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Joniece Abbott-Pratt Stars in GSP's Civil Rights Drama "Too Heavy for Your Pocket"

T. Charles Erickson

Actress Joneice Abbott-Pratt is thoroughly enjoying her role as "Sally-Mae Carter" in Too Heavy for Your Pocket, the latest production at the George Street Playhouse in New Brunswick.

Jireh Breon Holder's Too Heavy for Your Pocket won the prestigious 2017 Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award and takes audiences to Nashville in the summer of 1961, when the Freedom Riders are embarking on a courageous journey into the Deep South.

In Too Heavy for Your Pocket, 20-year old "Bowzie Brandon", portrayed by Donnell E. Smith, gives up a life-challenging scholarship to join the Freedom Riders movement.  He has to convince his loved ones and himself that shaping the country's future might be worth jeopardizing his own.

Joniece Abbott-Pratt sat down recently with WBGO News Director Doug Doyle to discuss what the play means to her and the audience.  She says the civil rights drama focuses on some of the stories that are mostly untold.

"It's important for me as an actress to be a part of stories that reflect my history, my people's history in this country.  Sometimes we separate Black History and Latin History, but it's all American History. What I really love about this particular show is that you get to see what happens to the people at home, those that are left behind.  You get to get more insight into the struggles of what was going on during the Civil Rights Movement as the Freedom Riders were being recruited from universities and communities."

Too Heavy for Your Pocket
Credit T. Charles Erickson
Cast of "Too Heavy for Your Pocket"

LA Williams directs this production at George Street that runs through May 19.  Abbott-Pratt says she learned a lot from working with Williams.

"Patience.  We learned to let the play reveal itself to us.  There are times now even when I'm just riding to work and I'm like 'Oh that's what that means'.  So then I go talk to my scene partner and we keep talking about these different epiphanies.  I'm just really lucky to be with such an amazing cast."

Joing Abbott-Pratt and Smith in the cast are Felicia Boswell (Evelyn) and Landon Woodson (Tony).   Abbott-Pratt hopes she keeps in touch with her fellow cast members after the show's run is over in New Brunswick.

"I love them so much.  They balanced me out.  Landon keeps me calm.  Felicia is hilarious and keeps me laughing and Donnell is the sweet spirit and he is such a joy to work with."

Joniece Abbott-Pratt
Credit Rick Engler for WBGO
Joniece Abbott-Pratt and Doug Doyle outside the WBGO studios

Abbott-Pratt says she enjoys working on period pieces.

"I kind of had this joyful feeling.  When I finished reading the play it touched me in a way that left me with hope.  That was my way in.  I worked on a lot of new plays that are period pieces.  It's easier for me to access period dramas.   I rely on my grandmother a lot who was around at that time, she was a mother in the '60's.  The playwright will always write in a way that's musical.  Our lines are like lyrics.  When you find the musicality in the character, things just start to crack open. I think these characters are in all of us."

Clck above to hear more about Joniece Abbott-Pratt's career and Too Heavy for Your Pocket.

Doug Doyle has been News Director at WBGO since 1998 and has taken his department to new heights in coverage and recognition. Doug and his staff have received more than 200 awards from organizations like PRNDI, AP, New York Association of Black Journalists, Garden State Association of Black Journalists and the New Jersey Society of Professional Journalists.