My how time flies! 2015 has come to a close. Last year, there was much dismay over a season that was pointedly woman- and melanin-free, but never fear because Broadway Black is here. Check out our recommendations of must see shows (on and off-Broadway) with ample amounts of Black girl magic and (Black man mojo) on display!
In Eclipsed, Lupita Nyong’o stars in a complicated and brilliant story of women living in the midst of war-torn Liberia. Several captive wives define their survival in different ways while locked in the grip of a raging civil war. A young woman comes along and must decide for herself what path she will forge through the chaos. The play, penned by playwright and actress Danai Gurira (known for her role as ‘Michonne’ on the television series, “The Walking Dead”) explores themes of identity and choice in this stunning production. The production will hit Broadway at the John Golden Theatre with previews on February 23 and opens on March 6, 2016.
BroadwayBlack | Original Cast w/ @Lupita_Nyongo Set for @EclipsedBway, Will Make History https://t.co/gZLxb16kzy
Head of Passes
Beloved actress and Tony Winner Phylicia Rashad returns to Broadway to star in Head of Passes, a play that speaks to audiences of faith, acceptance and family. Head of Passes will begin previews on March 15, 2016, at the Newman Theater. Opening night is set for March 28.
At the mouth of the Mississippi River, Shelah’s family and friends have come to celebrate her birthday and save her from a leaking roof. But in this contemporary parable inspired by the Book of Job, unexpected events turn the reunion into the ultimate test of faith and love. As her world seems to collapse around her, Shelah must fight to survive the rising flood of life’s greatest challenges.
JUST IN: Phylicia Rashad Will Star in @octarell’s Head of Passes @PublicTheaterNY https://t.co/y77h9qgBs7
Shuffle Along is an African-American musical revue with music and lyrics by Noble Sissle and Eubie Blake, and a connecting plot about a mayoral race, written by Flournoy Miller and Aubrey Lyles. Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Brandon Victor Dixon, Joshua Henry, and Billy Porter make this a show not to miss! Shuffle Along will begin previews March 15, 2016, and open April 28, 2016 at Music Box Theatre in New York.
Whorl Inside A Loop (Broadway)
In Whorl Inside a Loop, a well-regarded actress agrees to teach six inmates how to tell their stories behind the bars of a men’s maximum-security prison. Sharing intimate and sometimes hilarious details of their former lives (while portraying characters of varying age, gender and race), this unlikely group forms a bond—even as the actress’ life outside spins out of control. And when what happens in prison doesn’t stay there, no one is sure whom to trust.
There’s quite a bit of buzz about this show making a Broadway debut in 2016 and we sincerely hope so! Although we’ve reported on the possibility of a Broadway transfer after it’s successful run at Second Stage Theatre, there is no official word about this work heading to Broadway. Stay tuned to Broadway Black for details on when and where to catch this production. (We’re crossing our fingers!)
Oscar winner Forest Whitaker will make his Broadway debut in this limited engagement at the Boothe Theatre. Previews begin February 8, 2016, and Opening Night is February 25, 2016.
Summer, 1928. New York City. Beyond the bright lights of the Great White Way, a small-time gambler and big-time drinker returns to the faded hotel he has made his home. He encounters a new night clerk at the front desk and as the early hours of the morning give way to another dawn, he continues to chase the American Dream in order to survive. Hughie is a rarely seen theatrical masterpiece that beautifully investigates the themes of loneliness and redemption and offers a unique insight into the human condition.
Kenny Leon directs this humorous offering by Lydia R. Diamond. Previews begin January 26, 2016 at the Tony Kiser Theatre with Opening Night set for February 11, 2016.
The quest for love, achievement and identity is universal, but what role does race play in the story of our lives? On the eve of Obama’s first election, four Harvard intellectuals find themselves entangled in a complex web of social and sexual politics in this provocative and funny new play by Lydia R. Diamond.
https://t.co/GB0rUSz0KC | #MahershalaAli & @TThompsonYES Will Star in Smart People @2STNYC https://t.co/tIgXEblKZ5
The Color Purple
The Color Purple heralds the debut of powerhouse Oscar, Golden Globe and Grammy-winning singer and actress Jennifer Hudson. The show began previews on Nov 10, 2015 and Opened Dec 10, 2015 and is currently running at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre.
This unforgettable and intensely moving new production mesmerized audiences when it premiered at London’s acclaimed Menier Chocolate Factory, where critics hailed it as “a revelation” (Mark Shenton, The Stage). Now, this American classic comes to Broadway with a powerhouse cast including celebrated London star Cynthia Erivo, who will recreate her electrifying performance as Celie, along with “Orange is the New Black” star Danielle Brooks.
Oscar®, Golden Globe® and Grammy® winner Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) has dazzled the world with her matchless talent. This fall, she makes her long-awaited Broadway debut as the sultry Shug Avery in the joyous and triumphant musical THE COLOR PURPLE.
We would LOVE to know your thoughts about this line up and whether you will be making plans to attend. Tweet us @BroadwayBlack!
We Were There: Sojourners & Her Portmanteau
[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Playwright, educator, opera singer, and Queen, Mfoniso Udofia has two plays running at New York Theatre Workshop. *pause* TWO PLAYS. In the SAME season!?!? *ends congratulatory gasp* Sojourners and Her Portmanteau are performed in repertory, as two chapters of Udofia’s sweeping, nine-part saga, The Ufot Cycle. Admittedly, before researching each show, I didn’t know the definition of either word; and in the spirit of keeping it consistent with the honesty, I didn’t like either play. I loved them.
Minimalism seems to be the name of the game these days. I sat down to a completely black stage, sans a multimedia display lodged on the ceiling at a 45-degree angle. Clutching my all white program and bobbing my head to the ‘70s pop rock pre-show music, I prepared my heart for the story of Sojourners, well at least that was the plan. The stage begins to rotate and we meet Abasiama (Chinasa Ogbuagu) and Ukpong (Hubert Point-Du Jour), Nigerian expatriates sojourning in Houston, Texas with the plan to start a family, earn their degrees, and go back to Nigeria until life happens.
Charming and handsome, Ukpong becomes defined by his leather jacket, shoulder work and shimmy which match the fascination and yearning for freedom that illuminates his eyes every time he talks of peace, protest, and Prince–all shaping his view of 1970s America, and consequently, the American Dream. But does leather compensate for grit? Is a movement or vibe really a panacea for disappointment, aimlessness, and a need to find yourself? Abasiama enters the play pregnant, purposed, and outfitted in pieces of Nigerian garb, grounded in duty showing a stark contrast to Ukpong who floats in desire. What’s lost in your household is found elsewhere, and this is when we start to see, and root for, Abasiama’s transformation from timid to tenacious.
Enter Moxie (Lakisha May), a colorful prostitute turned protector and friend. There is a mutual respect despite great differences between her and Abasiama, with their love for one another creating moments that make you believe in the beauty of humanity. Enter Disciple (Chinaza Uche), another warm and determined hearted immigrant who has come to the United States to study, rounding out the timely additions of love, support, and security when Abasiama needed them the most.
Through and through this is Abasiama’s story and she glows. Her kindness, her sisterhood, her strength, her worthiness, and the realization of her American Dream, guide her decisions—which is the catalyst behind the entire Ufot Cycle.
Her “portmanteau”, or red suitcase, makes a return as 30 years have passed. Abasiama now has two daughters, one raised in America and the other who has come from Nigeria to reconnect with her family.
This is a good moment to mention that each story is informed by the other, but can certainly stand alone on substance, content, and the amazing direction of Ed Sylvanus Iskandar. The staging is exciting and deliberate, while minimal, putting the full focus on the tension and growth to be expected of a family reunited after a substantial amount of time and distance.
Chinasa Ogbuagu returns to the stage, this time as the American-born daughter, Adiagha Ufot, Adepero Oduye as Iniabasi Ekpeyoung (Ukpong and Abasiama’s daughter), and Jenny Jules as the mother, Abasiama Ufot.
Seated on a couch in Adiagha’s small New York Apartment, no amount of preparation readies your mind and spirit to form the words to make up for 30 years of life, connection, and memories missed. We’re taken on a ride of resentment, hurt, love, and forgiveness, as the portmanteau is literally unpacked. We watch the teeter-tottering between offense and defense as one sister tries to assimilate into American culture, and the other attempts, albeit stubbornly, to fall in formation in honoring a family she shares blood with, but little time or tangible history.
It’s powerful to see a story of history and continuing a legacy despite lost time, faulty promises, and difficult choices explored with an all-woman cast as far too often the idea of legacy is framed in patriarchy. Jules admirably takes Abasiama through the fire to heal, to feel, and to fix her family. The narrative allows us to empathize and understand the struggle that comes with upholding family values versus cultivating a space to achieve personal dreams and happiness.
Her Portmanteau (and Sojourners) is written in a way that finds your soul, gently massaging it with humor, while leaving it with very real questions. I’ve never felt a greater need to binge read nine stories and simultaneously study the story of my own family tree. I left changed. I left wrapped in the strength of my mom and my mom’s- mom’s sacrifice. I left pensive and with seeds of future forgiveness planted. I left changed.
For capturing our hearts with wit and with truth. For putting Black women at the center of a poignant narrative. For unapologetically telling a story you haven’t seen told and telling it in the way you want it to be told.
We thank you Mfoniso. We thank you.
Have you seen the #duetplays? Sound off in the comments below![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]
Our Story in 2 Plays for 1 Price: Mfoniso Udofia’s Sojourners & Her Portmanteau
Last winter, we reported on Sojourners by playwright Mfoniso Udofia, a new play about a Nigerian family who has come to America with the goal of earning a college education, starting a family, and returning to Nigeria. But not without the twists and turns that come along with every plan that seems straightforward.
Thanks to New York Theatre Workshop, we get to relive this moment and continue the dialogue, decades later, with Her Portmanteau. Performed in repertory, these two chapters of Udofia’s sweeping, nine-part saga, The Ufot Cycle, chronicle the triumphs and losses of the tenacious matriarch of a Nigerian family.
Ed Sylvanus Iskandar directs the two-part story in association with The Playwrights Realm, who premiered Sojourners last winter in a limited engagement world premiere production. Her Portmanteau also received the 2016 Edgerton Foundation New Play Award grant.
As if that wasn’t enough to get excited about, we have an exclusive deal for our Broadway Black readers!
Our Story in 2 Plays for 1 Price!
Yes. That’s two shows for one price! The discount code BWYBLACK will take 50% off tickets to ANY performance(s) if purchased by May 15th!
Go ahead and grab your tickets. We have ours!
Sojourners and Her Portmanteau plays at NYTW until June 4th.