"This is the only touring company in the U.S. doing 'Porgy and Bess.' We have several sponsors - Centre and the Norton Center for the Arts, the Danville City Commission, Boyle County Fiscal Court and Citizens Concerned for Human Relations. I think it's important to see we've been talking about this, and it's important having a Broadway performance in the community."
At BCHS and DHS, teachers who are attending the performance have been given a study guide as well as a list of Web sites with information about Duncan, Gershwin and the opera. Eighth-graders from the Danville school system will eat sack lunches on the Centre campus and stay for backstage tours following the morning performance.
Duncan, who died in 1998, was a highly accomplished singer, actor and teacher. Duncan's show at Centre on Oct. 15, 1951, was the first integrated production held on campus. Danville resident Helen Frye helped organize the event.
Todd Duncan was born Feb. 12, 1903, in Danville, and grew up down the road a bit in Somerset. He is an important role model to students, Atkins notes.
"Because he was from Danville, male, African-American and had a doctoral degree in music," he explains. "He performed in 'Porgy and Bess.' It's important for kids in this community, both black and white, to see that someone from Danville can accomplish what this man accomplished.
"He was 95 when he died in his apartment, with a student waiting below for a lesson. It's important for kids and adults in the community to know that this successful person started out in Danville, Ky. He's part of our history."
Atkins adds the National Endowment for the Arts and the stage have been putting on centennial celebrations this year in honor of Todd Duncan.
"It behooves us, the city of Danville, to do a centennial celebration of Todd Duncan," Atkins says. "He was nominated for the Kentucky Civil Rights Museum, but was not inducted this year. He also was nominated for the Gallery of Great Black Kentuckians, and we hope in March that he'll be enshrined in (that gallery), like Bunny Davis was last year."
Somerset has produced a Todd Duncan centennial celebration, and several event organizers have bought tickets to "Porgy and Bess." Other local dignitaries in Somerset have been invited to attend, as have Danville leaders.
"We've invited lots of people," Atkins says. "Seven descendants of Todd Duncan from Lexington and Frankfort are coming."
ON THE WEB
Web sites about Todd Duncan:
Web sites about Porgy and Bess
Jennifer Brummett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.