Alumni, students, faculty participate in ‘Memphis’

By Tessa Brubaker, Campus Reporter

Columbia alumni, faculty and students have come together to work on Porchlight Music Theatre’s production of “Memphis.”

The 2010 Tony award-winning musical, set in the segregated 1950s, follows the professional and personal relationship between a white radio DJ and a black singer. The show opens April 19 and will run through June 3 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn St.

Jermaine Hill, assistant professor in the Theatre Department and music director for “Memphis,” said the show’s musical score, written by former keyboardist for Bon Jovi David Bryan, attracted him to the show. 

“I was interested in seeing how someone who was new to musicals would fit into that genre, and he wonderfully captures the spirit of the music of the 1950s,” Hill said.

The musical’s entire artistic team is African American, Hills said, which excites him.

Jared David Michael Grant, a 2013 theatre alumnus and an ensemble member, dances throughout the show, which challenged him to step outside of his comfort zone.

“I am dancing so much in this show and I tell all my castmates, I don’t think I can dance, but I’ve been dancing so much and my confidence has been found through these rehearsals,” Grant said.

Koray Tarhan, 2013 theatre alumnus and ensemble member, said working at Porchlight Music Theatre has always been his goal.

“Porchlight takes musicals and puts a different spin on them or presents things as they are,” Tarhan said. “Shows like ‘Memphis’ take a magnifying glass to social issues that are important.”

Tarhan said this show is different from other types of musical theater because of the serious message it conveys.

“The message of ‘Memphis’ is that we should all stand up for what we believe in, and finding the similarities between all of us regarding gender or race or color or whatever,” Tarhan said. “Finding the similarities is what’s going to lead to happiness and understanding from everyone.”