On Wednesday, two distinguished guests visited the senior seminar led by Kalamazoo College theater arts professor Lanny Potts. It’s not uncommon for him to bring in professionals who have something to offer his students, but Dwandra Nickole Lampkin and Dee Dee Batteast are special because they’re willing to give the greater Kalamazoo community a gift of their talents. .
The Playhouse Festival will produce The condemnation of Lady Lorraine, a solo show written and performed by Lampkin and directed by Batteast. The free play will be offered to the public Friday and Saturday as part of K’s Martin Luther King Jr. Week celebrations. Production support is provided by the Arts Fund of Kalamazoo County, a program of the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo.
The play takes place in Memphis near the Lorraine Motel where King was murdered. A writer, played by Lampkin, has a brief but powerful encounter with a homeless woman, Lady Lorraine. The writer finds himself transformed by Lady Lorraine’s 20-year quest to right a social wrong. A year later, the writer returns to Memphis, hoping Lady Lorraine will share his whole story of conviction. The writer quickly finds himself asking new questions about many things, and discovers that Lady Lorraine is not the only one in search of recognition.
Lampkin connected with Potts when the two worked on a virtual production of The condemnation of Lady Lorraine through the Farmers Alley Theater in Kalamazoo, where they agreed it would be exceptional for the community to see.
“Each theater has its own energy,” Lampkin said. “The moment I walked into the Festival Playhouse, I thought, ‘Oh yeah, this space is great! The privacy of this space is perfect for a solo show. It allows me, as a storyteller, to connect with the audience; in the same way that a larger space would not.
Lampkin is an associate professor of theater at Western Michigan University. Her career spans two decades with TV credits that include Law and order, SVU Law and Order, Third watch and Wonderland. She has performed at the Tony Award-winning Denver Center Theater, the Huntington Theater in Boston, the Human Race Theater Company in Dayton, and the Indiana Repertory Theater in Indianapolis. She earned her Masters in Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory.
Batteast is an adjunct faculty member in Ball State University’s Bachelor of Fine Arts program, where she teaches courses in Beginner Theater, Auditioning, One-on-One Performances, and Shakespeare. She also coaches Ball State’s professional showcases in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles. His recent regional theater credits include work with the Clarence Brown Theater, Virginia Stage Company, Illinois Shakespeare Festival, PlayMakers Repertory Company, and Indiana Repertory Theater. His TV credits include chicago fire and Chicago DB She also holds an MFA from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.
Batteast and Lampkin are natural creative partners as they have known each other since Batteast was Lampkin’s student at Ball State.
“I’m 38, I’ve done two degrees, and he’s the only person of color who ever taught me acting,” Batteast said, pointing to Lampkin. “I’ve always been drawn to this person as a storyteller and I crave this person to teach me because she handles stories in a way that I understand, because she’s inherently like me. She’s a collaboration that continually gives back. I’m still learning and it’s a gift.
Lampkin was a shortlisted candidate for a professorship at the University of Memphis when she visited, among other sites in the city, the Lorraine Motel. It was then that she had the idea to write The condemnation of Lady Lorraine, thanks to a woman she spotted around the corner.
“The moment I walked away from that corner, I knew I wanted to tell his story,” Lampkin said. “They ended up offering me the teaching job at Memphis, but I turned them down because I realized I wasn’t supposed to teach at the University of Memphis. I believe I was placed in this space for the sole purpose of crossing paths with this woman.
Tickets for The condemnation of Lady Lorraine, which is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Playhouse at 129 Thompson St., are available online. Please note that proof of vaccination and masks are required for admission to the theater.
“We are approaching MLK Day, so the idea that I can tell this story is personally meaningful because there are many themes that surround Martin Luther King Jr. and his life and legacy,” Lampkin said. “To be able to put on a show like this for K College and the Kalamazoo community at this time is a blessing and a privilege. It’s a way for me to use my creativity to keep his legacy alive and honor him and the celebration that surrounds his day.