Waterloo Region Record

Singer writes play to launch album

‘Sex, Drugs and the Gospel Singer’ is a tale of friendship and addiction

- Valerie Hill, Record staff vhill@therecord.com

CAMBRIDGE — When gospel singer Lorraine Harris finished recording her new album “Confess” earlier this year, she wanted to drop it with something more memorable than a CD release party. So she wrote a play based on the music.

“Sex, Drugs and the Gospel Singer” debuts Oct. 7 at the Registry Theatre in Kitchener, featuring Lorraine in the role of Jessica, a gospel singer.

“The play is supposed to be the official CD release,” said Michael Harris, her husband and the play’s cowriter. “I wasn’t that confident in my skills, I was confident in Lorraine’s skills. She’s a good writer and a good songwriter. The play could be a branch of that.”

The album includes one particular­ly powerful song, “Jenny’s Story,” about a young woman addicted to prescripti­on drugs and her friend’s efforts to help. This became the theme of the play.

Prior to writing “Sex, Drugs and the Gospel Singer” Lorraine had only acted in two community theatre production­s, “Ragtime” and “Doubt.” She won awards for both performanc­es.

She said she felt drawn to write a play about the album.

Until now, the Cambridgeb­ased mother of seven and English as a second language instructor has usually performed at fundraisin­g events — what her husband calls “singing for a purpose.” This play would also have a purpose but one that was very different than charity fundraisin­g.

“I felt I was almost led there (to write the play),” said Lorraine who, along with her husband, shares a deep faith.

Once the basic script was completed the couple needed help to translate it to the stage and through a friend they met Buddy Brennan, a director and owner of Working Reel Production­s in Cambridge. Brennan recruited his friend, John Snowdon, as codirector. The two men also rewrote the script, though the essence of Lorraine’s story has not changed, she said.

“Sex, Drugs and the Gospel Singer” is based on the long friendship between two women — Jenny and Jessica — who meet on a school bus as children and develop a close bond. One is white, one is black but the play does not focus on race issues, it’s about the black and white approach that is sometimes taken when dealing with personal conflict. The women’s friendship is not black and white, but complex and ever evolving.

Jenny (played by Trish Rainone) is addicted to prescripti­on drugs while Lorraine’s character is a successful gospel singer who also drifts into addiction when she becomes an alcoholic. The women’s divergent lifestyles interfere with their friendship. The question is, will it survive?

Lorraine said when they wrote the original script there were only four characters but the directors decided it needed a bit more power and added to the cast including the role of a storytelle­r played by Ashaya Babiuk.

“We wanted to keep it small but when the guys (directors) came in, they expanded the story line,” she said. Apparently there was so much to say about the issue and a fuller, richer script provided the perfect vehicle. Lorraine is happy with the result, confident the message will be understood by audiences.

“So many people are struggling with addiction,” she said. “It’s an epidemic. I have found that people are shunned, they’re treated differentl­y.”

The lesson in all this is to get rid of any self-righteous notions and just offer friendship.

“You can’t change people,” Lorraine said. “You can only sup- port and love them as they walk their own journey.”

 ?? PETER LEE, RECORD STAFF ?? Director John Snowdon runs through part of a scene with actors Lorraine Harris, left, and Trish Rainone.
PETER LEE, RECORD STAFF Director John Snowdon runs through part of a scene with actors Lorraine Harris, left, and Trish Rainone.

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