*On Mother’s Day weekend, actress S. Epatha Merkerson will present fresh work on both the New York stage and in movie theaters nationwide.
Friday, May 10, brings the former “Law & Order” star to the big screen in “Tyler Perry Presents Peeples,” where she plays the mother of Kerry Washington’s bride-to-be character who must meet her daughter’s out-of-place fiance (Craig Robinson) during a family get together. Meanwhile, Merkerson’s theater project “Geri Allen & Friends: Celebrating the Great Jazz Women of the Apollo,” will debut the following day at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre.
Under the musical direction of jazz pianist and composer Allen, this Harlem Jazz Shrines Festival concert production highlights the legacy of Nina Simone, Betty Carter, Nancy Wilson, Dinah Washington, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan and more. Their work will be celebrated through performances by Dianne Reeves, The Timeline Tap Quartet, Lizz Wright, Terri Lyne Carrington, Tia Fuller, comedian Karen Malina White, guitarist Marvin Sewell and the vocal ensemble Afro Blue.
Merkerson stages the show, which marks yet another career pivot from her 19 years as Lt. Anita Van Buren on NBC’s “Law & Order.”
“I’m trying to reinvent as I go along, do other things,” she tells us of her new endeavor. “I also made a documentary that I finished last year, so I’m keeping busy.”
The doc, titled “The Contradictions of Fair Hope,” reveals what has become of a particular African American benevolent society in Uniontown, Alabama.
Benevolent societies were formed in the Antebellum era by newly freed slaves to respond to abject hunger, illness and the fear of a pauper’s grave. Today, Uniontown’s Fair Hope Benevolent Society, the subject of Merkerson’s film, has come to include activity that would put Atlanta’s Freaknik to shame.
Merkerson explains below.
“The Contradictions of Fair Hope,” Merkerson’s first feature film project, is narrated by Whoopi Goldberg. Watch a promo below and check the website for future screening dates and locations.
“Geri Allen & Friends: Celebrating the Great Jazz Women of the Apollo” will be presented at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. on May 11. Tickets are $10, $35, $45 and $55. Purchase at the Apollo Theater Box Office, by calling Ticketmaster (800) 745-3000, or online at Ticketmaster.com. Group tickets (10 or more): $23, $31, $43