After six years with American Stage, most recently as associate artistic producer, Patrick A. Jackson has left the theater company to focus on his work for the Woodson African American Museum of Florida, where he is Manager of Education Outreach and Program Design.
As part of what he calls his core values, ‘It was kind of time for me to be ‘in community,’” he explains.
Once a thespian, always a thespian, however. The prodigious actor, singer, director and educator agreed to stay and direct the second show in American Stage’s 2023-24 season.
He did it because it jibes with his personal beliefs. Jackson is ordained clergy, and a deacon at Today’s Church Tampa Bay.
Opening Nov. 21, the show is acts of faith (lower case, please), by Canadian playwright David Yee, the story of a young Zambian woman (her name is Faith, uppercase) who comes to question the role of unquestioned faith in her life. It was written, and originally performed, as a virtual play.
Some believe the Catholic girl is a prophet; then a trusted religious leader takes advantage of her. “Up until now,” suggests Jackson, “her relationship with God and the church has been very traditional. You don’t question anything that you’re experiencing. The people that represent the church are all-knowing and perfect, because they have been deemed by God to lead. Etcetera etcetera.”
Is Faith a prophet? That’s ultimately for the viewer to decide.
“I really saw this as the story of a young woman who is navigating this balance between good and evil,” Jackson continues, “or from my ministerial perspective, this view of greater light and lesser light. That’s taken from Genesis.
“We know that good people can do bad things. She’s grappling with this idea of, what happens when good people may do a bad thing, in order to do a good thing?”
Boston actress Victoria Omoregie plays Faith in the in the 75-minute one-person show; St. Pete’s Jemier Jenkins (The Colored Museum) will step into the role for selected performances.
Recently, Jackson says, he was asked whether acts of faith will resonate with audience members who have no religious beliefs one way or the other.
“Outside of those spiritual themes, I think at the core of this is a beautifully crafted story,” he says. “And the way that Faith tells the story, it is just simply an epic origin story, if you will – for those who like Marvel and DC – it is the origin story about how this young woman comes to be who we see at the beginning and at the end of the play.
“I hope that when the audience leaves, they will consider ‘what unearthed, unlocked gifts, talents, skills and abilities do I have inside of me?’ ‘What are things inside me that I have allowed to be held back?’ This is disconnected from faith and spirituality.”
Faith’s encounter with the wayward priest, insists the director, is serious and warrants a discussion all its own. However, “The root of the play is that this woman just happens to have this unfortunate experience that is the catalyst for her discovering this new energy and God within her. Before, I think, she was just looking outside of herself.”
acts of faith runs Nov. 21-Dec. 17. Find info and tickets here.