Speaking to the Harlem9 team is like speaking to a group of old friends. This group of interdisciplinary artists has been collaboratively producing the Obie Award Winning 48HOURS IN… ™HARLEM festival for the last seven years, making their family vibe strong. Harlem9 is an arts organization comprised of various producing entities that have come together in Harlem to explore the past, present, and future of Black culture and celebrate the rich history of storytelling within the African diaspora. Garlia Cornelia, Bryan E. Glover, Eric Lockley, Jonathan McCrory, and Liberation Theatre Company (Sandra A. Daley-Sharif and Spencer Scott Barros) are the producers that comprise Harlem9. The event brings together 6 Playwrights, 6 Directors and 18 actors who respond to a literary prompt. Within 48 hours Playwrights write an original play, Directors direct an original production, and actors perform it off book for audiences.
The 7th Annual 48HOURS IN… ™HARLEM takes place on August 13th at 9:30 pm. The six playwrights include Jordan E. Cooper, Kelley Girod, Daniel Alexander Jones, Donja Love, Cynthia Robinson, and Stacey Rose. Playwrights will re-imagine short stories and poems from renown writers James Baldwin and Sonia Sanchez into 10-minute plays. This year’s Directors are Steve H. Broadnax III, Rodney Gilbert, Mary Hodges, Candis Jones, John Eric Scutchins & Monica L. Williams.
On the surface, this one night only-two performance event at The National Black Theatre is an intense exercise in dramaturgy. This monumental birthing of art is driven by the Harlem 9’s deep commitment to bringing Black people together in the present moment while honoring the legacy of Harlem as the mecca of all things Black Art.
Harlem 9’s twist on the traditional 24-hour play festival is only a small part of the magic that makes 48 Hours in Harlem special. The team is deeply committed to caring for each other within those 48 hours; evident to the commitment each has made the last 7 years. Writer, Director, and Harlem9 founding member Garlia Cornelia Jones-Ly shared that in the last 7 years her life has changed tremendously, resulting in a role shift within the Harlem 9. Despite life transitions, the care her colleagues provide leaves her feeling loved and supported.
The 48 Hours in Harlem fete requires all hands on deck, as each member shared stories of needing naps and having each other’s back to incorporate self-care into the project for themselves. The holistic attention they offer each other overflows into the collective care they provide the diverse group of artists they bring together for one weekend of marathon art making. This community offering is critical in the hardest moments of the festival, especially when they are down to the wire and actors are exhausted.
The Harlem 9 team is an excellent model for collaborative community based devised theatre and risk taking in art creation, a testament to the reason they have lasted this long.
They offer compensation to their artists and are raising money for this production on Go Fund Me. Tickets are now on sale for their August 13th culminating event 7th Annual 48HOURS IN… ™HARLEM – 7PM AND 9:30PM at The National Black Theatre in Harlem NY.
Nicolette Robinson, Leslie Odom Jr., & Cynthia Erivo Sign On to Produce Witness Uganda
It’s official! Tony Award winners Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple) and Leslie Odom, Jr. (Hamilton), along with his wife Nicolette Robinson (Waitress) have joined on as producers for the biographical contemporary musical Witness Uganda. Abigail Spencer of Hulu’s Timeless has also joined this list of new producers
Formerly Insivible Thread, Witness Uganda has currently extended its West Coast premiere until March 3rd at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. Creators Griffin Matthews and Matt Gould take on the roles of director and musical director respectively. The show has added new material and musical numbers since it’s Off-Broadway run at Second Stage Theater.
Based on a true story, Witness Uganda follows Griffin, a New York City-based American volunteer, as he arrives in Uganda to help build a village school and escape his church’s condemnation of his sexuality. When he falls into a complicated relationship with a group of destitute, orphaned teenagers, he finds himself driven by a mission that will change his and their lives forever. From the rolling hills of the Ugandan countryside to a stifling apartment in New York City, from a joyous celebration of African youth to a terrifying abduction 8,000 miles away, Witness Uganda explores the question, “is changing the world even possible?”
The musical stars twelve-time Grammy nominee, Ledisi as Rain Lady/Church Lady, Hamilton alum & Off Book Podcast co-host Amber Iman as Joy, and original cast member of Invisible Thread Jamar Williams now takes on the role of Griffin.
The cast also features Emma Hunton (Ryan), Kameron Richardson (Jacob), Naärai (Grace), Sha’leah Nikole (Eden), Dexter Darden (Ibrahim), Jordan Barrow (Ronny), Jai’len Josey (Vocalist/Understudy for Rain Lady/Church Lady) and Antwone Barnes, Kennan D Washington and Thurzday holding down the ensemble.
The creative team is rounded out with choreography by Abdur-Rahim Jackson, music supervision by Remy Kurs, sets by Connor MacPhee, lighting by David Hernandez, costumes by Carlton Jones, and sound design by Martin Carrillo.
For more info visit Witness Uganda
Iconic Entertainer Gregory Hines Honored With a Black Heritage Series Stamp
The U.S. Postal Service honored iconic entertainer Gregory Hines with a Black Heritage Series stamp in a ceremony on January 28th. As the 42nd entry in the series, the stamp featuring a 1988 photo of a smiling Hines is now available at Post Offices and usps.com.
At the ceremony Tony Award winner Savion Glover talked about the role Hines played in elevating tap into an art form and the value of his work. Joining him in the celebration were Maurice Hines, actor, dancer, choreographer, and Hines’ brother; Daria Hines, actress, costume designer, and Hines’ daughter; dancers Chloe and Maud Arnold; Tony Waag, the American Tap Dance Foundation’s artistic director, and tap dancer Jason Samuels Smith.
“I don’t exist without this man,” said Glover, “These young people that you see, they aren’t born without this. We are not here today without this.”
The Chief Postal Inspector, Gary Barksdale, who led the ceremony, said “Gregory Hines was an extraordinary artist in every sense of the word. This Forever stamp pays tribute to his life and career as an actor, singer and most importantly, as a performer whose unique style of tap dancing injected new artistry and excitement into a traditional American form.”
Gregory Hines’ Broadway credits include Eubie!, Sophisticated Ladies, & Comin’ Uptown, all of which garnered him Tony Award nominations. He became a Tony Award winner for his starring role in “Jelly’s Last Jam” in 1992. In 2003 he passed away at 57 years old from cancer.
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