Ars Nova has announced an international tour of their critically acclaimed Off-Broadway hit, Underground Railroad Game, created by and starring Jennifer Kidwell and Scott R. Sheppard.
The tour will begin in Theater Der Welt in Hamburg, Germany, in June 2017, followed by a 3-week run in Washington, D.C., at Woolly Mammoth in April 2018. Additional tour dates to be announced.
Underground Railroad Game began in Philadelphia’s FringeArts Festival. The entire run of 10 performances sold out and over 1,200 people attended. As a result of overwhelming sales and demand, FringeArts remounted URG in May of 2016. In the fall, URG made it’s New York premiere in Ars Nova’s 2016 season.
Underground Railroad Game welcomes audiences (as fifth-grade students) to Hanover Middle School, where a pair of teachers get down and dirty with the day’s lesson. The nimble duo goes round after round on the mat of our nation’s history, tackling race, sex, and power in this R-rated, kaleidoscopic and fearless comedy. Forget everything you thought you knew about history. They take history off the page and make it real again.
Check out arsnovanyc.com for more information.
Head of Passes Starring Phylicia Rashad Extends + Win Two Tickets
The Broadway Black approved production of Head of Passes by Tarell Alvin McCraney has officially been extended and rightfully so. It will now play until April 24th at the Public Theater. Tony Award winner Phylicia Rashad leads the cast as Shelah, a woman who “must fight to survive the rising flood of life’s great challenges” as her family and friends come to celebrate her birthday.
Completing the cast and telling this moving story is Alana Arenas (The Bluest Eye) as “Cookie”, Francois Battiste (Bronx Bombers) as “Aubrey”, Kyle Beltran (The Fortress of Solitude) as “Crier”, J. Bernard Calloway (All the Way) as Spencer, Robert Joy as “Dr. Anderson”, John Earl Jelks (Holler If Ya Hear Me) as “Creaker Johnson”, and Arnetia Walker (Dreamgirls) as “Mae”.
It’s also time for a giveaway and this is a really special one for us! The return of “Mutha”, aka Phylicia Rashad, to an Off-Broadway stage is nothing to be taken lightly. She is currently serving the people all kinds of master class skills in the production of Head of Passes at The Public Theater. You can’t NOT see this show so, we want to give you the opportunity to do so.
If you don’t know why we’re so adamant about making sure you see it, read about our experience in our #WeWereThere article HERE. After you’ve finished that and you’re clearly sold on the experience, follow the rules below to qualify to win a pair of tickets to the April 22nd performance. There will be more than one winner and each winner will receive a pair of tickets to that show ONLY. If you can’t make it on that date you can still purchase tickets HERE.
How to WIN!:
2. Like our Broadway Black Facebook page HERE!
3. Comment below & tell us: What has been your greatest challenge in life & why?!
Must enter before Wed April 20th at 5pm! Winners will be announced on that same day at 7pm!
Check out Head of Passes production photos by Joan Marcus below!
Giveaway made possible by our friends at PPLMVR! Thank you!
Nilaja Sun’s “Pike St.” Extended Through December 19th at Abrons Arts Center
Obie Winner Nilaja Sun is currently filling an entire stage with her humor, wit, and story of resilience in her one-woman show, Pike St., on stage at the Abrons Arts Center. This story strikes close to home—Sun’s home, that is. This realness, this truth, this diverse portrait of the lives of those stricken by tragedy and natural disaster, has been extended and will play through December 19th.
Sun started writing Pike St. in 2013, reflecting on the effects that Hurricane Sandy had on the inhabitants of New York City. Told from the point of view of a Puerto Rican family in residence in Lower East Side (L.E.S.) Manhattan, Pike St. brings to life the story of Evelyn, whose teenage daughter Candace is paralyzed and not able to breathe on her own, and the preparations the family must make in the face of a looming storm.
This project is a bit of a homecoming. Sun was born and raised in L.E.S. and took her first art classes at Abrons Art Center. She has sought to tell a story that embodies the unique diversity of the landscape.
The artistry is what has me most intrigued by this story. Telling a story from one point of view is one thing, but seamlessly transforming from a matriarch who will protect her daughter by any means necessary, to the daughter who is bound by the dependance of a breathing machine and not being able to walk, to a woman who has survived the Holocaust, to a brother who has fought in Afghanistan, speaks to a special dexterity that you don’t see everyday.
The nature of all of these characters combined seems heavy. But nightly, like Evelyn, Sun leaves her heart on the stage in an effort to plant seeds of healing and redemption, three years after Hurricane Sandy.
Sun is a playwright and performer. It is in her Off-Broadway play, No Child, where she played an entire classroom of children and the teacher, that garnered her an Obie award, as well as a Lucille Lortel Award and two Outer Critics Circle Awards. Her TV and film credits include “30 Rock,” “Law & Order: SVU,” and “Louie.”
Pike St. held previews starting November 10 and opened November 15. The direction is helmed by Ron Russell and the show is presented by Epic Theatre Ensemble. Visit Abrons Arts Center for tickets.
We Were There: The Christians at Playwrights Horizons
Let the church say “Amen.” I had just left the grimy streets of New York City, and as soon as we walked through those theatre doors I felt like I just walked into my own COGIC church. So much so, I had to take a moment before re-entering. Yes, it was that real. The set design brilliantly done by Dane Laffrey, makes you feel as though you are in one of those TV megachurches. From the blue pulpit, to the choir stand, the large flat screen TVs with peaceful images, to huge backlit cross in the back, and wood that accented the space I thought it was Sunday morning, not Saturday night.
We sat down in our Row F waiting for the show to begin and out came a choir of at least 20 starting with a gospel hymn that leads to a more upbeat tune, with full on church claps. Part of me couldn’t help but to laugh, being raised COGIC our choirs tend to look a lot more lively and a bit more melanin, which is not what was on stage so I couldn’t help but to feel a type of way. But it wasn’t all too distracting, because on walk the main characters just as you would expect on a Sunday morning. The assistant (or associate) pastor, the elder that sits in the pulpit but you really don’t know what he does, and of course the pastor and his wife (or First Lady.)
“Pastor Paul”, played by Andrew Garman, begins to deliver his sermon. A sermon so believable that when he says it’s time to pray, I actually started to bow my head! So, as the play carries along it’s as if we are all apart of the congregation and what a big day it is for us. One of the satirical moments I liked most was commenting on the absurdity of some megachurches by stating it has “thousands of seats, classrooms for Sunday school, a baptismal font as big as a swimming pool”. “Pastor Paul” is here to tell us that as of today, the building costs have finally been paid off and we are debt free! HALLELUJAH!
As he goes through and delivers his sermon he ends on a note that serves as the conflict for the rest of the play, “We are no longer a congregation that believes in Hell.” The rest of the play, which also take place on the church altar, show the other church officials and members (the associate pastor, an elder, a single mother, and his own wife) struggling to make sense of Paul’s new revelation.
The cast is small, but mighty. Larry Powell shines as the charming, dutiful associate pastor who eventually leaves the church due to his indifference. Linda Powell posses a sort of quiet power throughout the show as “Elizabeth,” the pastors wife. She doesn’t say much in the beginning, but her body language is a dead give away. So when she finally does speak, you want to hear everything that she has to say. Emily Donahoe also shines and delivers one of the most memorable parts from the play, “So, if there’s no Hell, what do you do about Hitler?”
What this play does do is make you think. While I’m one that cannot be easily swayed, it was interesting to watch this play with the beliefs I already have and see which side I sort of fit in with more. I was torn at times, uncomfortable at times, and straight up put-off at times but then I realized it’s art. Art is subjective and art is informative and it’s up to you what you choose to take away from it. This play could have easily fallen flat, but there was a careful way of storytelling that allowed the play to come off as profound and sincere, not a mockery of religion.
The Christians was written by Lucas Hnath and is directed by Obie Award winner Les Waters. Tickets for The Christians can be purchased online at TicketCentral, by phone at (212) 279-4200 and in person at the Ticket Central Box Office, 416 West 42nd St., where Playwrights Horizons is also located. The show runs through until October 25. Visit PlaywrightsHorizons for more information.
Photo: Joan Marcus
Eclipsed, Starring Lupita Nyong’o, Announces Second Extension
Academy Award winner Lupita Nyong’o is already drawing huge crowds to The Public Theater as the company announced a SECOND extension for the feminist play, Eclipsed, weeks prior to opening. Nyong’o’s highly anticipated New York Stage debut, which begins previews on Sept. 29 and was originally slated to close Nov. 8, will now have nine-week run, with a final performance on Nov.29.
Staged by renowned international theater director Leisl Tommy and written by Obie Award-winning playwright Danai Gurira, Eclipsed takes a raw look at the strength and compassion of the resilient women struggling to survive in war-torn Africa:
“Amid the chaos of the Liberian Civil War, the captive wives of a rebel officer band together to form a fragile community – until the balance of their lives is upset by the arrival of a new girl. Drawing on reserves of wit and compassion, Eclipsed reveals distinct women who must discover their own means of survival in this deeply felt portrait of women finding and testing their own strength in a hostile world of horrors not of their own making.”
Artistic Director Oskar Eustis praises, “Eclipsed is both heart-breaking and profoundly life-affirming. We are delighted to welcome the extraordinary Lupita Nyong’o to The Public in this vitally important play.”
The complete cast of Eclipsed features a stunning all-female, all-Black ensemble including Pascale Armand, Akosua Busia, Zainab Jah, and Saycon Sengbloh.
Clearly, New Yorkers are thrilled Nyong’o is bringing her star power to The Public stage and you can bet Broadway Black will be there to get all the details!
Free tickets to the first preview on Tuesday, September 29 will be available via TodayTix mobile lottery. Public Theater Member tickets can be accessed now as well as member single tickets, starting at $80. Tickets can be accessed by calling (212) 967-7555, www.publictheater.org, or in person at the Taub Box Office at The Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street.
Twisted Melodies: Donny Hathaway’s Battle with Mental Illness Topic of a Powerful Play
He regaled us with such hits as “Where is the Love?,” “You’ve Got a Friend,” the holiday staple “This Christmas,” and of course the deeply reflective, ultra-soulful “Song For You.” But underneath the powerfully emotional voice of Donny Hathaway was a man who was fighting a tremendous battle that ultimately caused him to end his own life.
Twisted Melodies seeks to peel back the layers of a musical genius who was tortured by the mental anguish of paranoid schizophrenia. In Donny Hathaway’s case, he suffered from delusions of persecution believing that “white people were trying to steal his sound.” His stability was further diminished by the fact the he inconsistently took the medication that would have helped manage his symptoms.
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In this one-man show written by and featuring Kelvin Roston Jr., Roston delves into Hathaway’s schizophrenic experience through the eyes of the tortured artist. Roston’s credits include: Purlie, Ruined, Death and the King’s Horseman, Othello and Caroline of Change (St. Louis Black Rep). One of his most notable roles was that of Jackie Wilson in The Jackie Wilson Story where he received a Joseph Jefferson Award nomination and received awards from The Black Theater Alliance and The African American Excellence Alliance (Black Ensemble Theater).
Saturday, April 11 at 8 p.m. www.centertickets.net Presented by Congo Square Theatre. This powerful and intense portrayal of the renowned jazz, blues and soul singer, composer and songwriter, Donny Hathaway, shows us the schizophrenic experience through the eyes of a tortured artist in the ’70s.
The show seeks to shine a spotlight on the very real battle many people have with mental illness. Often a taboo subject, particularly in the Black community, it remains important to continue the conversation to encourage seeking help for those who suffer. According to Samuel G. Roberson, Jr., Artistic Director at Congo Square Theatre and also the director of Twisted Melodies,
The intent of Twisted Melodies is to open up a safe and healing conversation about mental illness in our community and ways we can help each other cope. Donny Hathaway was a musical genius coping with schizophrenia, it was a part of him and a part of his music and brilliance. Maybe seeing this illness through a beloved artist will allow us to view it differently than we have viewed it in the past.
The show is being presented by Congo Square Theatre in partnership with the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI). Twisted Melodies runs through September 13, 2015 at the Athenaeum Theatre in Chicago. For ticket information, click here.
UPDATE: Don’t despair if you thought you missed Twisted Melodies! There’s a remount for the show Friday, September 18, 2015 through Sunday, September 20, 2015 at Athenaeum Theatre Studio. The show is not suitable for children under 13 as it contains strong language. A post-show discussion will follow. For ticket information, click here.
If you or someone you know if suffering from mental illness, click here for additional information on support, education resources and raising awareness.
King Liz Starring Karen Pittman Extended Through August 15
Fernanda Coppel’s King Liz, the tale of a female sports agent who’s fighting to stay on top of a male-dominated industry, was such a monstrous slam dunk in its initial run that the off-Broadway show has been extended through August 15. The show, which stars Karen Pittman, premiered at the McGinn/Cazale Theatre on July 27 and was scheduled to close on August 8.
King Liz is a Second Stage Theatre Uptown production that follows “Liz Rico” (Pittman), a sports agent who faces the obstacles women face in a male-dominated industry. She has money and an elite client roster but she must work twice as hard to stay on top. Rico takes on volatile high basketball phenom “Freddie Luna” as a client and uses the opportunity to lift her career along with his.
Pittman previously starred in Ayad Akhtar’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Disgraced in the role of “Jory,” for which she received critical acclaim for “delivering a powerful and impassioned performance that literally takes the air out of the Lyceum Theatre. “ With a stage presence that has been described as “passionate, witty, glamorous,” Pittman has also appeared on Broadway in Good People and Passing Strange, as well as the off-Broadway production of Domesticated.
In addition to Pittman, the cast includes Jeremie Harris as “Freddie Luna,” Michael Cullen as “Mr. Candy,” Russell G. Jones as “Coach Jones,” Caroline Lagerfelt as “Barbara Flowers” and Irene Sofia Lucio as “Gabby Fuentes.” Lisa Peterson directs King Liz, with scenic design by Dane Laffrey, costumes by Jessica Pabst, lighting design by Tyler Micoleau, and sound design by Darron L West.
For more information and tickets, visit www.2ST.com or call (212) 246-4422.
Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg