Today is Debbie Allen’s 63rd birthday and what better way to celebrate it by watching what she does best, perform. Thank you Debbie Allen for inspiring us! Watch some of her greatest performances after the break.
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Debbie Allen and the Fame Dancers performing a medley at the 1982 Emmy Award.
Laurence Fishburne & A-List Celebs Celebrate Arthur Miller
When you’re a legendary and revered playwright like the great Arthur Miller, your 100th birthday celebration should be a star-studded occasion. And, indeed, the man who wrote Death of a Salesman, which is hailed as one of the 20th century’s finest American plays, is being feted by a bevy of theatre and film heavyweights including Broadway Black stars Laurence Fishburne, Katori Hall, and LaTanya Richardson Jackson. The tribute, “One Night, 100 Years,” will be held on January 25 on the set of a revival of Miller’s A View From The Bridge at the Lyceum Theatre.
Fishburne, Hall, and Richardson Jackson will join actors Bradley Cooper, Jake Gyllenhaal, Alec Baldwin, Ellen Barkin, Tony Kushner, Peter Sarsgaard, John Turturro and several others in reading excerpts from Miller’s autobiography, “Timebends,” and his unpublished works as well as scenes from his plays including Death of a Salesman, The Crucible, The Price, and All My Sons.
Tony Award winner Gregory Mosher who staged the 2010 Broadway revival of A View From the Bridge starring Liev Schreiber and Scarlett Johansson will direct the event. And, Cindy Tolan and Damon Cardasis are the evening’s producers. The current revival of A View From The Bridge will play at the Lyceum Theatre through February 21.
The one-night-only performance is a fundraiser for the Arthur Miller Foundation for Theater And Film Education, which promotes access and equity to public school theater and film education. The Foundation believes that “arts education is the right of every New York City public school student.”
Miller, a prolific playwright who is widely considered to be one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th century, won the Pulitzer Prize for Death of a Salesman. He also twice won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award, received two Emmy awards and three Tony Awards for his plays, as well as a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement. Miller also won an Obie award, a BBC Best Play Award, the George Foster Peabody Award, a Gold Medal for Drama from the National Institute of Arts and Letters.
Tickets are available here.
We Were There: Broadway’s Newest Original Musical Amazing Grace
There’s an ongoing joke in my family that if I could stay in school forever I would, simply because I love to learn, just not always in the traditional sense. Sometimes it takes beyond a classroom to truly learn and live something, that’s what Amazing Grace taught me, amongst other things. Written by Christopher Smith, Amazing Grace tells the true story behind one of the world’s most beloved song that I grew to love and learn from an early age, I just never knew where it came from. Amazing Grace does just that, it not only teaches you the songs rich origin, but it also makes the words come to life right before your very eyes.
Before the show began, the set was an image of the British flag plastered on a scrim, that dissolved into silhouettes of dancing women to the sounds of an upbeat drum as the lights dimmed and the show began. The scene changes drastically as the silhouettes that were once joyous, raise their hands overhead and ropes come down. Almost immediately I told myself, oh it’s about to get real. And real it got, there were scenes that were downright uncomfortable for me to watch, because I was angry about the historic event that was played with so much truth right before me. Thanks to my history and black studies classes, I know all about the slave auction, but the rawness of that scene truly moved me in a way I hadn’t known before. The actors gave 100% of their all to play the disparity and anguish that our ancestors had to go through.
Speaking of the cast, they were particularly solid having 100% of the company transferred from the Chicago run to the Broadway debut, a rarity. The show featured powerful performances by all involved, though Chuck Cooper, Laiona Michelle, and Harriett D. Foy stood out to me most.
Tony Award Winner and Broadway vet Chuck Cooper brings enormous strength and subtle vulnerability to his character Thomas whose purpose in the musical is meaningful and enlightening. In particular his solo, “Nowhere Left To Run” rendered me speechless.
The moment Harriett D. Foy appears on stage as Princess Peyai, she is a force to be reckoned with. Moving about the stage, slithering almost snakelike, her sultry movements and vivacious attitude draw you in almost immediately. You find yourself wanting to root for her, even if she was technically one of the antagonists.
In her Broadway debut, Laiona Michelle was such a joy to watch and brought me to tears more than once. Her performance as Nanna, servant to Erin Mackeys Mary, was an astonishing one. Her solo “Daybreak” gave me absolute chills, as she sang out into the audience, I could feel her pain, I felt her joy, I felt her hope.
Did I mention the set? There’s a moment, I won’t ruin it, before intermission that makes you question whether or not you are in the Nederlander Theatre or watching a 3D movie. So much attention to detail was given not only in the set but in lighting, costumes, hair and even the fight/military movement.
When the cast finally sang amazing Grace it all made sense, everything came full circle. Suddenly there was more weight to those words than there was before. After watching the story unfold before my eyes those past two hours, the words they finally sang at the end became richer and more urgent. Truly, it was a treat to sit in those seats and experience the moving piece of theater that was Amazing Grace.
I highly recommend this show for anyone who wants to learn about a historic song in such a unique way. I’m even tempted to take some of my students in the fall!
The show is officially open on Broadway and tickets can be purchased here, by calling 877-250-2929, or in person at the Nederlander Theatre Box Office (208 W. 41st St., btwn 7th & 8th Aves.)
All Hail King August Wilson!
On April 27, 2015 the world celebrated the seventieth birthday of American playwright August Wilson. We here at Broadway Black took the entire day to drop some knowledge on our social media followers about “America’s Shakespeare” through photos and facts. We highlighted some of his career successes along with discussing the impacts his work had on American culture. The hashtag #AllAUGUSTAllDay was used and magic ensued…
— Broadway Black (@BroadwayBlack) April 27, 2015
Our followers jumped at the opportunity to join in the praise…
— Mind Bar (@by_Meghan) April 27, 2015
— Linda Powell (@lindapnyc) April 28, 2015
— Goodman Theatre (@GoodmanTheatre) April 27, 2015
Happy Monday! Loving this #AllAUGUSTAllDay in celebration of August Wilson.
— ReBecca Theodore (@FilmFatale_NYC) April 27, 2015
— Broadway Black (@BroadwayBlack) April 27, 2015
August Wilson was an American playwright who did the unheard of- penning ten plays. One for each decade of the twentieth century for which he received two Pulitzer Prizes for Drama. The Century Cycle gave a glimpse into American history through the lens of the Black experience. It included: Fences, Jitney, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Gem of the Ocean, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars, Two Trains Running, Radio Golf, and King Hedley II. What made Wilson’s work so incredible is that he did not write the plays sequentially. In fact, the last play he wrote and staged, Gem of the Ocean, is actually the first in the cycle.
Many of today’s most successful black actors and actresses have been a part of August Wilson’s work. Talents like Denzel Washington, Viola Davis, James Earl Jones, Taraji P. Henson, Courtney B. Vance, Phylicia Rashad and too many others to list have all had the opportunity to live in Wilson’s worlds and obtain great success.
“I think the play offers (white Americans) a different way to look at black Americans… For instance, in ‘Fences’ they see a garbageman, a person they don’t really look at, although they see a garbageman every day. By looking at Troy’s life, white people find out that the content of this black garbageman’s life is affected by the same things- love, honor, beauty, betrayal, duty. Recognizing that these things are as much part of his life as theirs can affect how they think about and deal with black people in their lives.”
-“August Wilson, Theater’s Poet of Black America, Is Dead at 60” The New York Times, October 3, 2005.
August Wilson understood the power of the theatre and used it to its full potential by inserting honesty and realism into every play. The lines read like poetry- exuding love, pain, tragedy, joy, slight, and pride. There is a resounding truth in all of Wilson’s work. It connects us, not only to the Black experience, but to the human experience.
To Mr. Wilson we say thank you for loving our people as a whole. For not censoring our lives, but articulating the meanings to help us better understand ourselves. Thank you for your integrity and empowerment. For allowing your characters to be vivid, complex, angry, happy, confused, arrogant, and gracious. Thank you for creating substantial and sustainable work that is constantly giving to every generation until the end of time… Much love, sir.
Sharon Washington And Korey Jackson Celebrate Langston!
Happy Birthday Langston Hughes! The second annual celebration will take place at the Cornelia Street Cafe (29 Cornelia St New York, NY 10014) on Monday February 11th 6pm. Paul Hecht has been assembling regular poetry events at the Cafe for several years and this year he’s bringing actors Sharon Washington (Scottsboro Boys, Wild With Happy) and Korey Jackson (Wild With Happy) who will be reading Langston’s poems with music by members of the the HOME trio: Mazz Swift and Tanya Kalmanovitch.
Admission is $15 which includes a drink. What a great way to spend an evening–a glass of wine maybe, some music and listening to the words of one of the masters.
“An artist must be free to choose what he does, certainly, but he must also never be afraid to do what he must choose.” ~Langston Hughes From “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”
*Photo above is a Joseph Moran promo photo for Wild With Happy that played at the Public Theatre in October 2012 written by Colman Domingo and directed by Robert O’Hara. (l-r Colman Domingo, Korey Jackson, Sharon Washington and Maurice McRae)
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