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Hamilton Hits the Road: Michael Luwoye, Jordan Donica & More! National Touring Cast Announced!

Tristan Halstead

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He’s just nonstop! In addition to the Broadway and Chicago production, Hamilton will take its first national touring company out on the road, with performances starting on March 10 at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre for 21 weeks, prior to a 21-week run in Los Angeles.

Joshua Henry, who opened the Chicago production as Aaron Burr, leads the tour, passing off his torch to Kinky Boots‘ and “Let’s Make a Deal’s” Wayne Brady.

Henry has appeared in several Broadway productions including Shuffle Along, Violet, Porgy & Bess, and American Idiot. Last fall, he performed in The Last Five Years concert with Tony-winner Cynthia Erivo.

Michael Luwoye and Rory O’Malley, the current alternate Hamilton and King George on Broadway, respectively, will reprise their roles and join Henry on tour. Luwoye made history last year as the only actor to portray both Hamilton and Burr.

The principle cast includes Phantom of the Opera’s Jordan Donica as Marquis De Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson; The Color Purple’s Isaiah Johnson as George Washington, Hamilton OBC-member Emmy Raver-Lampman as Angelica Schuyler; Rubén J. Carbajal as John Laurens/Phillip Hamilton; Amber Iman as Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds; Solea Pfeiffer as Eliza Hamilton; and Mathenee Treco as Hercules Mulligan/James Madison.

Additionally, Ryan Alvarado, Raymond Baynard, Amanda Braun, Daniel Ching, Karli Dinardo, Jeffery Duffy, Jennifer Geller, Jacob Guzman, Julia Harriman, Afra Hines, Sabrina Imamura, Lauren Kias, Yvette Lu, Desmond Newson, Desmond Nunn, Josh Andrés Rivera, Raven Thomas, Ryan Vasquez, Keenan D. Washington, and Andrew Wojtal complete the ensemble.

The 2016 Pulitzer Prize recipient features music, lyrics, and a book by Tony, Emmy, and Grammy winner Lin-Manuel Miranda.

More information on tickets will be available soon.

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The World is Wide Enough: Hamilton Second National Tour to Begin February 2018

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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Only days after launching the first national tour of Hamilton last week, producer Jeffrey Sellers announced that a second national tour will kick off in Seattle starting February 2018. After a six-week engagement, the tour will travel to Portland, Oregon; Salt Lake City, Utah; Costa Mesa, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Des Moines, Iowa; Cleveland, Ohio; and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

The second touring company will be the fourth Hamilton production to play concurrently in the U.S. Joining the first national tour (currently in San Fransisco before moving to L.A later this summer), the sit-down production in Chicago (which started September  2016), and the current Broadway production, with a London staging debuting in November of this year.

In a press statement, Seller comments:

“Beginning in 2018 more than 8,000 people a night will have the opportunity to see the show somewhere in North America. Indeed, Hamilton is for everyone. There has been tremendous interest in the show from markets across the country. The best way to get the show in front of as many people as possible is to form a new company to crisscross the country.”

The cast has yet to be announced, but keep checking into Broadway Black to be the first in the know!

Visit Hamilton for more information.

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Extended Runs

Ars Nova To Take Underground Railroad Game On Tour This Summer

Jazmine Harper-Davis

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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.

Ars Nova

Tamara Rodriguez Reichberg

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.

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A Must See

Alvin Ailey Takes Artistry and Spirit Across the World

George Kevin Jordan

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Photo: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater by Andrew Eccles

There are many traditions that shape the south.

Football is king.

Fried delicacies.

At the Fox Theater in Atlanta, the annual return of the Alvin Ailey Dance Company is fast becoming a tradition. Robert Battle, the company’s current Artistic Director, reminded the audience that they had been coming to the ATL since 2001.

Tradition, however, does not means old or tired. In fact, the show was a bit of the shake up from the norm with two very new pieces performed.

Let’s talk about one of them. Awakening,  choreographed by Battle by himself, is one of the most stunning performances on stage. The music was purposefully grating and raw. It resembled a horror movie score. The audience laughed uncomfortably at first, but soon they were mesmerized, like me, by the purity of the movements, the sharp, turns, and the intense physicality of the piece. For almost 20 minutes the dancers were in constant motion. Dressed in all white, they felt like a single unit fighting something together. The piece was unnerving with lights that flickered and displayed horizontally and vertically behind the dancers. While the other pieces were drenched in Afro and African diaspora, this piece was blanketed in sheer emotion. It opened after the intermission and enlivened an already excited audience.

At this stage they were well primed and pumped for the companies signature piece, Revelations. I had seen the piece a few times including another time years ago in Atlanta.

I recognized it as a lovely piece back then. But, age and life have come to convince me that Revelations is indeed a religious experience.

Sitting with a collective of mostly black folks (though there was a healthy sprinkle of diversity in the audience) I found my spirit called up more than my artistic sensibilities.

When the song “Didn’t My Lord Deliver Daniel” played  I felt transported back to my old baptist church, curved over the alter asking for the Lord to meet me halfway.

No matter how sophisticated and educated I think I am watching the Ailey dancers move as the Holy Spirit itself caught hold, I can’t help but wave my hand and say “hallelujah.” This is not to say the piece can not be enjoyed from a secular standpoint. The grace and move of the choreography holds up even though the piece was conceived by Ailey in 1960.

But I would be lying if I just spoke of the dancing. It was a spiritual and cathartic release and the audience reacted with every hand turn, every kick and every new song.

Thursday had four pieces- Open Door, Cry, Awakening, and Revelations.  All were enjoyable, but the second act showcased the cohesive merging of two artistic styles.

I am equally as excited to see what Ailey will do next and happy to have celebrated what they have already done.

Atlanta was only the beginning. The Alvin Ailey Dance Company is currently touring and could be in a city near you. Find the tour schedule here!

International tour schedule starts in September! View that schedule here!

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A Must See

Motown The Musical Tour: Chester Gregory Starring as Berry Gordy !

Nicole

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It was all a dream. While we are unsure if he grew up reading “Word Up” magazine, Chester Gregory found a way to turn his dream into reality and now joins the national tour of Motown the Musical. Gregory began his career humbly and with determination. As a child growing up in the hometown of his childhood icon Michael Jackson, Gregory knew he wanted to be an artist. With a combination of persistence and talent, Gregory soon found himself doing exactly what he had always dreamed of doing…being a star!

Gregory’s vocal range and acting prowess afforded him the lead role in Chicago’s Black Ensemble Theatre’s production of The Jackie Wilson Story, for which he received major acclaim. The Jackie Wilson Story culminated at New York’s famed Apollo Theater and received rave reviews from the New York Times: “There is essentially one reason – and it’s a very good one – to see The Jackie Wilson Story, and that is the star: Chester Gregory.”

Fast forward to today and Chester Gregory comfortably fits several high profile roles under his belt. Gregory had the opportunity to finally sing for his hometown idol, the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson, in 2003. He made his Broadway debut as ‘Seaweed’ in Hairspray and later joined the national tour of Dreamgirls with a jaw-dropping performance as ‘Jimmy Early’.

Audiences can’t seem to get enough of the man from Gary, Indiana with a dream. This year, Gregory adds his star power to  Motown The Musical as none other than Berry Gordy. Unsurprisingly, Gregory is already a hit!

Sophia Patrillo on Twitter

Congrats @ChesterGregory on making his debut as #BerryGordy today you killed of course!! Honored to share the stage with you Jr.!!

Motown the Musical is currently on tour across the USA but will make its return to Broadway July 12, 2016. Don’t miss your opportunity to see the amazing Chester Gregory on tour now. For more information on how you can purchase tickets and where you can see the show, click here

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A Must See

UK’s Paterson Joseph Paints Sancho’s Life In One-Man Show

Leah Marché

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He was born on a slave ship in 1729. After his mother died and his father committed suicide to avoid living as a slave, Charles “Sancho” Ignatius found his home in England. Though never a slave, he was outspoken against slavery and eventually became known as “the extraordinary Negro.” British actor Paterson Joseph, of HBO’s “The Leftovers” and the films Æon Flux and The Beach, has been celebrating the life of Sancho – the first Black person to have voted in Britain – since 2010 when Sancho: An Act of Remembrance was first performed at Oxford Playhouse.

Now the one-man show is making its New York premiere Dec. 16-20, at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM). The North American debut began in October at John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. The tour will culminate at Chicago Shakespeare Theater in February as part of the Shakespeare 400 Chicago, a yearlong international arts festival commemorating the 400 years since his death in 1616.

Joseph – whose credits abound with Royal Shakespeare Company (Julius Caesar, Othello, Henry IV, Hamlet, King Lear) and National Theatre in London (Royal Hunt for the Sun, The Emperor Jones) – “inhabits the curious, daringly determined life” of a composer, social satirist, poet, playwright and general man of refinement. Sancho, a distinguished man of letters who wrote two plays, would quote Shakespeare more than any other author. Among Sancho’s friends were Shakespeare actor and theatre owner David Garrick. Sancho himself became a grocery owner and property owner.

Written and performed by Joseph, the show is billed as an opportunity to cast new light on the often misunderstood narratives of the African-British experience. According to UK’s The Public Reviews, “Joseph is a superb storyteller… he brings Sancho to life in a revealing, poignant and funny show.”

Joseph’s experience involves working-class parents who emigrated to England from the Caribbean’s St. Lucia. He trained at Studio ’68 of Theatre Arts in London before attending the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art. In an interview, Joseph recalled being asked what he would like his legacy to entail. His answer was to inform Black youth about Black Britain before 1948 so they “would know something of what came before.” When Joseph came across the Thomas Gainsborough painting of Sancho in the book “Black England” by Gretchen Gerzina, he had found his calling. Joseph, 51, now is the same age as when Sancho died. Sancho was 39 when Gainsborough created his portrait – a sitting of about 100 minutes. In just under that time, Joseph re-creates a picture of noteworthy history.

In his author’s note, he writes:

“Charles Ignatius is quite simply a perfect example, and by no means the only one in British history, of the strange, sometimes uncomfortable relationship that the UK has always had with its colonies and colonial peoples. On the one hand exploitation was rife and unbridled, and on the other, the natural and common humanity of the British would not allow them to fully embrace the horrors of the American model of slavery, at least on British soil. And so Sancho’s life was filled with the joy and pain of being at once free and simultaneously caged within his race and place in eighteenth-century society.”

Performances will be at the BAM Fisher Theatre, 321 Ashland Place, in Brooklyn. Click HERE to purchase tickets. Get updates on the show’s Facebook page.

Newsnight on BBC talks about the impact of British theatre, including a brief interview with Joseph and excerpts from Sancho.

Sancho

This is “Sancho” by Tim Smith on Vimeo, the home for high quality videos and the people who love them.

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A Must See

Exclusive: Eric Berryman Talks Steel Hammer, His Bucket List, & More

April Reign

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The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) presents Steel Hammer in its New York premiere December 2-6 as part of its Next Wave Festival. Steel Hammer, according to the BAM website, “distills the discrepancies of over 200 variants of the classic ballad” and legend of John Henry into “a theatrical post-minimalist mountain-music hybrid.” Broadway Black had the opportunity for an exclusive interview with Eric Berryman, who plays John Henry.

Eric BarrymanBroadway Black (BB): Who is Eric Berryman?

Eric Berryman (EB): I’m from a Baltimore arts family. My great grandparents owned a jazz club in the 1960s in Baltimore. I went to a Magnet school in Baltimore and was raised by three generations of women: my great-grandmother, my grandmother, and my mother.   I’m from the Penn North area in Baltimore. As a frame of reference, the CVS that was burned down during the protests surrounding the death of Freddie Gray was in my neighborhood. I went to the Baltimore School for the Arts, alma mater of Tracie Thoms, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Tupac, among others. I then went to Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh and took outside work, becoming Equity at 18. I was cast in August Wilson’s plays in repertory, billed as stage readings, at the Kennedy Center in 2008, directed by Lou Bellamy. After graduating in 2011, the last four years have been an uncommon journey. I have always been of the mindset that actors did work. Broadway is great but is not an end goal of mine. I just always want to be telling stories. So I’ve done lots of regional theatre and was off-Broadway last year, in addition to performing internationally.

BB: Steel Hammer tells the story of John Henry. What does the legend say?

EB: John Henry was a Black railroad worker in the post-Civil War era. He drove steel through the mountains. As the Ballad tells, he faced a steam engine, raced it, beat the machine, and then dies. You get that story through dance, music, singing, and acting. There are 4 different playwrights (Kia Corthon, Will Power, Carl Hancock Rux and Regina Taylor) who have composed the story in their own words. It is not a linear story necessarily, but nothing like what you would get through the text. What interested us is that there are so many different versions and how different they all are. So what ties them together? He always had a woman. He was always the best. In our retelling, it serves as the newest ballad of John Henry and maybe the longest. We tell the story in various ways over and over again. Sometimes through movement sequences, text, dances, clogging, but the basic story is that one man has to do something great. When he falls, the community is there to pick him up so he does succeed.

The legend is something you know about from Disney shorts and it’s what fascinated me as a lover of Black history and Black classical history. It was about style, history, the early formation of a way of speaking, folklore and various cultures. It made me happy that we had a folklore that was mainstream in a sense. African American history has a lot of African history; for example, the Flying Monkeys are from Yoruba. I consider John Henry mainstream Black folklore like Paul Bunyan and Johnny Appleseed. John Henry was ours. I’ve always had an interest and love of that so when I heard about Steel Hammer, I knew I wanted to be a part of that.

BB: Because John Henry is folklore, how do you make it relevant for today?

EB: I am happy that Steel Hammer is happening. Once upon a time, John Henry was a name that was known throughout the land. He meant something to people, especially those below the Mason-Dixon line. It’s a bedtime story, especially to our grandparents. That consciousness has gone away in the world. This is a memory revived and thought of anew. It is more relevant and needed now more than any other time.

We explore the facts and the fictions. John Henry was most likely a forced laborer. One version says he was thrown on the side of the road in an unmarked grave after his death. With what’s happening now, the piece means something different. Our director Anne Bogart said the play is about Black Lives Matter. It is essentially folklore, oral tradition. But remember this man. How many people do we not know about who died? We knew about Rodney King, but how many others do we not know about before him? We happen to know about this one guy, but how many more are out there?

The playwrights have done an amazing job. It is the story of an eternal Black prisoner who’s been in jail for over 200 years. He is larger than life. How right of a time it is now to talk about this. There is new art about Blacks in prisons. My fascination comes from the root of that. And how Blacks are mass incarcerated, from a genius idea after the Emancipation Proclamation, to get free labor. Put Blacks in jail on a mass scale and sell them out to plantations and to chain gangs. Make up laws. “Pig laws” must be reinvented, so misdemeanors became felonies to keep Blacks in prison and keep a captive workforce.

BB: What can you tell us about Steel Hammer?

EB: Bang on a Can All-Stars are a contemporary music group including pianos, cellos, clarinet, upright bass, guitar and percussionist. Composer Julia Wolfe won the Pulitzer for music this year. In fact, Hammer was a Pulitzer finalist. There are six musicians and three female voices (Emily Eagen, Katie Geissinger & Molly Quinn). The performance is a deconstructed riff off of John Henry. If you’re used to the song, you’re not going to hear it in the entirety in any version.   Her music is a deconstructed minimalist, Phillip Glass-sounding, almost meditation on John Henry.

BB: What is next for you?

EB: After Steel Hammer. I will be back at BAM from Jan 16—Feb 6, 2016 performing in The Glory of the World, a tribute to the Catholic monk and writer Thomas Merton. It’s a wacky play. With 17 men on stage, “Trouble ensues.”

BB: You’ve performed around the world. What is on your bucket list?

EB: I have no bucket list. There is only one August Wilson play that has never made it to Broadway and that’s Jitney. I am now the perfect age to be in Jitney on Broadway. When performing the cycle of August Wilson plays at the Kennedy Ceter, we had shirts made that dubbed us “Wilsonian Soldiers.” I consider myself to be a young foot soldier but to be on the shirt was an honor and I continue in the desire to be a Wilsonian Soldier.

BB: What advice would you give to young artists of color?

EB: As Spike Lee said when accepting his Honorary Oscar. You have to be 10 times better than your counterparts to get in the door. And you must actually be good. You must actually be a sponge and absorb everything there is to absorb. It’s not that the talent has to be 10 times better, but the work ethic and discipline must be. The work that you put into the craft has to be 10 times better to be even considered. Whatever that means to you. Everybody has some kind of talent. What will make someone stand out is their work ethic and discipline. That you notice.

 Secondly, you must have an awareness of your own individual history and culture and family history, and the history of those that came before you. You may not have lived the same experience, but you must be aware of it. You don’t have to be from the streets to play it. But be aware of the spectrum of the Black experience. Be aware of how you’re perceived. That will help you know how to play an experience you haven’t had. And know how to change someone’s mind of you. To give somebody what they want. Once when I auditioned, they made me do one of my pieces “Black” or a “yo boy,” a little “more urban,” because obviously I didn’t come into the room like that, but they wanted to see how versatile I could be. There is dignity in that: Being able to give them what you look like but to give them something to change their mind. Denzel plays roles now because he’s accepted as a guy. But his early roles were exclusively Black people. The balance is that it’s a flux. It’s not like you’re going to stop playing Black roles. Rather, you’re looking for acceptance. Be considered “the actor.” Because you possess this skin, you can do what others can’t, but you can transcend that.

It is the same with speech: you want the awareness. You have the training to sound any way you want to. It is cultural awareness. It’s a choice. It is giving the dignity to the character. It’s painful to hear an actor who is unable to tap into August Wilson’s vernacular and poetry. They may not have that understanding. Why not want to have all of that — every tool possible at your disposal so you don’t take a check out of your pocket. The artist as a whole wants to have as many tools as possible so any role that comes up, they can do.

SITI Company is an ensemble theater company based in New York that tours extensively throughout the United States and internationally. SITI is dedicated to the creation of new work, the training of theater artists, and to international collaboration. Since its founding in 1992, SITI Company has redefined contemporary theater in the United States through an innovative approach to collaboration, cultural exchange and actor training. The company’s newest project is a dramatic incarnation of 2015 Pulitzer Prize-winner Julia Wolfe’s profound art ballad Steel Hammer, which has its New York Premiere At BAM’s Next Wave Festival, December 2–6. tickets can be purchased HERE.

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