Photo by Lelund Durond for Broadway Black
The Broadway For Black Lives Matter electric sensation felt at the Roone Arledge Auditorium at Columbia University this past Monday was undeniably an authentic result of the power of unity. It was arguably one of the few spaces, if not the first, where Broadway stars, fans, music icons, and social justice advocates all joined together to discuss a plan for change in relation to the Black Lives Matter Movement. This event confirmed the importance of Broadway Black royalty at BWAY4BLM, operating as our key ingredient to the formula needed for change.
It is no secret that we all have something distinct to offer mankind. What we love to do and who we are explains this philanthropy quite well. That might be the ability to bring people together through music, playing an instrument or singing, and another by the ability to unify others with an inspirational speech or dance, or expression of ideas in a panel discussion. Either way, by opening a discussion between these parties, we are able to stress the importance of everyone working together by bringing their most prized and honorable feature to an event like BWAY4BLM.
With that in mind, I have been reimagining Ledisi’s rendition of the timeless “A Change Is Gonna Come” (by Sam Cooke), all week long. Her triumphant attitude paired with the audience’s irresistible hand raising and forceful movements was simply a transfer of energy. She imparted her power, success, and royalty to every person who tuned in. In fact, all of our participants added their respective talent as a contribution for change in an atmosphere that makes our idea of an equal society more tangible.
These voices: Audra McDonald, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Cynthia Erivo, India.Arie, Billy Porter, Ledisi, and Professor Frank Roberts have bridged the gap between people unconnected (for their own personal reasons) to the BLM movement. They’ve immersed the people who are uninvolved, uninterested, or unmoved by the countless deaths of innocent Black citizens in the discourse of human rights.
Our royalty has made the discourse of Black inclusion a coherent one, which was indigenous to their artistry. And as the art separately in its own division affects the non-supporters of the movement, so does the social platform for justice. That is because the platform is inherent to the artist, which is to say that they’ve skillfully justified Black Lives Matter in front of these uninterested crowds by solely intending to produce art. The same voice/s heard among a wide and diverse population has proven worthy and strong to the point of advocating for change. And during the time of the event, and before, even, our heroes named royalty used their success as a mode of education and communication toward ignorant US citizens who only set out to revere and respect their art.
The idea of opening up conversation and providing as many outlets and opportunities for viewership, involvement, and reflection is invaluable and could not have been done without individuals who are already admired for their accomplishments thus far. Our efforts in organizing this event has traveled far outside the country, beyond the four walls, into the homes of white music fans, and musical theatre kids, producers, journalists, professors, stage managers, make up artists and stylists, script consultants, presidents, colleagues, accountants, and any professional with connections to our artists. We offer our deepest thanksgiving to the commitment of our bold, beautiful, Broadway Black royalty, and on behalf of the team, thank you.
10th Annual August Wilson Monologue Competition Sets a Date!
The best monologue competition for high school students, in our opinion, has set a date for its 10th anniversary. The August Wilson Monologue Competition, founded by Kenny Leon & Todd Kreidler is a free arts education program, a celebration of the words of the playwright August Wilson, inspiring high school students to find and express themselves through theatre. It will take place on Monday, May 7, 2018, 7 pm, at where else?, The August Wilson Theater (245 W 52nd St, New York, NY 10019). The event is free & open to the public.
Produced in collaboration between Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company and Jujamcyn Theaters. The program is now in twelve cities nationwide, including Atlanta, Boston, Buffalo, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Haven, New York, Pittsburgh, Portland, Seattle, Dallas and Greensboro, North Carolina.
“The competition aims to expose a new generation of creative minds to the life’s work and artistic legacy of this seminal American playwright. Program participants in cities across the country encounter Wilson’s 10-play cycle and receive coaching from teaching artists as they prepare monologues for local, citywide, and national competitions.”
The first place winner will receive a $3,000 cash prize, the runner-up a $2,000 cash prize, and third place a $1,000 cash prize. Each of the winners will also become eligible for college scholarship opportunities, and all finalists receive the gift of TCG’s Century Cycle collection.
A panel of celebrity judges will evaluate the competitors and select a winner. The evening will also include performances by well-known Wilsonian veterans and special musical guests. Among those who have previously lent their support as performers, judges and guests are Phylicia Rashad, Russell Hornsby, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Guy Davis, Lynda Gravatt, Keith Randolph Smith, Tamara Tunie, Katori Hall, Maurice Hines, Chris Chalk, LaTanya Richardson, Heather Alicia Simms, Pauletta Washington, and Mykelti Williamson, among others. In the past, students have had the opportunity to spend time with other prominent Broadway performers over the course of the weekend, including Denzel Washington.
Alex Newell & Cynthia Erivo Get AmplifiED! for Urban Arts Partnership’s 2018 Benefit Gala
On Monday, April 16, 2018, Mike Yard and Emmy Award-winning actor Rory Albanese will co-host the Urban Arts Partnership 2018 Benefit titled AmplifiED at the Ziegfeld Ballroom (141 West 54th Street). The event will raise money to help combat injustices found in public education. Performances will include headliners Alex Newell (Once on this Island) & Tony Award winner Cynthia Erivo (The Color Purple) with UAP Artistic Board member Michael Kenneth Williams (Boardwalk Empire, The Wire) among the honorees. Marissa Shorenstein (President AT&T Northeast Region) & Niclas Nagler (UAP Board Member) will be honored, as well.
“UAP is a leading non-profit education organization that uses arts-integrated education programs and works to improve the lives of students of 100 low-income schools across New York and Los Angeles.”
Among the special guests, Danielle Brooks (The Color Purple, OITNB), Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels of Run-D.M.C., Tracie Thoms (Falsettos, Rent), Jenna Ushkowitz (Waitress), Amir Arison (The Blacklist), Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network), Cecily Strong (SNL), Jillian Jacobs, Diane Neal (Law and Order: SVU), Sadat X, & Geoffrey Arend.
We real cool. We Left school. We Lurk late. We Strike straight. We Sing sin. We Thin gin. We Jazz June. We Die soon. In 1960 Pulitzer Prize winner Gwendolyn Brooks’ haunting crescendo from innocence to downfall, “We Real Cool,” was published by Harpers.
Tickets begin at $750 & run upwards to $50,000 Table Packages
Cocktails begin at 6 pm with dinner at 7 pm, & DJ Dance Set ending out the night.
For tickets and more information, visit UrbanArts.org
Where You Want To Be! 5th Annual The New Black Fest at The Lark
The New Black Fest at The Lark is here! The 5th annual theatre festival founded by J. Holtham, Jocelyn Prince, & Keith Josef Adkins will take place April 9th – 13th, 2018. The New Black Fest is a gathering of artists, thinkers, activists, and audiences who are dedicated to stretching, interrogating and uplifting the Black aesthetic.
The week of events will take place at The Lark, a theater organization that has partnered with The New Black Fest since 2015.
“The Lark is proud to serve as a partner to The New Black Fest in its mission to celebrate insurgent voices within the diverse African diaspora through theater, music, and discussion”
“…a gathering of artists, thinkers, activists, and audiences who are dedicated to stretching, interrogating and uplifting the Black aesthetic.”
The kick-off event is sure to be one you’ll want to attend. Black Love, Black Space, and Solidarity, a panel discussion you can not afford to miss with a dynamic line-up that includes Keith Beauchamp (filmmaker, The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till), C.A. Johnson (playwright), Dominique Morisseau (playwright, TV writer), Quentin Walcott (anti-violence activist, educator, facilitator). The panel will be moderated by The New Black Fest founder and artistic director, Keith Josef Adkins. You’ll also have a chance to witness readings of plays by France-Luce Benson, Donja R. Love, Jonathan Payne, and Liza Jessie Peterson. Check out the deets and RSVP below! Visit The New Black Fest for more info!
April 9, 2018 at 7pm
Kick-Off Panel: Black Love, Black Space, and Solidarity
Moderated by Keith Josef Adkins, and featuring Keith A. Beauchamp, C.A. Johnson, Dominique Morisseau, and Quentin Walcott.
April 10, 2018 at 7pm
SISTERGURLS AND THE SQUIRREL
by Liza Jessie Peterson
Kitty, the sister of Karmica SutraQuita Jones (of Peterson’s Chiron Homegurl Healer Howls) runs an erotic-product business out of her home. A sales-depot of sorts. Several women gather regularly to sell the products and host sex-toy parties around town. But when a squirrel jumps into an open window, chaos ensues, a family secret is revealed, and old wounds come to the surface to be healed.
April 11, 2018 at 7pm
by Donja R. Love
Slammed against a poetic backdrop of Urban America, Mr. Isaiah, a recent hire at a disciplinary boarding high school, is ready to make a difference in the lives of his six male students. When one of his boys commits suicide, he is plagued with the questions: Where do Black and Brown boys go when they die? And what makes someone’s struggle so unbearable that they’d take their own life? While seeking answers to this question, he sees the sorrows that each of his boys dances with – and is reminded of his own.
April 12, 2018 at 7pm
DEUX FEMMES ON THE EDGE DE LA REVOLUTION
by France-Luce Benson
A pig is sacrificed, a goddess seduces a young bride, and enslaved and self-liberated Africans on the island of San Domingue rise up to end slavery and destroy colonialism. Deux Femmes on the Edge de la Revolution tells the story of the Haitian Revolution from the perspective of two women – an enslaved healer of African nobility, and a French woman sold into marriage. The two form an unlikely alliance on the battlefields of San Domingue, and like the revolution, their journeys will forever change the course of history.
April 13, 2018 at 7pm
by Jonathan Payne
An Easter Play with a false rabbit and a dead Christ, where the scattered tribes of the inner city are alone against the horrors of a terrible plague. Brother Rabbit questions the influence of the church in the Black Community. An institution once so rooted in the upward mobility of a people, may have tragically fallen out of the prestige it once had so long ago.
The New Black Fest is supported in part by a special grant from the Ford Foundation.
Additional support provided through grants to The Lark from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State Agency, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.
Harlem 9’s 7th Annual 48HOURS IN… ™HARLEM
Speaking to the Harlem9 team is like speaking to a group of old friends. This group of interdisciplinary artists has been collaboratively producing the Obie Award Winning 48HOURS IN… ™HARLEM festival for the last seven years, making their family vibe strong. Harlem9 is an arts organization comprised of various producing entities that have come together in Harlem to explore the past, present, and future of Black culture and celebrate the rich history of storytelling within the African diaspora. Garlia Cornelia, Bryan E. Glover, Eric Lockley, Jonathan McCrory, and Liberation Theatre Company (Sandra A. Daley-Sharif and Spencer Scott Barros) are the producers that comprise Harlem9. The event brings together 6 Playwrights, 6 Directors and 18 actors who respond to a literary prompt. Within 48 hours Playwrights write an original play, Directors direct an original production, and actors perform it off book for audiences.
The 7th Annual 48HOURS IN… ™HARLEM takes place on August 13th at 9:30 pm. The six playwrights include Jordan E. Cooper, Kelley Girod, Daniel Alexander Jones, Donja Love, Cynthia Robinson, and Stacey Rose. Playwrights will re-imagine short stories and poems from renown writers James Baldwin and Sonia Sanchez into 10-minute plays. This year’s Directors are Steve H. Broadnax III, Rodney Gilbert, Mary Hodges, Candis Jones, John Eric Scutchins & Monica L. Williams.
On the surface, this one night only-two performance event at The National Black Theatre is an intense exercise in dramaturgy. This monumental birthing of art is driven by the Harlem 9’s deep commitment to bringing Black people together in the present moment while honoring the legacy of Harlem as the mecca of all things Black Art.
Harlem 9’s twist on the traditional 24-hour play festival is only a small part of the magic that makes 48 Hours in Harlem special. The team is deeply committed to caring for each other within those 48 hours; evident to the commitment each has made the last 7 years. Writer, Director, and Harlem9 founding member Garlia Cornelia Jones-Ly shared that in the last 7 years her life has changed tremendously, resulting in a role shift within the Harlem 9. Despite life transitions, the care her colleagues provide leaves her feeling loved and supported.
The 48 Hours in Harlem fete requires all hands on deck, as each member shared stories of needing naps and having each other’s back to incorporate self-care into the project for themselves. The holistic attention they offer each other overflows into the collective care they provide the diverse group of artists they bring together for one weekend of marathon art making. This community offering is critical in the hardest moments of the festival, especially when they are down to the wire and actors are exhausted.
The Harlem 9 team is an excellent model for collaborative community based devised theatre and risk taking in art creation, a testament to the reason they have lasted this long.
They offer compensation to their artists and are raising money for this production on Go Fund Me. Tickets are now on sale for their August 13th culminating event 7th Annual 48HOURS IN… ™HARLEM – 7PM AND 9:30PM at The National Black Theatre in Harlem NY.
Lynn Nottage Today, Tomorrow and Beyond
Lynn Nottage’s 2017 Tony Award nominated play Sweat ended its Broadway run at Studio 54 on June 25. We weren’t ready to say goodbye to Sweat, and we’re definitely not ready to say goodbye to Lynn Nottage, leaving us to wonder what’s next for the two-time Pulitzer prize-winning playwright?
First, if you didn’t get a chance to see Sweat on Broadway or if you did but can’t get one of the poorest cities in America off your heart and mind, then you’ll want to visit Reading, Pennsylvania this summer. Shortly after finishing Sweat, Nottage came up with the idea for a site-specific performance installation honoring the people of Reading. Nottage shared that for a city divided by economical and racial politics, she wanted to highlight the city’s potential to use art and culture to bring its citizens together. The installation titled This is Reading will weave “individual stories into one cohesive and compelling tale of the city. Exploring the various viewpoints of the diverse community, [and] give the audience a vibrant and unique perspective of the city of Reading.” The installation will utilize live performance, visual media, and film. Located at Franklin Street Station, Reading PA, This is Reading will run July 14-16, July 21-23 and July 28-30.
What could possibly be next for Nottage? A musical of course!
Not just any musical, but an adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd’s book, The Secret Life of Bees. Book by Nottage, music by Duncan Sheik (Spring Awakening), lyrics by Susan Birkenhead (Jelly’s Last Jam) and direction by Sam Gold (Fun Home).
Nottage’s first musical follows the story of Lilly Owens, a white teen growing up in 1960’s South Carolina and her Black caretaker Rosaleen. After Rosaleen is hospitalized following an attempt to vote, she and Lily do their best to escape the harsh realities of their respective lives in the Jim Crow South, and happen upon a bee farm. “It sang to me” Nottage said of adapting Kidd’s book to a musical, “Every page I saw a song.”
The Secret Life of Bees will be presented as a workshop production at the Powerhouse Theater from July 27-29, apart of the New York Stage and Film’s 2017 season.
Finally, for the 2017/2018 season, Nottage’s play Mlima’s Tale will make it’s world premiere at The Public Theater and run from March 27 through May 20, 2018. Mlima’s Tale follows the story of Mlima, an african elephant caught between freedom and the
international ivory black market. Ultimately a story about trade itself, “Mlima leads us through memory and fear, history and tradition, want and need, and reveals the surprising and complicated deals that connect us all.” Next season, The Public will celebrate 50 years at its Astor Place location, and Lynn Nottage will be the only Black playwright with work presented.
From a site-specific performance installation, to her first musical, ending with another show at The Public Theater… Lynn Nottage has given us a lot to look forward to following her Broadway debut, and we will be ready. Sitting front and center.
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.