As part of Public Works, the Public Theater has announced that Tony Award winner Nikki M. James will star in Kwame Kwei-Armah and Shaina Taub’s musical adaptation of William Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night. The free production will take place at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, September 2nd through the 5th.
James plays heroine Viola, a shipwrecked young girl who takes the identity of her presumably dead twin brother. She falls in love with the Duke Orsino (played by Jose Llana), but also catches the eye of the Countess Olivia, Orsino’s object of affection. Joining them is Andrew Kober as Malvolio, Jacob Ming-Trent as Sir Toby Belch, and Taub as Feste. Shakespeare’s brilliant comedy features a slew of unusual courtships and mistaken-identity.
This production, which features over 200 actors and performances, includes a mixture of cameo appearances by COBU, Harlem Dance Club, Jambalaya Brass Band, The Love Show, New York Deaf Theatre, Ziranmen Kungfu Wushu Training Center, and One United States Postal Carrier.
Per its mission statement,
PUBLIC WORKS is a major initiative of The Public Theater that seeks to engage the people of New York by making them creators and not just spectators. Working deeply with partner organizations in all five boroughs, Public Works invites members of diverse communities to participate in workshops, take classes, attend performances at The Public, and, most importantly, to join in the creation of ambitious works of participatory theater.
James won a Tony Award in 2011 for her hilarious, nuanced performance in The Book of Mormon. Since then, she’s appeared Off-Broadway in Fetch Clay, Make Man, and in the second Broadway revival of Les Misérables as the tragic Éponine.
Additionally, Ming-Trent has appeared on Broadway in both Hands on a Hardbody and Shrek The Musical.
Delacorte distributes two free tickets per person starting at noon the day of the performance. The theatre also offers lottery tickets through the TodayTix app.
Visit Public for more information about Twelfth Night and Public Works.
The Public Theater Will Present Hercules Musical & Hercules Is Black!
We knew it was coming, we just didn’t know when. Back in 2017, we reported that a musical adaptation of the Disney movie Hercules would be headed to Broadway. Now we can confirm that is somewhat true.
Hercules will be the latest Disney musical to be made for the stage and will play Off-Broadway at the Public Theater’s Delacorte Theater in Central Park. As the final show of the Shakespeare in the Park season theater season performances will run August 31 through September 8 with a reading set to take place in April.
The role of Hercules will be played by a Black actor, according to the casting notice
The musical will include the Oscar-nominated “Go the Distance, along with other songs from the 1997 animated film by Alan Menken & David Zippel. Presented through an arrangement with Disney Theatrical Productions, the show will be directed by Lear deBessonet. The creative team also includes a book by Kristoffer Diaz, & choreography by Chase Brock.
Before Hercules, Kenny Leon will direct the Much Ado About Nothing May 21 through June 23 to begin the Shakespeare in the Park season.
Casting for all both productions will be announced at a later date
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.