The cast of “Ain’t Too Proud: The Life and Times of The Temptations,” currently performing at the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC), follows a tradition of honoring Black history as they tour different cities. During their visit to Durham, they took time to explore “Confronting Change,” a Black History Month exhibit documenting the segregation policies once enforced at Durham’s Carolina Theatre and the subsequent pushback that led to integration.
For the actors portraying the legendary “classic five” lineup of The Temptations, Durham holds special significance as it was where they first previewed the show, marking their initial theater experience. Harrell Holmes, Jr., who portrays Melvin Franklin, expressed the sentimental value of returning to Durham, where their journey with the production began.
As they immersed themselves in the exhibit, examining historical photos and artifacts, including a reproduction of the theater’s segregated box office, the cast reflected on the progress made since the days of segregation. Elijah Ahmad Lewis, who plays David Ruffin, acknowledged the emotional weight of witnessing the strides made in civil rights and the honor of sharing the Black experience on stage.
The exhibit’s portrayal of the challenges faced by Black patrons, such as climbing 97 steps to reach the segregated balcony, resonated deeply with the cast. Jalen Harris, portraying Eddie Kendricks, drew parallels between the struggles depicted and his own family’s experiences in the South, emphasizing the importance of preserving these stories.
For E. Clayton Cornelius, who portrays Paul Williams, the role serves as a tribute to the resilience of African Americans during the civil rights movement, drawing inspiration from personal family narratives. The cast also pays homage to the original members of The Temptations, acknowledging the impact of Otis Williams, the sole surviving member, whose journey continues to inspire.
Michael Andreaus, portraying Otis Williams in the musical, highlighted the surreal nature of depicting the life of a living legend, emphasizing Otis’s humble beginnings and the unforeseen success of The Temptations. As audiences witness the interpretation of The Temptations’ story on stage at DPAC, they are invited to celebrate the resilience, triumphs, and enduring legacy of one of music’s most iconic groups.