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.
Brennyn Lark, Allison Semmes, & More Featured in Darkness RISING: Live 2! A Mental Health Benefit Concert
Join the Black Broadway community tonight, April 8th, as they perform inspirational cover songs at Darkness RISING: Live 2. The concert benefits Darkness RISING Nonprofit, an organization founded by Carlita Victoria, focuses on mental wellness in the Black community. Audience members will enjoy songs of hope from a range of genres: musical theatre, pop, R&B, and gospel under the musical direction of David Rowen of David Rowen Creative.
Darkness RISING Nonprofit is a mental health project with the goal of inspiring conversations about mental health, and helping to create access to mental health resources in the Black community in an effort to tell our stories and erase the stigma. The project was created as a means of Carlita facing her personal struggles with anxiety, depression, and PTSD. African Americans are 20% more likely to have serious psychological distress than other Americans. The project includes a newly released album on iTunes, a visual album on YouTube, live concerts, and free wellness workshops.
The event will be held at the Knitting Factory Brooklyn at 7 pm (doors open at 6:30pm) Located at 361 Metropolitan Ave in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The evening will include vendors, raffle prizes, a silent auction, and a full bar. $20 In advance, $25 At the door $40 VIP includes: Wristband, free drink, premier seating, swag bag, cast meet & greet. The show will be hosted by Broadway Black’s Drew Shade.
Tickets can be purchased at bkknittingfactory.com.
The cast features soloists:
Brennyn Lark, (DREAMGIRLS WEST END, LES MISERABLES BROADWAY)
Liisi LaFontaine (DREAMGIRLS WEST END, THE WINNER IS ABC)
Allison Semmes (MOTOWN BROADWAY, BOOK OF MORMON)
Gabrielle Reid (BEAUTIFUL THE MUSICAL, HAIRSPRAY BROADWAY, THE COLOR PURPLE NATIONAL TOUR),
Kris Roberts (BEAUTIFUL THE MUSICAL, FAME NATIONAL TOUR),
Jasmin Richardson (GETTING THE BAND BACK TOGETHER, THE BODYGUARD NATIONAL TOUR)
JoNathan Michael (DREAMGIRLS INTERNATIONAL TOUR, FAME NATIONAL TOUR)
Cedrina Shari (BONEY M),
Anita Welch (AVENUE Q NATIONAL TOUR)
Gerard Williams (JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR at North Carolina Theatre)
Nattalyee Randall (ROCKTOPIA)
Tamala Baldwin (DREAMGIRLS at NSMT)
Darkness RISING Founder, Carlita Victoria (HAIRSPRAY at Paramount Theatre).
The ensemble features Vlad Dorson, Valton Jackson (HALFTIME at PAPERMILL PLAYHOUSE), Ashley Jeudy (SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER at IVORYTON PLAYHOUSE), Nichollette Shorts (PHOENIX RISING), Sheniqua Trotman (DREAMGIRLS at IVORYTON THEATRE), David LaMarr (LITTLE MERMAID at TUACAHN), and Tatianna Mott (AVENUE Q at SMITHTOWN PAC).
Band memebers include: Ian Jess (Bass), Mark ‘Lace’ Gibbs (Guitar), Quinton Robinson (Drums), and David Rowen (Piano/Musical Director)
Darkness RISING: A Mental Health Awareness Project is sponsored, in part, by the
Greater New York Arts Development Fund of the New York City Department of Cultural
Affairs, administered by Brooklyn Arts Council (BAC) and Fractured Atlas. For more info: darknessrisingproject.org. Follow: @darknessrisingproject.
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🌟 ALL STAR CAST 🌟 These amazing vocalists will be performing at Darkness RISING live 2. You will not want to miss this performance on April 8th. Link in bio for tickets. _____ Monday 4/8 7pm Knitting Factory Williamsburg _____ $20 in advance $25 at the door _____ $40 VIP: + Swag Bag + Premier seating + Free drink + VIP photo + Wristband + Cast meet & greet This event is made possible by @nyscouncilonthearts, administered by @bkartscouncil. _____ #promo #rise #Riseup #discount #dontmissout #nyc #nycevents #eventscalendar #livemusic #livesingers #inspirationalmusic #thingstodoinnyc #benefitconcert #musicheals #Brooklyn #citylife #knittingfactory #nightlife #nycnights #BroadwayBlack #mentalhealth #mentalhealthawareness #mentalhealthmatters #Blackmentalhealth #DarknessRISING
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As someone who does their best to rise up every day in spite of depression & anxiety, mental healthiness, access to resources, and conversations particularly centering Black people are important to me. The @darknessrisingproject is doing the good work and I’m honored to be hosting their next benefit concert to further bring awareness and support for those in need. Join #broadwayblack along with some of Broadway’s finest voices April 8th, 2019 7 PM @knittingfactorybk to be uplifted and encouraged and also support the awesome organization that is @darknessrisingproject! 🔗 Link on bio for tickets! Thank you, @itscarlitav for your tireless efforts! What you’re doing is so important and necessary! That is #broadwayblack! 💜🙌🏽✊🏽
Erika Dickerson-Despenza Addresses Flint Water Crisis with Cullud Wattah
There is limited seating left for Erika Dickerson-Despenza’s new play CULLUD WATTAH at The Public Theater. Opening today, Thursday, March 7th and running until Sunday, March 10th in the Public Studio is about three generations of Black women living through the current water crisis in Flint, Michigan.
“It’s been 936 days since Marion’s family has had clean water. When local activists file a class action lawsuit against the city, Marion—a third-generation employee at General Motors—must decide how best to support her two daughters, sister, and mother while lead seeps into the community, their home, and their bodies. As corrosive memories and secrets rise among them, the family wonders if they’ll ever be able to filter out the truth.”
2018 Relentless Award Semifinalist and poet-playwright makes her Public Theater debut with CULLUD WATTAH directed by Lilly Award winner Candis C. Jones; the cast includes Deonna Bouye (Marion), Alana Raquel Bowers (Reesee), Caroline Stefanie Clay (Big Ma), Nikiya Mathis (Ainee), and Kara Young (Plum).
The creative team includes Production Stage Manager Gregory Fletcher, Stage Manager Priscilla Villanueva, and Movement Director Adesola Osakalumi. Along with scenic design by Arnulfo Maldonado, Costume Design by Ntokozo Fuzunina Kunene, lighting Design by Jeanette Oi-Suk Yew, and sound design by Megan Culley
We believe in this work so much we’re giving away 4 tickets to the performances on March 10th. 2 tickets to the matinee and two the evening performance thanks to our founder Drew Shade and actress/playwright Jocelyn Bioh. Go to our Instagram to find out how!
Also, find out more about how you can help the Flint Water Crisis and support this show HERE.
Listen to Erika talk about her work on an episode of Off Book Podcast below