Jelly Belly premiered in 1989 in the Victory Garden’s Studio Theater in Chicago and has been produced off-Broadway by the New Federal Theatre and by many regional theatres. An early version of Jelly Belly won the 1985 Cornerstone Playwriting Award and was produced by Penumbra Theatre Company in St. Paul in1986.
Jelly Belly is a powerful story of a convict returning from a brief prison stay to resume his position as the neighborhood kingpin. In the New York Times, Stephen Holden wrote “Jelly Belly offers an unremittingly bleak portrait of inner-city life and the enormous pressure on working-class black men to be gangsters.”
The Chicago Defender wrote “Employing gritty poetry of the streets, Smith introduces us to Jelly Belly, who attempts to regain the service of Kenny, a former drug runner who has gone straight. Kenny is torn between the hope of prosperity through hard work shared with his friend Mike, or the opportunistic life of a drug pusher Jelly Belly offers.”
Available in the anthology, Seven Black Plays, edited by Chuck Smith with a foreword by August Wilson. Northwestern University Press. Original first drafts, intermediate drafts, final and/or published drafts of this play are part of the DePaul University Library’s Special Collections Archives Division, 2000.
Cast requirements: 4 men, 1 woman
Approximate running time: 95 minutes, no intermission.