New York City, center of the universe and smorgasbord of culture, is unsurprisingly revered as the ultimate city of immigrants. Each year, the New York City Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs commemorates the diversity in our roots through Immigrant Heritage Week. With a theme of “Immigrants are NY: Upholding our Values,” the week-long celebration is ending in the place we call home: the theater.
Mfoniso Udofia’s Sojourners, which had a recent run at Playwright’s Horizon, and Her Portmanteau, open at New York Theater Workshop this weekend. This Saturday, between shows, NYTW is partnering with the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs to present a special panel with playwright Mfoniso Udofia; Zeinab Eyega, Executive Director of Sauti Yetu; and Bitta Mostofi, Assistant Commissioner of the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. Our very own Founder & Editorial Director, Andrew Shade, will moderate the panel on Telling Immigrant Stories Through Theatre.
Jim Nicola, NYTW’s Artistic Director tells us:
“It all had to start, of course, with the compelling voice of an artist. Mfoniso is that. Her work is speaking on the subject of immigration in a specific way. To be an immigrant and leave the country you were born in takes a particular brand of courage and strength. The conversation is a part of a bigger conversation right now we’re engaging in as a nation and not in the most positive way. This helps see it more on a human level.”
Bitta Mostofi, Assistant Commissioner at the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, comments:
“When we tell our immigrant stories, we bring others into our history, our successes and our struggles. During Immigrant Heritage Week, we are so proud to have the opportunity to work with New York Theatre Workshop and award-winning playwright Mfoniso Udofia to use theatre as a medium for this dialogue. Art, and particularly theatre, have always been sites of public discourse and truth telling. By partnering with the New York Theatre Workshop on this panel at the close of Immigrant Heritage Week, we showcase once more how important cross-cultural celebration and exchange are to the vitality of our City, where 40 percent of residents are foreign-born.”
Join us for the panel, but don’t miss your opportunity to step into two chapters in the poetic world of The “Ufot Cycle,” chronicling the wins and losses of the matriarch of a Nigerian family. Tickets to Sojourners and Her Portmanteau can be found here.
The panel is Saturday, April 22, 2017, from 5:45 PM – 6:30 PM at the New York Theatre Workshop. 79 East 4th Street New York, NY 10003
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.
Raisin The Musical Opens First NYC Production After 35 Years
Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun debuted on Broadway in 1959 and later received two staged revivals in 2004 and 2014. Raisin, the musical adaptation of the play, won the Tony Award for Best Musical in 1974, but ask yourself the last time you’ve seen it on stage in NYC.
The answer: 35 years ago (35!?!?!).
Astoria Performing Arts Center (APAC) proudly presents a strictly limited engagement this month, and we couldn’t be more excited to see the stirring story of a Black family’s struggle, in the face of change, back on stage.
With a book by Robert Nemiroff and Charlotte Zaltzberg, Raisin tells the story of Walter Lee Younger and his mother, Lena, as they argue over the spending of insurance money. He wants to start a business with friends, while she eagerly hopes to move the family out of the South Side and into Clybourne Park, a middle-class white neighborhood. Pulsing with the beat of Judd
Pulsing with the beat of Judd Woldin’s music and lyrics penned by Robert Brittan, Raisin shows two sides of a coin on the idea of the “American Dream” in the context of the segregated 1950s Chicago.
Under the direction of APAC’s Artistic Director, Dev Bondarin, the cast includes: Maia Bedford, Aaron Casey*, Shabazz Green*, Chris Gwynn*, Marcie Henderson*, Greg Horton*, Brandi Knox*, Billy Lowrimore, Ebony Marshall-Oliver*, Sarita Amani Nash, Warren Nolan, Jr.*, Chinua B. Payne, Tony Perry*, Joi Danielle Price*, Vanessa Robinson, Alicia Thomas, Cartreze Tucker.
This program is supported in part by public funds from the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and NYSCA, with special thanks to Council Member Costa Constantinides. This program has been proudly supported by a grant from Investors Foundation. APAC presents Raisin by special arrangement with SAMUEL FRENCH, INC.
Raisin runs from May 4 through May 27, at the Good Shepherd United Methodist Church, 30-44 Crescent Street at 30th Road, Astoria, Queens. Performances take place on Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m. and Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tickets are $18, with $12 tickets for students and seniors.
But for our dedicated Broadway Black followers:
APAC is so excited to see you at the show that they’re teaming up with Broadway Black to offer readers a special discount of $3 off adult tickets — just enter code BWAYBLACK at checkout to get your discount!
Purchase tickets and learn more information at APAC.
(* denotes member of the Actor’s Equity Association)
Audra McDonald and Will Swenson To Host The 2017 Drama League Awards
Broadway couple Audra McDonald and Will Swenson will host the 83rd Annual Drama League Awards. What a perfect selection, it’s almost like we came up with it!
All jokes aside, we’re in the middle of awards season and anticipation runs high as we celebrate the work of our community all the way up until Tonys night on June 11.
In the weeks up to the Tonys, it can be hard to differentiate one award from the other. The Drama League Awards are unique in that they hinge on the Distinguished Performance Award. In a category of over 50 performers, this award goes to one artist a year, and can only be won once in an artist’s lifetime.
The Drama League previously announced its 2017 Special Recognition Honorees: the legendary Bette Midler will receive the Distinguished Achievement in Musical Theater Award; Bill Berloni will receive the Unique Contribution to the Theater Award for his work in animal training for Broadway, and Michael Greif will receive the Founders Award for Excellence in Directing.
The 83rd Annual Drama League Awards Ceremony and Luncheon includes a nominees cocktail reception, luncheon, and awards presentation and will be held at the Marriott Marquis Times Square in the Broadway Ballroom (1535 Broadway) on Friday, May 19, 2017, beginning at 11:30 am. Tony winners Patina Miller and Bebe Neuwirth announced nominations for the 83rd Annual Drama League Awards on April 19th at New York’s famed Sardi’s.
For a complete list of 2017 nominees click HERE.
We Were There: Lynn Nottage’s Sweat Opens on Broadway March 26th
I’ll never forget where I was when I found out Donald Trump pulled the scam of the century and became the leader of the free world. I don’t think we’ll ever forget that moment in time. We also won’t forget the power of a people scorned. These are the people we meet at the bar, where everyone knows your name, as brought to life by Pulitzer winner (Ruined) Lynn Nottage’s debut work on Broadway, Sweat.
Three men occupy the stage. DMV gray walls. One white, one Black, and one parole officer, clearly talking about the same (we infer) tragic event, which as a consequence, qualifies the former best friends as two males living on probation in the year 2008.
Music blares. John Lee Beatty’s detailed set spins. And we’re taken back to Reading, Pennsylvania, in 2000, where the law of the land is loyalty, tradition is king, and booze and drugs the currency.
From the moment Cynthia (an affecting Michelle Wilson) walks downstage, hair buoyant as her spirit, she commands a presence that’s tucked into the DNA of every strong Black woman. Within moments of seeing the friend group interact, it’s clear Wilson’s character is the glue that keeps this group together, as their wages dwindle and retirement plans fall apart.
We lean in as she speaks. It’s a birthday. And it’s tradition to celebrate at this bar. The women work “on the line” a steel tubing factory in the area. The community is in for a surprise as it begins to downsize and de-industrialize— a portrait that mirrors the economic climate in many cities in Trump’s America.
Loyalty is put to the test when Cynthia goes after a promotion and gets it. When push comes to shove, we see true colors. Condescension. Microaggressions. Blatant racism.
Just because we’re magic does not mean we’re not real.
Bloody, battered, and bruised, Cynthia trapeze walks the line of loyalty, where the stakes are survival and stability, losing her friends along the way, in a battle in which she was just a pawn.
Bold, angry, and passionate, Tracey (a convincing Johanna Day), magnifies a sweeping sense of nationalism and family pride— a pride she describes that can only be inherited from a people who “built” America (read: white). What’s most scary, is this rhetoric and reasoning is real. It’s human. And often comes out of our “liberal” leaning brothers and sisters who mean well, but may not have fully examined the extent of their inherent privilege, let alone, the Americans across the country living this reality and willing to take any promise of change.
Just when you sink into your chair and start thinking the music between each scene has become a little distracting, or begin to question if the issues covered (immigration, xenophobia, NAFTA, outsourcing jobs, race relations) have become didactic in tone; Nottage, a master in characterization, swoops in with a breath of fresh air and unravels each character’s sincere reason to be.
For Chris, the escape of the system. Witty and hilarious, Khris Davis, breaks our hearts by being in the wrong place at the wrong time and allowing loyalty to outweigh reason, squandering a bright future.
For Stan (a warm and wise James Colby) a life after injury. Jessie (Alison Wright) the dream to lead a life of adventure and love. For Oscar (Carlo Alban), an American born of Colombian immigrants, the stability and a chance to provide for his family.
But more often than not, we find the dream doesn’t surpass circumstance. Instead, circumstance overwhelmingly invites the cycle of stagnancy and status quo.
Sweat breaks down the salt, anger, and frustration of the blue-collar constituents of the rust belt and beyond. A story set in 2000-2008 is our current reality. As result, we couldn’t have a more timely piece on Broadway.
Sweat is Trump’s America.
It is the American people who voted him into office. The voices desperate for a radical change, clinging to an Orange lifeboat, no matter how problematic the package.
Differences aside, we’re all looking for answers and Nottage seems to answer the question of the day: what is America? Go, lean in, listen, and report back in the comments!
Sweat opened on Broadway at Studio 54 on March 26, 2017, after a run at the Public Theater, extended three times. This production welcomes many cast members from the Off-Broadway staging.
About Broadway Black:
BroadwayBlack.com is dedicated to highlighting the achievements and successes of African-American theatre artists on and off the Broadway stage. For so long, our voices have been skimmed over inside and outside of The Great White Way. However, we know we have experiences to share that are essential. BroadwayBlack.com serves as a collective of things we all care for. It is a platform for all things Black theatre. Created for the child in all of us who looked up to the stage searching for the faces that looked like ours. Celebrating the dedication of those who hand over their life to give all they have to the stage, shining light on those that continue our journey, & paying tribute to those who blazed the way for our story to be told, seen, and heard on The Great Way.
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