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Newcomer Kevin G. Adams plays a central role in Barksdale's "Coming of the Hurricane." 

A Fighting Chance

Last year, when Kevin G. Adams saw Barksdale Theatre was planning to stage "Coming of the Hurricane" during its 2001 season, he marked his calendar to attend the play. Good thing he didn't buy his tickets in advance, because Adams won't get the chance to sit in the audience during the show's run. Instead, he'll be on stage as Crixus Tell, the central character in "Coming of the Hurricane," Keith Glover's Reconstruction-era drama. Adams, a 38-year-old social studies teacher and assistant football coach at John Marshall High School, has never appeared on a professional stage. In fact, he hasn't appeared on any stage since he was a 10th-grade high school student in Hartford County, Md. But when Adams saw an announcement posted in the YMCA men's locker room advertising general auditions for an upcoming Barksdale production, Adams figured they were looking for extras for "Coming of the Hurricane" and thought, "Why not?" "I wanted to see the show anyway," he explains. "I just said, 'Why not audition?' I felt I could be an extra and walk across the stage." Adams met with director Ernie McClintock and soon realized he was looking for more than an extra. McClintock was trying to cast the pivotal role of Crixus, a former slave and "cutter" (bare-knuckled boxer) who is forced to return to fighting to secure the future of his family. Likewise, McClintock was working to secure the future of "Hurricane." "[The Barksdale] had selected this play to do," he explains, "but there are not a lot of actors in Richmond to audition for this role. The theater did not have the budget to bring in another person from elsewhere. It was a matter of casting [Adams] or not being able to do this show." Adams was intrigued by the idea of playing a central role. The two men talked, and McClintock explained to Adams the commitment that would be necessary to make it work. "He warned me about what it would take," Adams says. "He gave me a script that night and I understood what he was looking for." McClintock asked Adams to go home and memorize one of Crixus' monologues for a second audition the next day. During this second audition, just three weeks before opening night, McClintock offered Adams the role. McClintock says the athletically built Adams is well-suited to play Crixus, a champion fighter who, as a slave, fought men to their deaths. Additionally, he was impressed with Adams' commitment to the role, and to giving it his best shot. "After the interview/audition process I determined that he just might have the stuff to make it through rehearsal and bring it into performance," McClintock says. And while he has cast inexperienced actors before, the veteran director says he "can't recall a situation this extreme" - casting someone with no professional acting experience in a pivotal role in a major production. If recent previews are any indication, McClintock can rest easy. Adams does a credible job playing the emotionally complex Crixus. "He is a freed black man dealing with internal anger and pain and suffering because of what he was forced to do as a slave," Adams explains. "… He is a very angry man. He's got some internal issues to resolve and is having difficulty with them, with the fact that he once used his hands to fight and kill … and now people want him to use his hands again and it's bringing up a lot of emotions he doesn't want to deal with. … He has nothing but hard feelings for white society. He has to deal with those emotions — it's a challenge." Adams says the play, which he first read last year, after seeing it on the Barksdale's schedule, speaks volumes to him as an African-American male and as a teacher. "I'm a history teacher," he says. "I teach Civil War Reconstruction. I feel this is a part of my history. This is another way to express in a fictional manner something people had to deal with." Although he has had to give up nearly all of his free time since beginning work on "Coming of the Hurricane," juggling the demands of a full-time teaching job with nightly rehearsals and now a 20-performance run of the show, Adams says he would consider auditioning for another play. McClintock says Adams future is up to him. "All directors are not necessarily the kind of people who want to take chances like this on a completely unknown person," he says. "But by the same token, maybe after this show he won't be completely unknown anymore."
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