Developed for "Long Island Reads"
and for Black History Month

From the Novel by James McBride

The Color of Water:

A Black Man’s Tribute to his White Mother

A 70-minute two-actor performance reading  
in the style of radio drama, with jazz and traditional background music
adapted and directed by David Houston


James McBride had been a journalist for eight years when at age 30, he quit his job as a Washington Post feature writer and moved to New York to pursue his first love: music.  He taught ESL to Polish refugees and played wedding gigs on Long Island. He was touring on tenor sax with jazzman Jimmy Scott when he began writing The Color of Water.  He wrote in hotel rooms, vans, airports and buses. While struggling through "unsettled angst" he came to realize that the key to his search lay in the story of the most interesting person he'd ever knownand the person he loved mosthis mother.  He set about interviewing Ruth McBride Jordan and searching out her mysterious past, a process that took 14 years and resulted in a book that is now considered a landmark and an American classic.  

This  presentation employs McBride’s words to paint an indelible portrait of that amazing woman – an abused immigrant orthodox Jew, co-founder of a Baptist church, the mother of twelve accomplished black children.

 Scroll down, or jump with these links

Bios of Starker and Houston
Contact Information, Fees, Etc.
Scheduled Performances
About The Color of Water
About David Houston "radio style" shows


 Debbie Starker (Ruth McBride Jordan)—In her lengthy LI
Theater career, Debbie has experienced every aspect of production from director to performer to stage manger to props mistress. She has also appeared in independent films and commercials. In 2000, she founded Deb’s Web, her LI theater web site/newsletter and maintains where anyone interested in the performing arts on LI can find out virtually anything that has to do with theater in the area. In 2005, Debbie was honored for “Outstanding Contribution to the Long Island Theater Community” and was featured in a 4-page article/picture spread in Newsday. Some of her favorite acting credits include:
Fraulein Schneider/
Cabaret, Bloody Mary/South Pacific, Mother Superior/Nunsense, Mother Miriam Ruth/Agnes of God, Golde/Fiddler,
and The Ghost of Christmas Present/A Christmas Carol
(more than 200 performances)
. Some of her favorite directorial credits include: Carousel, Visiting Mr. Green, Rumors, Witness for the Prosecution, H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, The Bermuda Avenue Triangle, Father of the Bride, Fame, Pippin, Peter Pan.

David Houston (narration; adaptation and direction)—has appeared in leading roles in scores of plays and musicals, including Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet, Mayor Shinn in The Music Man, Senex in A Funny Thing Happened, Ben in Death of a Salesman, Herr Shultz in Cabaret and Horace Giddens in The Little Foxes.  He is a published and produced writer of fiction and non-fiction.  His original hour-long plays, Lillie Alone, The Dickens!, Mark Twain: Telling Tales, Great Scott and Zelda, Murder and Madness and Poe, Jazz Baby Joan, Let's Do It!, Walt Whitman To Begin With and The Ghost of Dorothy Parker have been seen at a number of Long Island libraries.  His Joan Crawford biography Jazz Baby (St. Martin's Press) was optioned for movie production, as was his mystery novel Shadows on the Moon (Leisure Books).  His "dramatic readings in the style of radio drama" presented at Long Island libraries include Pete Hamill's Snow in August, the Sherlock Holmes novel Study in Scarlet, Steinbeck's Travels with Charley, Mark Mills's Amagansett, Three Short Stories by I.B. Singer, and Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451.


David Houston

(516) 293-2638;
700 Fulton Street, M-1, Farmingdale, New York 11735

$300 fee includes actors, reading stands, music and CD player, and travel (Long Island);
facility is asked to supply a small acting space, basic lighting,
and amplification if the auditorium is large

Scheduled Performances
Saturday, March 22, 2014, 2:30 p.m., BRONX LIBRARY CENTER

2007 (for Long Island Reads)
Tuesday, January 23, 1:00 p.m., THE BRYANT LIBRARY, ROSLYN

Sunday, April 1, 2:00 p.m., LONGWOOD PUBLIC LIBRARY
Saturday, April 7, 2:00 p.m., COLD SPRING HARBOR LIBRARY
Tuesday, April 10, 2:00 p.m., LYNBROOK PUBLIC LIBRARY
Wednesday, April 11, 2:30 p.m., HALF HOLLOW HILLS COMMUNITY LIBRARY
Thursday, April 12, 7:00 p.m. SOUTH COUNTRY LIBRARY, BELLPORT
Friday, April 13, 2:00 p.m., JERICHO PUBLIC LIBRARY
Sunday, April 15, 2:00 p.m., GLEN COVE PUBLIC LIBRARY
Monday, April 16, 1:30 p.m., FLORAL PARK PUBLIC LIBRARY
Monday, April 16, 7:00 p.m., PORT JEFFERSON FREE LIBRARY
Thursday, April 19, 2:30 p.m., FREEPORT PUBLIC LIBRARY
Sunday, April 22, 2:00 p.m., BELLMORE MEMORIAL LIBRARY
Tuesday, April 24, 12:30 p.m., EAST MEADOW PUBLIC LIBRARY
Wednesday, April 25, 1:00 p.m., MANHASSET PUBLIC LIBRARY
Wednesday, April 25, 7:00 p.m., LINDENHURST MEMORIAL LIBRARY
Thursday, April 26, 2:30 p.m.: WEST BABYLON PUBLIC LIBRARY
Thursday, April 26, 7:00 p.m.: ISLIP PUBLIC LIBRARY
Friday, April 27, 12:15 p.m., PORT WASHINGTON PUBLIC LIBRARY
Monday, April 30, 2:00 p.m., LONG BEACH PUBLIC LIBRARY
Monday November 12, 4:00 p.m., PECONIC LANDING, GREENPORT
Thursday, February 7, 2008, 11:00 a.m., NY STATE UNIVERSITY, FARMINGDALE


"It's a story about keeping on and not being a victim.  It's a love story.  Much hilarity is mixed in with the sadness.  As McBride describes the chaotic life in a family of fourteen, you can almost feel the teasing, the yelling and the love.  The book is a delight, a goading, and an inspiration, worth your time and a few tears."  SUNDAY DENVER POST

"A standout among the current surfeit of memoirs about growing up black in the United States.  Mr. McBride's portrait of his mother is not of a saint, which makes her all the more compelling."  THE WASHINGTON TIMES

"A well-written, thoughtful contribution to the literature on race."  THE WASHINGTON POST BOOK WORLD

"Told with humor and clear-eyed grace, a terrific story.  The sheer strength of spirit, pain, and humor of McBride and his mother as they wrestled with different aspects of race and identity is vividly told.  I laughed and thrilled to her brood of twelve kids.  I wish I'd known them.  I'm glad McBride wrote it all down."  THE NATION

"A refreshing portrait of family self-discovery brilliantly intertwines passages of the family's lives.  Mr. McBride's search is less about racial turmoil than about how he realizes how blessed he is to have had a support system in the face of what could have been insurmountable obstacles."  THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS

"What makes this story inspiring is that she succeeded against strong odds.  How she did this is what makes this memoir read like a very well-plotted novel.  This moving and unforgettable memoir needs to be read by people of all colors and faiths."  PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY

"Tells us a great deal about our nation's racial sickness, and about the possibilities of overcoming it."  THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

"Poignant, a uniquely American coming of age.  Ruth McBride's anecdotes are richly detailed, her voice clear and engaging.  And she has a story worth telling."  THE MIAMI HERALD

"Eloquent, vivid, affecting.  McBride's mother should take much pleasure in this loving, if sometimes uncomfortable, memoir, which embodies family values of the best kind.  Other readers will take pleasure in it as well."  KIRKUS REVIEWS


About "radio style" presentations

THE COLOR OF WATER by James McBride (with Debbie Starker as Ruth)

Dominic Antignano, Resident Activities Coordinator, Peconic Landing Auditorium, Greenport: "Your professionalism magically transported us to another place and time. Thank you for such a great show." Beth Saltalamacchio, Cultural Program Specialist, Plainview Old Bethpage Public Library: "Excellent interpretation of James McBride's book. It brought the characters to life." Barbara Minerd, Public Relations Director, Shelter Rock Public Library: "The musical selections were a perfect choice, a wonderful enhancement for the performance. Well, if this radio drama doesn't inspire those who haven't read the book to read it, I don't know what will.  The program transported me to another world." Jude Schanzer, Program Director and Publicity, East Meadow Public Library: "Stupendous meticulous thought obviously given to the material and the venue in which it was to be performed.  The audience was visibly moved."  Marion Waller, Professional Theatrical Director, at Copiague Library: "The performances were mesmerizing.  You "saw" these people and never had to wonder who was speaking.  Eras and places were evoked to maximum effect." Claire Yourman, patron, Port Washington Public Library: "Excellent.  I found the performance above average, entirely enjoyable and informative.  I look forward to more shows with David Houston and Debbie Starker." Penelope Wright, Director of Adult Programs, Rogers Memorial Library, Southampton: "A brilliant adaptation of a remarkable book.  The superbly acted production conveys the pure essence of Mr. McBride's poignant tribute to his remarkable mother." Melissa Gabrielle, Programs, South Country Library, Bellport: "A powerful and wonderful performance that had a great impact on the audience.  The high school students who attended were impressed with the quality of the performances and commented that they found that the actors made the story even more relevant to their experiences in class." Linda May, actress, at Port Jefferson Free Library: "It was wonderful!  David Houston has done an excellent job of taking excerpts from the book and turning them into a seamless, entertaining evening.  He does the narration and all the other voices to wonderful effect. Debbie Starker reads the mother, and she is mesmerizing. I was completely drawn into the mother's world, and even though I had read the book, I was waiting on the edge of my seat for what came next." Patricia Eren, Program Coordinator, Floral Park Library: Excellent in all categories; "Everyone was delighted with the performance."


Millie Scott, Librarian, West Babylon Public Library: "The West Babylon Literary Club was looking forward to your presentation and again were not disappointed!  An excellent program.  Thanks!"  Kate Horan, Adult Services Librarian, South Country Library: "I am so impressed with how you coordinated text selections with the music of Aaron Copland.  I'm sure you could tell by the audience's enthusiastic response that everyone loved the various voices you highlighted in our narrative journey across America."  Linda Kundla, Librarian, Sea Cliff Library: "My patrons enjoyed the performance thoroughly."  Fran Carey, patron, Half Hollow Hills Community Library: "I loved Copland's music accompanying the lively and animated reading; this was a delightful and engaging performance." Barbara Minerd, Program Director, Shelter Rock Public Library: "Accents are wonderful and the selection of background music perfect; the audience was mesmerized."  Tracey Simon, Program Coordinator, Lynbrook Public Library: "The feedback was quite positive and inspired a few members of the audience to read the book and join us for the book discussion the following week!"  Jessica Ley, Program Coordinator, Port Washington Public Library: "Another stellar interpretation of a literary work—moving and impeccably presented."

FAHRENHEIT 451 by Ray Bradbury (dramatic reading by David Houston, Matt Stashin, Melanie Lipton)

Jeanette Donohue, Programming Department, Syosset Public Library: "The radio drama was a different type of programming for Syosset. The group was very good and very professional." Evelyn Pusinelli, Program Coordinator, Hicksville Public Library: "Very good audience response; very good performance clarity and quality and literary content of the script." Lorraine Paesano, Adult Services Librarian, Middle Country Public Library at Centereach: "As always, a polished professional performance.  Being joined by Matt Stashin and Melanie Lipton added to the overall impact.  Listening to the selected pieces made me think of how scary it would be if people's beliefs and freedoms were to be challenged and mandated by others.  Thanks for a great reading!"  Deborah Dellis-Quinn, Program Director, Manhasset Library "FAHRENHEIT 451 was excellent – not only for our adult audience, but would be valuable for high-school students.  The pace was quick, keeping the audience involved in the characters and plot throughout the program.  The message of Ray Bradbury's novel was powerfully portrayed by the cast, and respectfully scripted." Jessica Ley, Program Coordinator, Port Washington Public Library: "I've come to expect excellence from a David Houston production, and I've never been disappointed.  FAHRENHEIT 451 was outstanding."  

SNOW IN AUGUST by Pete Hammil (with Matt Stashin reading boys' voices)

Lorraine Paesano and Mary Frayne, Librarians, Middle Country Public Library: "It's too bad we had time constraints; our whole group would have loved to hear more.  The accents, the shifting of characters, the musical accompaniment – all added to a magical reading.  [The reading brought] Snow in August to life for us." Marcia Johnson, Program Coordinator, North Shore Public Library, Shoreham: "Both performers were well prepared, relaxed and professional.  Mr. Houston's adaptation of the book into the style of an old-time radio broadcast, complete with music underscoring, was deftly done.  Finally, the accents effectively delineated the many characters portrayed." Beth Saltalamacchio, Cultural Program Specialist, Plainview Old Bethpage Library: "This program gave me a better sense of the whole book than I thought was possible.  The segments were well planned, and the actors did a wonderful job creating characters and voices.  The background music added to the creation of an atmosphere."  Evelyn Pusinelli, Program Coordinator, Hicksville Public Library: "The audience was enthralled with the reading; the presentation held their attention.  Excellent."  Barbara Minard, Program Director, Shelter Rock Public Library: "The performance was much more than I expected.  Music selections augmented the reading perfectly.  Foreign accents beautifully transported the audience to a different time and place.  All in all, it was relaxing, entertaining, and very professional."

HOW THE GARCIA GIRLS LOST THEIR ACCENTS (with Melanie Lipton reading women’s voices)

Aviva Crown, Cultural Programs Specialist, Plainview Old Bethpage Public Library: "The readings were charming and delighted our audience, which listened with such rapt attention.  It was almost better than reading the book!" Lorraine Paesano and Mary Frayne, Librarians, Middle Country Public Library, Selden : "The excellent presentation of the book helped bring out the book's lyrical qualities . . . the 'verbal performance' brought it into a special light and enhanced the book's overall appeal." Millie Scott, Librarian and Literary Club Leader:"We were surprised and delighted.  The West Babylon Literary Club thoroughly enjoyed the presentation.  Your sensitive readings drew us into the lives of the Garcia Girls." Irene Klein, audience member, Locust Valley Library: "Better than I anticipated.  Very professional.  I got a much better understanding of the book." Linda Soldo, Assistant Librarian, East Meadow Public Library: "Ms. Lipton made the characters come alive in her dramatic readings from 'Garcia Girls,' and Mr. Houston's readings of the narrative created a clear and enticing atmosphere."  


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Copyright © 2007, David Houston