Greg Ellis is a former defensive end who played 12 seasons in the National Football League, including 11 with the Dallas Cowboys, for whom he showed a particular knack for pursuing and tackling the quarterback. That’s called a “sack.”
These days, Ellis is pursuing a different kind of sack, and so far, the results are sublime. He has turned his attention to film and now theater.
He produced and acted in Carter High, a 2015 movie about the 1988 scandal in which the football team at Carter High School defied its own seeming invincibility by winning the state championship — and then losing it.
Five days after its victory, three of its football players robbed a Jack in the Box at 2:30 a.m., pantyhose pulled over their heads. As The Dallas Morning News reported in 2015, it would be the first of 21 robberies that police connected to 15 Carter neighborhood teenagers, including six from the football team.
And now, Ellis is the co-writer and director of a play — about slavery.
Juneteenth The Play will be performed at Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas on Saturday and in Fort Worth on June 18.
Every year on June 19, millions of people all over the world celebrate Juneteenth, a tradition started by slaves. The holiday serves as a remembrance of Texas freeing its slaves on June 19, 1865 — 2 1/2 years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, which freed more than 3.5 million people from slavery.
Ellis’ play traverses the period from Jan. 1, 1863, when Lincoln issued the proclamation, to June 19, 1865, when Union Army Gen. Gordon Granger arrived at Galveston Island with 2,000 federal troops to occupy Texas on behalf of the federal government. The next day, Granger read aloud the contents of General Order No. 3, announcing the total emancipation of those held as slaves, a directive that also extended to Southern states beyond Texas.
Proudly, Ellis says Juneteenth The Play serves as a story of how love, faith and prayer between a Texas slave named Tippy and a fellow slave named Henry somehow sustain them through slavery, even for the 2 1/2 years in which they should have been free.
“I enjoy helping people,” says Ellis, a towering 6 feet 6. “And part of helping people is educating people. And to educate them, you have to grab their attention.”
Ellis chose to focus on theater as a vehicle, “because I’m really intrigued by slavery. To think that all of that stuff went on, a little more than 150 years ago, still amazes me.” He says his own family’s roots, in North Carolina, are “close to slavery.”
What amazes him in 2019 is how, “when you look at the big picture, how far we’ve come away from slavery but how we still have such a long way to go. There are a lot of residues that still trouble us today in this country, in this world.”
He describes the residues by saying that “black people rank at the bottom when it comes to owning major businesses, major property. Prisons are largely populated by young black men.”
And yet, he says his play is “not about being militant but rather telling people the truth, sharing history and showing how far we have come, but also letting us be ashamed that we still have some of those issues that haunt us today.”
Juneteenth The Play will be performed at 2 p.m. Saturday, June 15, at Friendship West Baptist Church, 2020 W. Wheatland Road in Dallas. A repeat performance will take place at 7 p.m. Tuesday, June 18, in Will Rogers Auditorium in Fort Worth. For ticket prices and other information, visit juneteenththeplay.com.
SOURCE- Dallas News