Photography by Jamison Mosley
”The rhythm is hot, the music is real and it’s time to get on down with Felicia and Huey.” Make that Satia Spencer and Craig Wilson for this upcoming production. This dynamic duo is taking the Argenta Community Theater audiences downtown to MEMPHIS: The Musical. Accompanied by a talented cast of characters under the direction of Brandon Box-Higdem, guests can expect a great show with great music.
MEMPHIS depicts department store employee Huey Calhoun as he pursues a newly discovered love for rock’n’roll. Huey’s initial introduction to the genre is by Felicia Farrell, a African American singer in a segregated nightclub. After termination from the store, Huey becomes a disc jockey for a local radio station where he plays rock’n’roll music as well as performances by Felicia. The production contains a timeless vision: the power of music to unite people regardless of ethnic + socioeconomic differences.
Like his character Huey, Craig Wilson has the music in his soul. “I’m a preacher’s kid, which for me meant that I wasn’t exposed to a lot of secular music when I was a young, but boy when I discovered other music – often surreptitiously – it was mind blowing.” Similarly, Satia Spencer, prior U.S. Marine Corps sergeant and correctional officer, felt music shoot out from her fingertips. “One October morning as I sat in class taking a mid-term exam, I decided to change the course of my academic career. I turned my paper over, gathered my belongings and immediately walked to the fine arts department where I encountered the department chair. I told him I wanted to be a music major,” she explains.
Now, these two preacher’s kids have an impressive performing tenure. In addition to a career as an attorney, Craig’s resume includes two years on cruise ships with Stiletto Entertainment as well as fronting the local horn band Dizzy 7. Her performances include roles with the UA Little Rock Opera Theatre, Arkansas Shakespeare Theatre, Arkansas Repertory Theater and The Weekend Theater.
Craig and Satia recognize the opportunity community theater presents as well as its importance for young performers. Craig explains, “For me, it was a place where I could let down my guard and explore who I was in different characters. For a lot of kids, it’s the only place they can do that – whether on stage, backstage or in the audience. It’s critically important that we have space at community theaters for people who want and need to find and explore their voice.” Although each stage is unique, Vincent Insalaco and the ACT team create the foundation for community. Satia adds, “Everyone works as professionals with a shared vision and work ethic that provide meaningful, quality, thought-provoking theater. Whether I am performing in a show or even just attending as part of the audience, this theater has the feeling of a professional ‘equity’ house.”
MEMPHIS serves as an important reminder for audiences. Satia begins, “They will be entertained and also be able to reflect on how far we have come as a nation and how far we’ve yet to go.” Craig echoes, “My hope is that the audience can connect and empathize with the characters and walk out with a renewed energy to tackle the persistent, systemic challenge. Plus, at its core, Memphis is a good ol’ rock n’ roll show that will get your foot tapping and your booty movin’.”