Atlanta Playwright, Sherry Bell-Bradley, Blossoms in New Career

While lay offs were taking place on March 6, 2009, Sherry Bell-Bradley was working at the firms satellite office just blocks away. Unlike her colleagues, she learned of her faith the next day when she received her termination package in the mail. Instead of waddling in self-pity, Sherry turned to her writing and began constructing the foundation for her comedy murder mystery, Who Killed Uncle Pete? The stage play was an instant success since it first debuted in 2009. Although Sherry could not reveal and ruin the mystery of who actually killed Uncle Pete (you will have to see it yourself) she did, however, agree to discuss the inspiration behind the stage play, future projects she is currently working on, and her most influential writer.
Janet Thomson: Good morning Sherry thank you for taking time to chat with me.
Sherry Bell-Bradley: Good morning Janet and thanks for having me.
JT: Let's get right into it. Who or what is the inspiration behind Who Killed Uncle Pete?
SB: I utilized some family members' nicknames, but the characters do not depict my family. Uncle Pete was formed by listening to family and friends refer to their own family members. I combined those characteristics to form the character Uncle Pete. Nettie, Dulie and Dump: I had been all those women at one point in my life: nave, feisty, or simply tired of dead-end relationships. As far as who inspires me, it's my grandmother, Cleaster McCloud who has since passed.
JT: I understand that this is your first comedic production. When did you get the idea?
SB: For years my writing style geared towards social issues or experiences that I had encountered. I wanted to see if I could change my writing style--I wanted to see if my writing could be comical. It was my turn to host Girls Night Out and I decided to seize the opportunity. I wrote the skit and put it on in my backyard. I invited family and friends. After the party, I thanked everyone for coming, and I told them that the skit was the debut of Who Killed Uncle Pete? - The next day, I began writing to turn the skit into a play.
JT: Why did you decide writing as a career?
SB: I didn't decide - my destiny did. I had been writing since I was about nine years old. I could take 10 spelling words and write a mystery. I even wrote a collection of poems all summer long one year, and I gave the collection to my English teacher, Mrs. Grant.
JT: Sherry not many people understand their purpose in life how fortunate you are to have known so early that writing is your destiny. Now tells us what circumstances lead to your career move from legal secretary to full-time playwright.
SB: I had been in Corporate America in the legal field for years as a legal secretary, administrative assistant -- writing was a hobby. I wrote skits and poetry for the churches I attended. I even had the opportunity to write a play A Promise which focused on physical abuse with the Coleman Jr. High School Drama team performed at the Grenville High School. In January 2009, I started my company Mississippi Magnolia Productions, LLC. In March 2009, I was laid off from my job of 8 1/2 years, without notice. Then on June 7, 2009, I was hit by a car while walking in my sister's yard. The injuries I sustained; torn ligaments in both knees; damaged cartilage; fractured bone and spinal and nerve damage. I experienced short-term memory loss, loss of mobility of my right arm due to a pinched nerve and injuries to my spine. I could only stand or sit for short periods of time. Now mind you, my show was scheduled to debut June 22-23, 2009.
JT: Wow talk about tenacity and determination Sherry. You are very blessed to still be here and to have the momentum to continue with this project. I understand that you had some exciting and interesting circumstances happen while getting this production together, can you talk about those experiences?
SB: Yes, three weeks before my opening show - I can not recall most of the events that led up to the debut because of the medication and the pain, but I do recall we sold out. Although I had my wheelchair on standby, God granted me strength to walk out and thank the fans.
The January Show was organized mostly from the bed because my body ached with pain daily and the only outlet I had was writing - it was therapy. I reviewed the DVD of the rehearsals over and over again, and then I went to work. I made the necessary changes and yet again, the show sold out at the 14th Street Playhouse in January 2010.
On May 15, 2010, we traveled to my hometown in Greenville, Mississippi with a stellar performance at the historical E. E. Bass Cultural Arts Center. Later, we returned to my community at the Porter Sanford Performing Arts Center in Decatur, Georgia in October 2010 with another successful show. I wasn't released from the doctors until May 2010, the week I was scheduled to travel to Mississippi. For almost a year I wasn't able to work, but my writing kept my spirits up.
JT: Sherry your story is definitely one of inspiration for others, particularly for women entrepreneurs. Where do you get your motivation or inspiration for writing?
SB: Writing is therapy for me. When I am writing it releases stress and it gives me the opportunity to put my thought about certain incidents I have encountered on paper. It is a ministry - here I can offer my testimonies that hopefully, educate, uplift and encourage someone else.
JT: Well your story has definitely encouraged me. What is your goal for Who Killed Uncle Pete?
SB: In the near future, I hope to get investors, take the production on the road and one day see Who Killed Uncle Pete on the marquis at the Fox in Atlanta, Georgia.
JT: You have such drive that I'm sure it will happen. Are you working on any new projects?
SB: I am. There is a sequel to Who Killed Uncle Pete as well as a few other plays I will be working on this year.
JT: When can we expect a book of your memoir?
SB: I can't really say right now. I am so happy writing plays, traveling and putting on productions that I don't know right now.
JT: Who is your favorite writer and why?
SB: Maya Angelou, I have loved her since a child. I purchased and read her collection one book at a time. Me and Mrs. Angelou's novels on a nice sunny day, lying on a blanket in the backyard of my mom's house -- I could escape my life and travel with Mrs. Angelou, experience her life, laugh when she was happy and cry when she experienced hardships. I would write poetry because one day -- I would be as famous as Mrs. Angelou.
JT: Will a DVD be created for purchase in the near future?
SB: Yes, we expect to have Who Killed Uncle Pete available for purchase in 2012.
JT: How can people contact you?
SB: I can be reached at
JT: Sherry thanks so much for sharing your journey, and I wish you continued success.
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