FLINT, Michigan—These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone active in the community who knows about Flint like Charles H. Winfrey, executive director of the “New” McCree Theatre. He’s a longtime Flintstone with a sharp memory and he has used it to create his play The Saints.
Winfrey is having an open call for Wednesday, Dec. 18 to bring to life all 21 characters of his play. Slated for public viewing in February, The Saints is a life-inspired retelling of St. John Street neighborhood, one of Flint’s oldest and illustrious communities.
Colonially known as a Native American trading post, St. John Street produced a European immigrant community, and later its predominantly African American community in the '50s. The city’s call for “urban renewal,” and the construction of Interstate 475 in the ’70s cleansed the entire area, relocating thousands of people, and destroying what Winfrey and other residents saw as Flint’s version of Tulsa, Oklahoma’s Black Wall Street.
Winfrey, whose family originates from Mississippi, has resided in Flint since he was 2 years old and experienced the city’s highs and lows. For him, the St. John Street community is near and dear to his heart and imagination.
It was Winfrey’s own childhood and adoration of American playwright, August Wilson, that inspired the writing of The Saints, a story that follows four young boys on a losing baseball team and the adventures they share in the St. John Street neighborhood.
When asked if writing this play brought back a lot of nostalgia he says with a laugh, “Of course. Your childhood always brings back good memories. We had fun and adventure. Life was not a bowl of cherries, [but] the good times outweigh the bad times.”
Winfrey recalls that St. John Street neighborhood was a true relic of Flint. It was one of two neighborhoods where migrated African Americans were allowed to live. In writing The Saints, Winfrey encourages young people to never forget this history and reflect critically on how to affect the future for good.
“The one thing our young people need to understand is that they stand on some pretty strong shoulders. I think sometimes we tend to forget that,” said Winfrey. “We have to understand and remember the legacy of those that came before us. We have to keep reminding ourselves of the footprints the leaders of the past laid and directing our path into the future.”
The play premieres Feb. 13, with a flat ticket price of $5. Open auditions start at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 18 at the “New” McCree Theatre inside New Standard Academy on Carpenter Road. Anyone from aspiring actors and actresses to those looking to try out something new are encouraged to display their talents. Just don’t forget to bring a poem or monologue to perform.
For more information about auditions or about the play itself follow the event on Facebook, visit their website, or call 810-787-2200.