Oct. 17, 2003 – If you planned to take in Sunday night's showing at the Reichhold Center for the Arts of "Me and Mrs. Jones," the feature film made by St. Thomian Ed LaBorde Jr., but hadn't quite gotten around to getting tickets, there's bad news and good news.
First: The last of the 356 seats in the theater's covered section — the only part of the theater being used — sold out at mid-day Thursday.
Second: The Reichhold folks have scheduled an "encore performance" for next Saturday night, Oct. 25. And LaBorde, who's going to be at Reichhold this weekend to take questions from the audience after the film is shown, also will be on hand for the additional showing.
The Reichhold is presenting LaBorde and the film in its Caribbean premiere in observance of the 25th anniversary of the amphitheater on the University of the Virgin Islands St. Thomas campus. There actually will be three showings. The first, on Friday night, is by invitation only, for Reichhold patrons, corporate supporters and other special friends.
Except for the film showings, the Reichhold is closed at present. The silver anniversary subscription season is being delayed until next spring so that the 840 open-air wooden seats can be replaced. (See "Reichhold season to be late, abbreviated".)
The plot of "Me and Mrs. Jones" pretty much fits in with the lyrics of the 1973 Billy Paul hit song of the same name ("Me and Mrs. Jones, we got a thing goin' on…"), but the song itself is not a part of the movie.
The online Cinequest program guide gives this summary of the storyline of the 2001 feature film release: Starving graphic artist Tracy Wainwright (Brian J. White) gets more than he bargains for when he takes a job with a San Francisco-based online dating service, LoveNet. His boss, Mayellen Jones (Wandachristine), is a draconian taskmistress who plays to win in corporate finance and love. His co-workers are office staff slackers, confused militant subversives, and a cubicle mate who has figured out his own version of playing both sides against the middle.
Against the backdrop of the chaotic work environment, Tracy meets Desiree (Kim Fields), a lonely wedding planner, who dreams of being the girl who gets her chance to walk down the aisle.
Just to keep you guessing as far as who wins Tracy's undying devotion, a UVI release states that Wainwright "must ultimately choose one or the other. Or must he?"
Cinequest states that "The disconnection from real relationships of trust and commitment is the center of satirizing Internet personal ads, white liberal guilt's infatuation with African-American culture, the generation gap, bisexual power politics, and honesty at the cost of integrity."
White is an actor, model and dancer whose resume also includes playing with the New England Patriots and working as a licensed stock broker. After an injury ended his football career, he founded a Boston-based dance/theater company, Phunk Phenomenon. He plays detective Tavon Garris on the Emmy award-winning television police drama "The Shield," and recently finished filming "Mr. 3000," a baseball comedy, opposite Bernie Mac and Angela Bassett.
Wandachristine was nominated for a best actress award at the American Black Film Festival for her Mrs. Jones portrayal. Her recent TV work includes roles on "Judging Amy" and "General Hospital," and she has appeared in the feature films "City of Angels," "A Family Thing," "Patch Adams" and "Temporary Girl."
Fields played "Tootie" from 1979 to 1988 on the long-running TV comedy "The Facts of Life," and in 1998 she returned to serial work as Regine Hunter on "Living Single.
LaBorde, who's based in Oakland, California, across the bay from San Francisco, directed, produced and co-wrote "Me and Mrs. Jones." He got involved in video work during his last year in the Navy, attended the San Francisco Academy of the Arts for a few years, and then decided that experience was the best teacher.
Although he made a number of film shorts, he didn't promote them. "I was shy for a long time," he says. But he persisted, gaining more knowledge, more expertise and more self-confidence. "I wanted to build up to it because I respect the art," he says.
The movie was made in the San Francisco Bay Area without outside financial backing. Nearing the end of the project, LaBorde approached D'Wayne Wiggins, a member of the platinum-selling singing group Tony! Toni! Tone!, for help. Wiggins became executive director and also produced the film's soundtrack, which features songs from Grammy Award-winning recording artists Alicia Keys and India.Arie.
"Me and Mrs. Jones" won awards at the Black Film Makers Hall of Fame, the San Francisco Black Film Festival and the Hollywood Black Film Festival. According to the UVI release, it was well received at the Cannes Film Festival in France, the Get Real Film Festival in Canada, and the Urban World Film Festival in New York.
A distribution deal with Urban Works which includes airing the film on Black Entertainment Television is near completion, the release states. The film also is expected to be in stores for purchase and rental come Valentine's Day next year.
Edgecombe says choosing to utilize the film medium to celebrate the theater's 25th anniversary is significant. "The teaching and producing of movies are arts that the Reichhold Center is very interested in," he says. "The showing of LaBorde's film demonstrates our support for the initiative of a young Virgin Islands filmmaker. We are very supportive of his effort and very encouraging to other people to look at this as a creative way of expression."
The Reichhold's Digital Media Institute, begun in the 1990s and housed in a confining underground area of the theater for lack of better space, "is more and more coming into its own," Edgecombe says. "Our hope is that this will over the years grow into 'the School of Media and Culture, the 'School of Performing Arts' or that kind of thing" at UVI, he says.
Meantime, the Reichhold's movie-making workshops for young people held for the last two summers have proven so successful that the program is "expanding into the schools, including St. Croix," with a major grant from the Law Enforcement Planning Commission, Edgecombe said recently. The program's goal, he says, is "to dramatically increase the film and video literacy of the Virgin Islands. In four, five years, we would have enough people with that literacy that we could have a department within the university."
And for film fans, "Me and Mrs. Jones" will be the start of something cinematic that will continue during the theater's "non-season," Edgecombe says. "We are looking at showing a set of other films independently produced as a regular thing," he says. "We can go ahead and do films once a month during the winter. If there's a bigger demand, we can increase that."
It would not be the first time for feature films to find a home at the Reichhold. The weeklong first (and to date only) Virgin Islands International Film and Video Festival was held there in February of 2000. In fact, LaBorde's 1997 video short "Gumbo" was one of the offerings. Following the festival, the theater embarked on a spring/summer series of Sunday night showings of mainly award-winning films which received kudos for quality but drew an audience seldom exceeding a hundred people.
Tickets for "Me and Mrs. Jones" are $8 for general admission and $5 for students with I.D. The film is suitable for ages 17 and up, according to the release. The only sales outlet is the Reichhold box office; however tickets may be purchased
using a charge card by calling 693-1559.
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