We called Black Broadway: African Americans On The Great White Way by Stewart F. Lane “the book of all books” when we introduced it to you not too long ago. Now, it’s time to really tell you why, as well as give you a little insight into how this book came to be. We had the chance to sit down with the author and Mr. Lane was more than happy to share his theatre experiences that helped cultivate him as a Broadway producer that led him to this point.
This book starts with a wonderful forward from Tony Award winning director Kenny Leon (A Raisin In The Sun). He briefly describes his journey to the stage and how growing up in Florida in the early 1960s he “could never image the world of Broadway”. His story mirrors the lives of so many other major influences to the Great White Way. So, his words give that extra stamp of approval of how necessary this book is and how it will surely educate you in a way you never thought before. And he was right.
Black Broadway provides an insider’s look at Broadway by focusing the spotlight on landmark shows including A Raisin in the Sun, Porgy and Bess, Dreamgirls, Fences, The Wiz, Purlie Victorious, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Bring in ‘Da Noise Bring in ‘Da Funk,and The Scottsboro Boys; great theatre writers including August Wilson, Lorraine Hansberry, Eubie Blake and Ossie Davis; legendary performers such as Paul Robeson, Ethel Waters, Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson, Pearl Bailey, Harry Belafonte, Sidney Poitier, Bert Williams, Sammy Davis Jr., and Cab Calloway; to Tony-winning stars who continue to light up the boards including Audra McDonald, Denzel Washington, James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, Savion Glover, Ben Vereen, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Leslie Uggams, Tonya Pinkins, Whoopi Goldberg, Jennifer Holliday, Billy Porter and more.
Everything about this book is just phenomenal. The pages are filled with over 300 dynamic pictures, many of which have never seen the light of day. Until now. It’s the pictures that draw you in but the history outlined in the words that keep you. And after it was all said and done, I just smiled.
I received the chance to sit down with the Mr. Lane to talk about the development of this book and his major influence in the theatre community. There was no way I could let the opportunity pass.
BroadwayBlack (BB): Mr. Lane you’ve been producing Broadway shows for over 30 years, written several books including “Jews on Broadway”, and won 6 Tony Awards. Why Black Broadway? What influenced you to do this?
Stewart F. Lane (SFL): It had never been done before and also I found a publisher who shared my vision. I wanted a book that would be illustrated with all sorts of posters,. pictures, and playbill covers. And they were willing to go down that road with me to acquire the rights to these things. This was more than just the African American contribution to the 20th century theatre, this goes back to 1600’s and thought it was important to tell this story. The dutch introduced slavery in the early 1600s but by 1624 there was already a black Shakespeare company doing Richard III. The Grove street company.
BB: You’ve had your hand in many of Broadway productions that starred black actors and often times in roles that were not traditional made for a black actor. Do you things have changed in acceptance of black actors not in “black roles”?
SFL: We understand that if a plot of play is racial centered it might be hard to do creative casting because its a part of the story. But if it’s something like Death Of A Salesman, why can’t you do an all-black cast. I remember, I graduated with Alfre Woodard (Boston University), and she was always talented and she was always getting cast but they were casting her as a maid or something else and she said “I don’t want that. I want something else.” And now she’s playing the President (in NBC’s drama pilot State Of Affairs). Doing colorblind casting allows you to explore and opens us up as artist.
BB: Have you ever had any resistance with colorblind casting with some of the projects you’ve done like the all-black cast of Streetcar Named Desire with Blair Underwood?
SFL: Someone was complaining to me that James Earl Jones plaything the president in The Best Man was inappropriate because in 1962 there would never have been a black President. But I said the play isn’t about race. We’re not going for stark accuracy here, we’re telling a story. However, the show was enormously successful, the public bought tickets to it and the play speaks for itself.
BB: What is your favorite part of this book?
SFL: I would have to say the Harlem Renaissance period. I was kind of familiar with it because I directed a production of Ain’t Misbehavin’. The idea of the whole migration north of the black community, looking for a better way of life, and using their talents to enrich everyone’s lives. Look what came out of it, Duke Ellington, Eubie Blake, the poetry of W. E. B. Dubois. I found that exciting.
BB: Top 3 Black Broadway shows. Plays or Musicals.
SFL: 1. A Raisin In The Sun
2. Ain’t Misbeavin
3. Purlie Victorious
It was a pleasure to sit down with Stewart F. Lane to dive more into what this book offers and how it all came to be. You should really get this book and we’re going to give you a chance to do so. Follow the rules below or buy your copy HERE
BLACK BROADWAY: AFRICAN AMERICANS ON THE GREAT WHITE WAY
BOOK GIVEAWAY RULES:
1. Follow @BroadwayBlack on Twitter
2. Like the @BroadwayBlack Facebook page.
3.Tweet us and tell us what famous black actress did Stewart F. Lane attend college with?
Winner will be announced on Thursday March 12, 2015
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!
Hamilton Lottery Goes Digital in the New Year
If you’re one of the hundreds of fans who’ve endured the pouring rain, shiftless crowds and the potentially lethal traffic of Times Square for a chance to win lottery tickets to the show of the century – you’re gonna love this. The record-breaking Broadway musical, Hamilton, announced that it would be temporarily shifting it’s wildly popular lottery event to a digital format as of Jan. 5.
Citing dangerous overcrowding and inclement weather, the powers that be have decided to make some improvements to the potentially treacherous lottery event before reintroducing it in the spring.
“We love seeing so many fans show up to participate in the Ham4Ham lottery and show,” Hamilton producer, Jeffrey Seller, said in a statement. “But we need to figure out how to safely accommodate our fans without blocking traffic on West 46th Street.”
Shortly after it began its run at The Public Theater, Hamilton has offered the drawing to fans who can’t afford or even access the $150+ tickets to the currently sold out run. The stage phenomenon garners, at minimum, 500 entrants per drawing: excited fans who, line, crowd and essentially dominate the slim street accessing the Richard Rodgers Theater.
An innovation made popular in 1996 by the cult-classic Rent, lottery, student rush, general rush and “standing room only” has become the poor man’s guide to Broadway.
Hamilton is just one of many Broadway productions offering an affordable digital lottery for what has become quite an expensive medium. Kinky Boots made the switch this summer and after 18 years on top of the Broadway ticket want list, The Lion King announced in November that they would be offering an online lottery. Introduced just in time for the holiday season, the lottery would make tickets for the musical, which generally average around $130, accessible to theatergoers at a reasonable price.
UPDATE: As of 11 AM on Jan. 5, Hamilton has broken the internet! Since opening the digital lottery at 9:30 AM, BroadwayDirect, the website that hosts multiple Broadway show lotteries, has read a “Service Unavailable” message. Twitter is all abuzz, including Lin Manuel Miranda who has assured Hamilfans, while he excels at many things, IT is not one of them. Hopefully the site will be up soon…cause we’re trying to get tickets too!