theatre Works regular and frequent TV and film star Tom Virtue (Even Stevens, The Secret Life of the American Teenager, Charmed, Entourage, Two and a Half Men, Iron Man 3 and many more). Also in the cast are Michael Hammond whose credits include the Shakespeare Theatre DC and the Williamstown Theatre Festival and Travis Johns, a frequent guest star on TV (Nip/Tuck, Days of Our Lives, Ray Donovan, The Mentalist and more). Kalen Harriman and L.A. Theatre Works stalwart, Darren Richardson, whose distinctive voice has been heard in a wide array of films from Pirates of the Caribbean to X-Men are also in the cast.
For four decades, L.A. Theatre Works has been the leading radio theater company in the United States, committed to using innovative technologies to preserve and promote significant works of dramatic literature and bringing live theater into the homes of millions. More than 11,000 libraries carry LATW’s plays on audio, and recordings and teaching materials are used by more than 3,000 middle and high schools across the country. An L.A. Theatre Works performance is immediate, spontaneous and feature a first-rate cast, live sound effects and a connection to the audience rarely felt in a traditional theater setting.