Winning: Artistic Director Redesigns Her Life

A current trend in theater is the staged production that promotes awareness of a specific issue.

To wit, August Augustus’ Production, Suga’ Foot Blue is a heartfelt, (yet entertaining) drama about a diabetic dancer who discovers that she may lose her foot.

Tressa Epps co-produces the play, (alongside Randy Crumpton and Shirley Hogsett), and is artistic director and set designer for the production.

Epps reveals that, true to the current theater trend, artistic expression has helped her to overcome life’s obstacles.

“[Suga’ Foot Blue] is about diabetes — one element of it — and I’ve had some loved ones pass away from diabetes,” Epps states. “I believe people use plays to address issues, and that brings things to light. I do believe that we have to confront the darkness of our lives to get it out of us, so that we can have forgiveness. You wrestle with those demons, and you shine once you’re able to wrestle with that.

“You should take certain things that have happened in your life to build character, not dwell on them, but to build a certain character of who you are.”

Epps has definitely rebuilt her own character, with a fascinating career change.

Tressa Epps

“I’m not doing anything that I went to school to do, not at all,” Epps laughs. “I’m a microbiologist who had illness in life, and who always designed things. I’ve been designing things since I was [small]. My father was a contractor.”

Epps “produced” her first play while in grammar school, and she used her mother’s knickknacks to decorate the set. “I realized that was my passion, and that one day I would work behind the scenes.”

For the most part, that creative side played second-fiddle to Epps’ career in communications. But 18 months ago, an opportunity arose in the form of Mark Harris’ critically acclaimed film, Black Butterfly, and Epps worked on the film.

A Tressa Epps stage design.

Suddenly, Epps became that grammar school prodigy again, and the creative rush felt good.

What feels even better, however, is that Epps is at a place in her career where she can pick, choose (and refuse) projects.

“August Wright, one of my favorite playwrights, said all you need is love in one hand, and laughter in the other. In each production, that’s what I hope people see,” Epps says.

“Suga Foot Blue,” written by J. Fitzgerald West, debuts May 20-22, 2011 at the Du Sable Museum Of African American History in Chicago.

Zondra Hughes

Deputy Editor, Rolling Out

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