Actor, and producer Ernie Hudson, best known for his role as Winston Zeddemore in Ivan Reitman's 1984 film classic "Ghostbusters," has joined the production team of Lake Michigan College's Fall play, "Exit Strategy."
Hudson, a Benton Harbor native, will serve as Associate Artistic Producer on Ike Holter's play about a struggling Chicago high school facing imminent extinction. Hudson will provide notes and advice via FaceTime throughout the rehearsal process and plans to be in Benton Harbor for the final week of rehearsals as well as the play's opening night performance in November.
"We are thrilled that Ernie Hudson is sharing his acting knowledge and personal experiences with the students, cast, and crew involved in our Fall production of 'Exit Strategy,'" LMC President Dr. Trevor Kubatzke said. "His generosity, his commitment to his hometown and his craft will provide an invaluable opportunity for everyone involved."
Hudson agreed to assist with the production after receiving an email from LMC Theatre Coordinator and Stage Director Paul Mow.
"I was very touched by Paul's commitment to bringing this play to the people of Benton Harbor," Hudson said. "It's home. That's where I was the first 18 years of my life. I think people should embrace their origins because it's an important part of who we are. We never lose that part of ourselves. The drive, the determination that I have is all rooted in Benton Harbor."
After graduating from Benton Harbor High School in 1964, Hudson served in the U.S. Marine Corps, and then landed in Detroit where he became the resident playwright at Concept East, the oldest black theatre company in the U.S. He established the Actors' Ensemble Theatre where he and other young black writers directed and appeared in their works, and graduated from Wayne State University in 1973. He went on to study at the prestigious Yale School of Drama.
Hudson met Reitman on the 1983 film, "Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone," and was soon asked to join Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis in "Ghostbusters," and the 1989 sequel, "Ghostbusters 2," which cemented him as a film star.
Hudson has since starred in films such as "The Hand that Rocks the Cradle" (1992); "The Crow" (1994); "Miss Congeniality" (2000); and "You're Not You" (2014); among many others. Television credits include HBO's lauded series "Oz," the final season of NBC's "Law & Order," and Netflix's "Grace & Frankie."
"Exit Strategy" explores issues of poverty, race, and its impact on the education system. The story centers on a group of educators from fictional Tumbldn High School, who show up for the kids nobody else does. So, when the school is slated for closure at the end of the year, and the weight bears down on the community, students and teachers alike discover their breaking points.
"I think there has been a deliberate attempt not to educate us because we are black," Hudson said. "I remember being told many times that I would never go to college. We were excluded, and we are feeling the effects generationally. We've got to find a way to be inclusive. We've got to find a way to commit to educating our children regardless of race."
"These are not always easy subjects to talk about, but that's when the power of theater is at its best," Mow added. "Ike Holter's play is incredibly relevant, especially in our community. We couldn't be more excited to have Mr. Ernie Hudson bring his knowledge and ability to the students of LMC and the people of Benton Harbor."
Due to renovations at The Mendel Center's Hanson Theatre, "Exit Strategy" will be staged over two weekends at The GhostLight Theatre, 101 Hinkley St., Benton Harbor. Performance dates are 7:30 p.m. Nov. 15-16, and 22-23, and 3 p.m. Nov. 17 and 24.
In addition to Mow and Hudson, the production team includes Les Rorick (Acting Instructor/Set Construction); Susan Salas Graham (Assistant Director); Daniel Breen (Stage Manager); Landon Horne (Asst. Stage Manager); Julie Smiy (Costume Designer); and Andy Sawyer (Set Designer).
The cast features Kendra Ann (Pam); Ray Ulrich (Ricky); Audie Perez, Jr. (Luce); Gregory Hill and Martel Burton (Donnie); Brenda Matthews (Sadie); Shane Blair (Arnold); and Linnea Martinez and Isabella LeClaire (Jania).
Tickets are $18, $12 for seniors, and free for all students with ID as well as LMC faculty and staff.
To purchase tickets, visit ghostlightbh.com or call (269) 252-5222.
For more information about the Lake Michigan College Visual & Performing Arts Department, call (269) 927-8876 or visit www.lakemichigancollege.edu/perf-arts.