There is no question that there has been a struggle for representation of people of color in theatre. It is a challenge that underscores a systematic thought process that says that those who are of color are less talented and less capable. Even as Black culture continues to be appropriated, Blacks themselves still fall victim to systematic racism that seeks to devalue our contributions while simultaneously emulating them. This injustice, however, is not one that is unique to Black Americans. Across the pond, our talented brothers and sisters of color in the arts also continue to struggle with being represented in theatre in a way that is reflective of their numbers in society.
A new radio 10-part documentary series hosted by British comedian, actor and Bluesman Sir Lenny Henry seeks to spotlight the influence of unsung actors of color and their influence in British theatre, television and film. According to Sir Lenny (as he is called in the British Media),
This Radio 4 series covers a huge span of Black British theatre, TV and film – from Ira Aldridge to Steve McQueen and Nina Baden-Semper to Bola Agbaje – it’s a great sweep of history that excites and stimulates the imagination. It is easy to forget that there were precedents to our current age of BAME (Black, Asian and minority ethnic) breakthroughs and by talking to the likes of Roy Williams and Mustapha Matura, we acknowledge that the young reach their current heights by standing on the shoulders of those that went before.
@BBC puts theatre centre stage with major season this November https://t.co/6Ts17HY4gZ @LennyHenry @BBCArts
Sir Lenny could very well be considered a part of Black British entertainment royalty. Recently receiving his knighthood from the Queen for his contribution to the arts, he has been in the spotlight since 1975. He first became known for his comedic impersonations and stand-up comedy and has steadily expanded his presence through television, movies, advertisements and voice over work. While many Americans may still remain unfamiliar with his name, he is the co-founder of Comic Relief, a British charity that was created in response to the famine in Ethiopia and raises a large part of its funds through its event “Red Nose Day.” Over the years, in addition to his humanitarian efforts, Sir Lenny has made it a priority to highlight the need for diversity in British entertainment.
Lenny Henry breaks down why he’s not a fan of DJ’s, and why he likes buying music online. Subscribe here for more great BBC comedy clips http://www.youtube.com/subscription_center?add_user=BBCComedyGreats The home of great comedy on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/BBCComedyGreats This is a channel from BBC Worldwide who help fund new BBC programmes.
The series is a part of the BBC’s On Stage season and is entitled “Raising the Bar.” It will be broadcast on BBC Radio 4 throughout the month of November.
It’s certainly an exciting time for Black people in entertainment, both in America and Britain. As we continue to see the achievements of people of color highlighted, we not only hope but strive for more diversity and acknowledgement across all platforms of entertainment.
Michaela Coel Stars in London-based Musical “Been So Long” Film Adaption
Michaela Coel, creator, writer, and star of the BAFTA award-winning Netflix original series, “Chewing Gum”, stars in the London-based musical “Been So Long,” a film adaptation based on the 2009 stage musical by Ché Walker and Arthur Darvill.
Coel plays Simone, a young single mother charmed into a magical night in the city by a handsome stranger with a questionable past- played by Arinzé Kene (One Night in Miami). This modern day love story set in London’s “musical hot-bed” of Camden Town promises a soundtrack with a mix of RnB, Nu Soul and UK dance, as well as music from guest producers.
Coel is joined by an all-singing and all-dancing cast that includes George Mackay (“Captain Fantastic“), Ronke Adekoluejo (“Chewing Gum”), Ashley Thomas (“24”), Joe Dempsie (“Game Of Thrones”), Luke Norris (“The Duchess”), Rakie Ayola (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child) and Mya Lewis (“Olaf’s Quest”). It is Directed by BAFTA award-winner Tinge Krishnan (“Junkhearts”) and produced by the BAFTA-nominated Nadine Marsh-Edwards (“Bhaji on the Beach”) and Amanda Jenks (“The Girl”) of Greenacre Films.
Filming began earlier this year, shortly after season 2 of “Chewing Gum” was released on Netflix, and while she is making waves as a comedienne, Coel admits she is a stranger to musicals. However, Coel is no stranger to the stage and is quite theatrically and musically inclined having performed her one-woman show Chewing Gum Dreams in various theatres across London (2012-2014) before turning it into the hit series we know and love. She also wrote and recorded six of the tracks from season 1 of “Chewing Gum,” including the theme song.
Still, of singing and dancing on screen Coel shares, “It is a big stretch for me…I’ve never done anything like this in my life. It’s either going to be really amazing or just like, ‘What the f–k was that?’” (Screen Daily).
Either way, we’re rooting for her and can’t wait to see her on the big screen.
“Been So Long” made its rounds at the Cannes Film Festival in May and is set for international release in 2018. “Chewing Gum” season 3 is yet to be confirmed.
Marisha Wallace Leads The Color Purple as Celie in London Benefit Concert
Marisha Wallace, currently the alternate Effie in Dreamgirls in London, will star as Celie in a new one-night-only concert performance of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical The Color Purple at London’s Cadogan Hall, May 21st at 6:00 P.M.
The concert staging will raise funds for the British Theatre Academy, a unique performing arts program that has inspired and nurtured the talent of thousands of young performers who cannot afford to train in performing arts. The evening will also feature a chorus of over 40 current British Theatre Academy participants.
Based on the novel by Alice Walker, The Color Purple tells the inspiring and unforgettable story of a woman who, through love, finds the strength to triumph over adversity and discover her unique voice in the world.
The musical features a book by Marsha Norman, and music and lyrics by Brenda Russell, Allee Willis, and Stephen Bray.
Last seen in London at the Menier Chocolate Factory, directed by John Doyle and starring Tony-Award winner Cynthia Erivo, the production later transferred to Broadway and earned the 2016 Tony for Best Revival of A Musical.
In addition to Wallace as Celie, the cast of the benefit concert includes Wendy Mae Brown (Ghost) as Sofia, Cavin Cornwall (London’s Aladdin) as Mister, Tyrone Huntley (Dreamgirls) as Harpo, Rachel John (The Bodyguard) as Shug, Hugh Maynard (London’s Miss Saigon) as Pa, and Seyi Omooba (Junkyard) as Nettie.
The performance, produced by Matthew Chandler and Danielle Tarento, features musical direction by James Taylor and choreography by Mykal Rand.
Tickets now on sale.