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Mattie Johnson – ‘Cookin with Aunt Ethel’


CHANGE is a project focused on getting more minority actors onto SWFL stages in culturally relevant productions. Made possible by a grant from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation, the Alliance for the Arts wrapped up its inaugural 9-week acting course with a graduation production of George Wolfe’s edgy The Colored Museum. Among the 11 graduates was Mattie Johnson.

The Colored Museum consists of a series of vignettes that challenge the stereotypes that have been thrust upon and adopted by African-Americans over the centuries. Perhaps none is as pervasive and offensive as Aunt Jemima, a domesticated black woman who is perceived as sympathetic to and dutifully protective of white people and their interests.

In “Cookin with Aunt Ethel,” Johnson sang a “hard-drivin’ blues” song as she added ingredients to a big black pot in which she’s making a “batch of Negroes.” Those ingredients consisted of the traits by which black people have been traditionally perceived and judged both by whites and African-Americans themselves, vis: humility, humor, style, rhythm, attitude (“Oops, I put too much”), rage, salty language and the blues. Johnson did a marvelous job with both the number and the scene, showing great promise as a character actress in the years ahead.

Mattie is a retired lay out specialist with the News Press, skilled seamstress and member of her church’s drama ministry. Participating in CHANGE’s inaugural acting course has taught her “that she has to develop her character and incorporate her own experiences into her character.”


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