Je€Caryous Johnson€s €Love Overboard€ at Warner Theatre

Edith Billups | 1/16/2009, 8:05 a.m.

Award-winning playwright, director and producer Je€Caryous Johnson€s 16th play, €Love Overboard,€ has grossed more than $90 million over the past 10 years. The play will open at the Warner Theater on Jan. 27.

Characterized by sell-out crowds, stimulating storylines and top-notch talent, his plays include €Men Cry in the Dark,€ €The Maintenance Man,€ €Whatever She Wants€ and €3 Ways to Get a Husband.€ The shows have starred such luminaries as Billy Dee Williams, Brian McKnight, Lou Gossett Jr., Vivica Fox and Robin Givens.

The recipient of the 2007 NAACP Trailblazer Award, Johnson was the first person to adapt an African American romance novel into a stage play, and he has been heralded by The New York Times, Jet Magazine and others as a force to be reckoned with. But the University of Houston graduate said it hasn€t always been easy. For his first stage play, more than 100 of Johnson€s family members pooled their resources to loan him $500,000. However, in one week, he lost all of the money due to poor ticket sales and attendance.

€It was a drama about Emmet Till, and it was told from the perspective of angels. It was a 4,000 seat venue, and we were projecting 4,000 a people a night times eight nights,€ Johnson, 31, said.

At the end of the week, the show had only attracted 400 people. Johnson took two years to regroup and later repaid all of his relatives.
Since that time, Johnson has figured out the formula for ensuring substantive, long term success in the urban theater industry. With his uncle and partner, Gary Guidry, (former musical prodigy turned 30-something business mogul) the pair have incorporated their Houston-based theater and music production company into I€m Ready Productions.

Together, Johnson and Guidry have taken the day to day stories of housewives, company CEOS, and their relationship woes across the country, breaking box office records.

€[€Love Overboard€] will be the funniest play ever seen on stage. I stand behind it,€ Johnson said. €It€s about these people who go on a cruise ship, and they have thrown love overboard. It includes the spiritual woman who lets religion get in the way and the woman so independent that she won€t depend on a man. It represents every facet of life.€

Johnson said urban theater has often been seen as sub-par, mediocre and lacking the production values€"and dramatic quality€"of Broadway.

€I can write a regional play in my sleep. It takes more to write an urban play, particularly the sensibility to comedy. In the regional world, you are creating art selfishly. In the urban world, I create art that is reflective of their lives and is beneficial to what people need,€ Johnson said.

€When a person tells me, €What you showed me kept me from walking out on my marriage,€ this gives me satisfaction and purpose. The urban market is a magnificent market.€

Johnson says people want to be in relationships so bad that they don€t give themselves time to know the history of the other person.

€They skip the exploration, friendship stage and argue later that the person changed, but they didn€t give themselves time to know the other person and discover who they were,€ he said. €You can have on a pair of Guccis, ignore the pebble, and walk in the shoe all day. At the end of the day, you€ve forgotten that they are Guccis, and you have created a foot problem.€

To help other single men, Johnson wrote €I€m a Good Man, You€re a Good Woman€Why Can€t We Find Each Other?,€ due to be released later this month.

For more information on tickets for €Love Oveboard,€ visit www.ticketmaster.com.