You heard it here first, Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan, is leaving Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812. According to sources, the New Jersey born actor who is best known for the roles of Hercules Mulligan and James Madison in Hamilton, is being replaced by Mandy Patinkin in an effort to “boost ticket sales.” Oak’s relationship with The Great Comet has been rough from the start, as he was initially set to succeed Joshua Groban at the Imperial Theatre July 3 until delays caused him to start on July 11th. It was at the time that Onaodowan, tweeted in June that the show mysteriously needed another week to prepare for his arrival.
— The Incredible Oak (@OakSmash) June 30, 2017
Although this delay was not clarified by The Great Comet, it seems odd that Oak became responsible for communicating this information to fans as opposed to the show. The story of Onaodowan joining the cast with delays followed by the abrupt replacement of his role to boost ticket sales raises questions about how Black actors are valued and supported within Broadway. It is ironic when Black actors participate in narratives about colonial history, change present day history by adding to the diversity to Broadway, and then are easily replaced as if their only value to a production is based on ticket sales.
In 2016, Onaodowan won a Grammy award for his contributions to the Hamilton soundtrack. He is a talented actor with a rich stage resume on Broadway (Hamilton & Rocky), Off Broadway (Langston in Harlem & Neighbors) and on the small screen debuting as Afrika Bambaataa in three episodes of the Netflix original series The Get Down.
Critics agree that his performance in The Great Comet is stellar bringing a deeply moving energy to the character of Pierre. While it is a great loss to lose such a talented actor, it is clear The Great Comet will not be the last stop on his path of Black excellence. Onaodowan’s last performance as Pierre on Broadway is August 13th 2017.
On The Mountaintop: Martin Luther King’s Legacy of Love
The man we celebrate today came from holy beginnings. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy is laced with hymns and praises, and he is lauded as the leader of the civil rights movement. But Martin Luther King Jr. was just a man. He held rallies where that was a battle-cry, “I AM A MAN!” Today, calling Dr. King a man seems simple, belittling almost, but in his time it was too much to ask. As we celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., let’s revisit just how radical his proclamation was.
In Katori Hall’s The Mountaintop, we see a human King. There are no grandiose statues or great pulpits, just a man with a passion for freedom and love. The 2011 Broadway production starring Samuel L. Jackson as King & Angela Bassett as his co-star, left theatergoers standoffish in light of an imperfect King. Ironically enough, Katori drew the humanity out of King to pull the greatness out of us. Katori’s King was so openly fearful so that we could understand bravery. Katori immortalized King’s place in the theatre; she gave dimensions to a man who lived under the threat of death but spoke about the equality and promise of tomorrow.
Today we celebrate a man who not only spoke of equality under monuments but marched for it in the streets of Memphis. Martin Luther King Jr. remained steadfast in a movement that watched its leaders become martyrs every day. He was a man that demanded humanity from a nation that abused him for drinking coffee at diner countertops. In light of the tumultuous leadership heading to the American government, I encourage you to celebrate King by honoring his resilience.
King’s most potent weapon was his voice. Nations honored him, while ours feared what his determination could do. King thrived in a country that was committed to keeping the Black community marginalized and without structure. Martin Luther King did not just turn the other cheek; he faced discrimination with debilitating logic, grand inspiration and will power that eviscerated anyone that supported injustice. King’s tireless trek towards peace was consistent therefore mighty. Even when racists bombed his house, he spoke love and not hate to a crowd of angry onlookers.
We celebrate King, not only for his ideas but for the actions that brought them to life. Every January, we honor a man who gave his life so that we would give the same respect to the sanitation worker that we gave to the governor. Martin Luther King Jr. dedicated his life so that our character would speak for us instead of our color and he did just that. Even in the face of absolute hate, he spoke of love and solidarity.
Dr. King dedicated his life to creating a world as beautiful as the words he wove together. We celebrate Dr. King because, in his dreams, he saw a world that transcended hate and ascended to The Mountaintop. We honor Dr. King because while he was with us, he didn’t just preach about this mountaintop, he led us there too.
Tony & Emmy Nominated Actor Earle Hyman Passes Away at 91
It is with heavy hearts that we report television actor and theater great Earle Hyman passed away* November 17th, 2017, at the age of 91. Hyman was born October 11th, 1926 in Rocky Mount, North Carolina, of African-American and Native American ancestry. Hyman’s parents, Zachariah Hyman (Tuscarora) and Maria Lilly Plummer (Haliwa-Saponi/Nottoway), moved their family to Brooklyn, New York, where Hyman primarily grew up.
According to an interview in The Villager, Hyman’s interest in theater started at the age of 13 after seeing a production of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts. Hyman stated,
“The first play I ever saw was a present from my parents on my 13th birthday — Nazimova in ‘Ghosts’ at Brighton Beach on the subway circuit — and I just freaked out.”
Hyman would go on to make his Broadway stage debut as a teenager in 1943 in Run, Little Chillun, and later joined the American Negro Theater. The following year, Hyman began a two-year run playing the role of Rudolf on Broadway in Anna Lucasta, starring Hilda Simms in the title role. He became a charter member of the American Shakespeare Theatre beginning with its first season in 1955 and played the role of Othello in the 1957 season. Throughout his career, he continued to take on challenging characters playing side by side with great likes Andy Griffith (No Time for Sergeants 1958) and Luther Adler (The Merchants of Venice 1973). It was in 1980 when Hyman would get his shot at the lead, playing Oscar in The Lady from Dubuque, earning a Tony Award Nomination for Best Featured Actor.
His career on Broadway would span nearly 50 years with a total of 16 productions to his name with his work earning him a Theater World Award in 1965, and the 1988 St. Olav Award for his work in Norweigan Theater, a language for which he is also fluent.
In the television world his career spanned nearly 60 years with his first credited work being Look up and Live in 1954; Throughout the years he would continue playing various small screen roles including adaptions of Macbeth (1968), Julius Caesar (1979), and Coriolanus (1979).
However, He is best known for his role on the iconic sitcom The Cosby Show, where he played Russell Huxtable, father to Heathcliffe Huxtable played by Bill Cosby. His work garnered him a 1986 Primetime Emmy nomination for “Outstanding Guest Performer in a Comedy Series.” During this time, he also did work for the animated series “Thundercats,” where he played the voice of Pantho for five seasons.
Hyman is also related to the iconic singer and Broadway actress, the late Phyllis Hyman (Sophisticated Ladies 1981) and rising recording artist/actress Myriam Hyman (@Robynhoodmusic)
R.I.P. Earle Hyman (Best Featured Actor nominee @thetonyawards 1980 for ‘The Lady from Dubuque’) #YouAreBroadwayBlack • With over 15 Broadway credits to his name Earle Hyman was an American stage, TV, & film actor most notably known for his role on The Cosby Show as Cliff’s father, Russell Huxtable as well as the voice of Panthro on Thundercats. He made his Broadway debut in 1943 in ‘Run, Little Chillun’ & would later join the American Negro Theatre. Born October 11th, 1926 we honor his life and the contributions he made with his stellar craft. (Relation to music legend Phyllis Hyman & rising star @robynhoodmusic Miriam A. Hyman)
*We received this news shortly after his passing on the early morning of November 17th from a few close, reliable sources who reached out to us. Out of respect for his family & those who loved him personally we held the information until today.
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