Syracuse Stage presents ‘salt/city/blues’

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SYRACUSE — Syracuse Stage concludes the 2021-22 season with a new play on the main stage, an original play about housing insecurity in America and partnerships with Everson Museum of Art and Syracuse’s Juneteenth celebration.

Corollary events around the shows and partnership include artist talks and panel discussions at Syracuse Stage and the Everson Museum. Collectively, the shows and added events focus attention on important concerns for the Syracuse community, especially relating to the history of the 15th Ward and the impact of the construction and impending dismantling of the I-81 overpass.

The main components of the partnership are Stage’s production of resident playwright Kyle Bass’ “salt/city/blues,” “The Most Beautiful Home...Maybe” by artists and activists Mark Valdez and ashley sparks and the Everson Museum exhibit “15-81” featuring architect and urban designer Sekou Cooke’s project “We Outchea: Hip-Hop Fabrications and Public Space.”

“A rich array of artistic work marks the conclusion of Syracuse Stage’s 21-22 season,” said Bob Hupp, artistic director, Syracuse Stage. “These works highlight what Syracuse Stage does best as we shine a spotlight on issues that affect all of us who call Syracuse home. Through our creative lens we explore and give voice to the obstacles and opportunities that engage our community. Through new work, discussions and collaborative interactions, we strive to give everyone a new way of thinking about and addressing seemingly intractable challenges.”

‘salt/city/blues’

Directed by Gilbert McCauley, “salt/city/blues” is a contemporary drama set in a downtown bar in a fictionalized Syracuse where a controversial highway project that has long divided the city is due to be dismantled. What comes next for the city, the once thriving neighborhood destroyed by the highway and the individuals who frequent the local watering hole, Tipsy’s Pub, threads through the narrative of the play.

With gentrification underway in the neighborhood and more change coming soon, the fate of Tipsy’s is uncertain, as are the fates of those whose lives are connected to it. This includes Prof D (Leo Finnie) a Black man who claims to be 81-years-old and who lives in an apartment above the bar. He is a storyteller and a blues aficionado with a killer collection of vintage vinyl, who also claims to be a retired professor.

Carrie (Joey Parsons) is the bartender, 30s, white and a veteran of the Iraq war, who has her eye on a small parcel of land with apple trees. The resident barfly is a fiftyish white man named Fish (Rand Foerster) who likes his drink too much and can make enough trouble to occasionally get himself barred from Tipsy’s.

The newcomer to the scene is Yolonda Mourning (Chantal Jean-Pierre), a Black woman in her 40s, who is a consultant for the city on the highway project. She is not typical of Tipsy’s clientele. She has recently moved to a new apartment in the downtown neighborhood after separating from her husband. Her son Malcolm (Jeremiah Packer), 17, is the fifth character. He aspires to be a blues musician and has a tense relationship with his mother.

“This is a story about a town and a bar at a crossroads, and five people who are at crossroads in their lives,” McCauley said. “We often arrive at places where we have to make decisions and figure out what direction to take. That’s what facing these characters, and what we face that today, even as a nation, as a country. Where are we going?”

Bass based Tipsy’s on a real Downtown Syracuse pub and many parallels exist between the Salt City of the play and Syracuse. But Bass points out, the Salt City of the play is more of a fraternal twin to Syracuse. The play, he says, is inspired by this community.

“salt/city/blues” runs through June 26. Tickets, ranging from $20 to $55, are on sale now at www.syracusestage.org.

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