leecrown“Hatitude is something you have to possess to wear a hat well.” – Velma.

    The highly anticipated return of the national stage play CROWNS at Texas Southern University Mother's Day weekend proved to be a theatrical and entertainment masterpiece. CROWNS was produced by TSU’s HATS and TIES committee and title sponsored by Coca-Cola. The gospel infused musical, which included Grammy nominee Dottie Peoples and some of Houston's top vocalists, presented two soul stirring performances that kept the audience captivated and on their feet throughout.

    Nearly 2,000 TSU supporters filed into Sawyer Auditorium for the two performances - hats were everywhere and in exquisite variety. HATS and TIES founder Eva Pickens served as the emcee while TSU’s First Lady Mrs. Docia Rudley and TSU Provost Dr. James Ward welcomed and thanked the audience for their attendance and support of Texas Southern University. TSU’s President Dr. John Rudley welcomed the guests on Saturday.

    The ladies from the 40 Plus Models stole the pre-show Saturday as they graced the stage one by one twirling, twisting and modeling their glorious crowns. At intermission and after hearing from headlining Gospel sensation Dottie Peoples, Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee presented Peoples with a Congressional resolution for her gift of providing thought provoking inspirational music throughout her 30 plus year career as a Gospel singer. Jackson-Lee also presented a proclamation to the HATS & TIES Committee and commended the members for their work to raise money for student scholarships and support programs at TSU.

    When the curtains were raised CROWNS began when Yolanda, (played by High School for Performing and Visual Arts student Gerra Gistand) a high school girl from Brooklyn, devastated by the murder of her beloved brother who starts to hang out with the wrong crowd and is sent down South to live with her hat-wearing, hymn-singing grandmother.

    As the play moves, Yolanda is gradually transformed along the way and imparted wisdom of her grandmother’s church-going, hat-wearing friends; women whose hats and hat etiquette has attitude in a slew of personal stories from the civil rights movement, to the sit-in’s of the 60’s, to churches in small towns, to black college campuses, and  to baptisms and funerals.  Throughout the play there are old familiar songs like, Mary Don’t You Weep, Wade in the Water, His Eye Is OnThe Sparrow, Run and Tell That, Wade in the Water, and countless others that led the audience to become a church congregation joining in the chorus as actors/actresses led the various verses.

    LaTonya Earl (Velma, the good-time girl who has gone straight) and Gwen Harris (Mabel, the Preacher’s Wife) were among the standouts, drawing interest from the local population of their Houston-based churches, choirs, co-workers, friends and family members; TSU Student Government President Terrance Bolton (Pastor) fulfilled his final obligation to his university on a high note; Takisha Bendy (Jeanette); TSU alumnus was extraordinary and energized the crowd from the moment she hit the stage; and Manson Bracy Johnson (Husband) rounded out the cast with strong vocals and a huge stage presence. Cheveria Williams was the stage manager and Jasmine Carter, assistant stage manager. They were excellent in their roles. Charla Parker-Thompson, LaTanya Perry, Kimberly Edwards, Eric T. White, and Tomeka Robinson made up the choir ensemble.

    Keith Eason of Ft. Bend Church was the musical director over musicians; Nelson Lefluer, keyboard; Shamaal Blaise, drums; Jason Perry, percussion and sound effects; Omar Perez, bass; and Stephanie Blue, pianist/keyboard.

    Dottie Peoples sang her signature hits, “He’s an On Time God”, and “He Meant It for Me.” She treated the audience to her new release, “I Got This,” which got the audience clapping and shouting each time she appeared on stage.

    TSU would like to thank the following sponsors and honorary/executive committee members: Tiffany Asberry, Carla West, Sharon Carter, Connie Cochran, Adrian Hall, Nata Koerber, Booker Morris, Mellany Patrong, Paula Eakin, Magdelene Livings (Coordinator of “Pre-Loved” Hats), Travis Hamilton & Negris LeBrum, Mrs. Doris Ratliff, Mrs. Stephanie Paige, Ms. Diane Nicholson-Jones, Birtenna Bennett, Georgia Provost, Pauline Cheatham, Ethel Gunter, James W. Ward, Wendy Adair, Docia Rudley, Janis Newman, Linda Coach-Riley, Sylvester Turner, Rev. James Dixon, Judy Dyer, Marilyn Square, Michelle Owens, Office of University Advancement, Dr. William Saunders, TSU Division of Student Affairs, Office of Alumni Relations, Walker Entertainment Group, KTSU-FM Radio, 40-Plus Models, McQueen’s Custom Suits and Ties, Dr. Michael Adams and TSU eMPA, Sodexo, TSU Barnes and Noble Bookstore, Unity National Bank, Burner Combustion, Challenge Office Products, Horizon Group International, Architectural Floors, Ultimate Divas Designer Hats, Gulfgate Dodge, Poindexter Dental Group, Bud’s House of Meat, A/W Mechanical Services, Lilly Grove Baptist Church, Managed Medical Associates, Inc.,  Provost and Associates, Houston Style Magazine, TSU Office of the Provost, Exclusively Yours by Pauline/Eugene Trapp, Ada Lee Lacy and L.G. Lacy, and Alan Helfman.  

    Other pre-show acts included; Ft. Bend Academy Dance Group, led by Chasidy Carter; Divine Restoration, led by Bertha Johnson and Adrian Hall; Ms. Amanda and  Mr. Eakin;  xixth grader Jordan Bush thrilled the crowd with his musical talents on the piano.

    “We believe that we’ve found a niche to continue to bring this wonderful play to the campus of Texas Southern University. Our goals were realized – that of bringing blended local talent of  our TSU students, alumni and former students, and the community together for a memorable, enjoyable and worthwhile initiative,” stated Eva Pickens, who served as the Executive Producer.

    “We want to thank everyone involved. If you passed out a flyer, sold a ticket, carried a chair or props, learned lines, helped to get the word out…if you participated in the success of this initiative in any way, I want to personally thank you. Everything was AWESOME…BECAUSE WE ALL KNOW, HE’S ON TIME.