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So Cal premiere of “Knock Me A Kiss” at Los Angeles Theatre Center

Rosie Lee Hooks (l.), Ashlee Olivia, Toyin Moses, Ben Guillory and Jason Mimms.
Rosie Lee Hooks (l.), Ashlee Olivia, Toyin Moses, Ben Guillory and Jason Mimms.
Tomoko Matsushita

The Southern California premiere of “Knock Me A Kiss” sritten by Charles Smith, directed by Dwain A. Perry and produced by Robey Theatre Company in association with The Los Angeles Theatre Center (LATC) is currently on stage at LATC.

“Knock Me A Kiss” is a fictionalization based on actual people and events. In 1928, rising swing band leader Jimmie Lunceford pursues the affections of beautiful Yolande DuBois, daughter of W.E.B. DuBois, 20th Century America’s first Black public intellectual and co-founder of NAACP. While Yolnade likes Jimmie, she also finds him somewhat coarse.

She instead chooses betrothal to her father’s choice for her, the educated, refined poet Countee Cullen, a major American literary figure. The impending nuptials are a social event of the first magnitude, a union of Black American royalty at the height of the Harlem Renaissance.

The title of Charles Smith’s play “Knock Me A Kiss” is taken from a popular song of the swing era composed by Mike Jackson and Andy Razaf. The song was repeatedly a hit over the years in recordings by Jimmie Lunceford, Gene Krupa, Louis Jordan, Ella Fitzgerald and B.B. King. The song is referenced by Lunceford’s character in the play.

Smith is an award-winning playwright and a founding member of the Playwrights Ensemble at the Tony Award-winning Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago. He is an alumni playwright of the Tony Award-winning New Dramatists in New York, and Head of the Professional Playwriting Program at Ohio University. Many of this plays use various historical contexts to explore contemporary issues of race, identity, and politics in America. His works include “The Gospel According to James,” “Les Trois Dumas,” “Sister Carrie,” “Free Man of Color,” “Black Star Line,” seventeen in all.

The cast for “Knock Me A Kiss” includes Ben Guillory, Rosie Lee Hooks, Jason Mimms, Toyin Moses, Ashlee Olivia and Keir Thirus.

“Knock Me A Kiss” debuted in Chicago and was subsequently produced in Cleveland, Houston, Fort Worth, Miami, New York, Sacramento and at the National Black Theatre Festival in North Carolina. The current production marks its Southern California Premiere.

Robey Theatre Company, under the artistic directorship of Ben Guillory, is Los Angeles’ most-awarded Black theater company.

“Knock Me A Kiss” performs 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday through May 4, 2014. Admission is $30, $20 students, seniors, veterans and LAUSD teachers. A limited number of tickets will be available for $10 on Thursdays. Call 866-811-4111 or visit www.thelatc.org.

Los Angeles Theatre Center, Theatre 4, 514 S. Spring St. in Los Angeles.