"A Tupac Tale" - Hopes to Unveil Another Side of Tupac

Shari Wright | 6/10/2009, 10:30 p.m.

The late Hip-Hop artist, actor and poet Tupac Shakur once said, €I€m gonna change the world; If I don€t, I will spark the mind that does.€ The story of Shakur will be told from the eyes of local playwright and actor Odell B. Ruffin in €A Tupac Tale,€ premiering at Howard University on June 16, 17 and 19.

The play, which Ruffin has worked on for the past year writing, directing, and producing, is a piece that he said is, €an interpretation of Tupac€s life while he was in prison as well as an examination of his relationships with women.€

The play looks to unearth parts of the infamous Shakur that are little known to his critics and even some fans.
€It€s more than just about Tupac; it€s more about how he affected other people,€ said Sabrina DeLee, who plays Maxine Weldon, a news reporter in €A Tupac Tale.€

The play uses the subject matter of Shakur in order to address issues pertinent to his life, such as the difficulties of inner city living, domestic violence, the glamorization of crime and prison, the media€s influence on the music industry and faith.
€I wanted a new focus. Most people have never seen this side of Tupac,€ said Ruffin of his aim for the play.
€A Tupac Tale€ is acted out through narration from the thoughts of news reporter Weldon who is set to interview Shakur while incarcerated. This particular angle of using a reporter to direct each of the play€s scenes is close to Ruffin, himself a former newspaper writer.

The play infuses songs and lyrics to highlight various aspects of Shakur that reveal the more reserved nature of the artist.
€The play depicts that he has a heart,€ added actress April Vance, who plays the role of Shakur€s attorney.
Shakur€s intense relationships with long-time friend, Jada Pinkett, girlfriend Kidada Jones and wife Keisha Morris are major dynamics in €A Tupac Tale€ as well as his struggling relationships with industry affiliates, specifically those from his record label, Death Row; all of which work together to showcase the Shakur that was rarely seen.

Ruffin, who boasted to owning every album of Shakur€s, seeing all of his movies and reading every publication that featured him, believes that the play, along with his chosen cast, will be able to transport an audience back to that era.
€I wanted to challenge myself. I wanted to tell his story [and educate the public,]€ Ruffin said. €I wanted this to be powerful. Actors can be like magicians, and you can make people believe they€re there.€

Ruffin said he hopes those that see the play will walk away with a new viewpoint of Shakur after viewing his play.
Ruffin teamed up with childhood friends Terrance Clark and Ronte Britten, who offered funding for food, transportation and promotional assistance. Richard Perry, managing partner of The Corporate Office, came on as a producer for the project and offered his office space for the play€s needs.

€Although I have had experience [producing,] it makes this more special because we've all had a dream to do this together,€ Ruffin said of working with his friends.

€A Tupac Tale€ will play at Howard University€s Blackburn Auditorium on June 16, 17 and 19 at 8 p.m. each night. Tickets are $10 for general admission and $8 for students and can be obtained through www.ticketmaster.com.