Tag: African-American theater

Jerald Gary, 30, Buys Historic Regal Theater in Chicago to Restore and Use with Art Non-Profits

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Jerald Gary (Photo credit: Melanie L. Brown for Steed Media Service)

article by Melanie L. Brown via rollingout.com

Rolling out interviewed Jerald Gary, the new owner of the New Regal Theater in Chicago. The 30-year-old talked about his memories of the Regal and how he came to acquire this historic building on the South Side.

Who is Jerald Gary?

I am a private equity investor. I bought the Regal Theater in 2014 to provide access to the performing arts for the community. I created the Chicago Regal Foundation to use the theater as a cultural asset that the community can leverage through various arts nonprofits. My day to day is figuring out how to render capital of the community more active and productive.

What is some history that you’ve heard about the Regal?

When I was growing up, the Regal was really in its prime. It reopened in 1987. It revived in 85′. I think it took them two years to do renovation, reopened it in 1987, and got it a landmark right there in ’92. Matter of fact, Mayor Harold Washington facilitated some money because doing the political thing for office in return was bringing dollars into the community. I got a picture of Ed Gardner and Harold Washington right there in the lobby. Harold was giving Ed a million-dollar check for the restoration. I saw a flyer the other day, it was Tupac and Biggie’s first time in Chicago on the Regal Theater stage. They were introducing a new [act], 17-year-old Kanye West, at the bottom of the flyer. Crucial Conflict was at the show, Da Brat was at the show, Common was at the show and a couple of other artists, at one show. That was the type of stuff that was going on. I [saw] Common and told him I was about to buy the Regal Theater and he stated how he thought Beyoncé and Jay were going to buy it. There was no Regal Theater from the mid ’70s until Avalon Theater was restored and they did the New Regal in 1987.

Who were some of the people that got their start with plays here?

Tyler Perry got his start at the Regal Theater. I was too young to go to his stuff but I remember his bus being in the parking lot. He was sleeping in his bus. It was a lot of church plays here.

Have you thought about changing the name from the New Regal Theater?

Yes, so we are going to change the name to Avalon Regal Theater because the building we’re in is the Avalon, which was from 1927 up until the mid ’70s. It was the Operation Regal Theater in Bronzeville so at the time so we had a lot of Irish German immigrants who lived here who came here for shows. Somebody came to me and said ” Wait right here.” The person came back and gave me a flyer from 1929 of a silent movie/music dance with the orchestra pit. They would do that type of stuff here until like the ’60s. It was mostly a movie house before they had multiplexes, this was the spot to come and see movies. A lot of white people come to me and say they use to come to Avalon and use to watch cartoons on Saturday. That’s the heritage as well, we want to preserve. The whole legacy of the Avalon Regal Theater (ART) is what we’re trying to get trending, the rich heritage of the South Side. The concept we have is we really feel this could be a Beale Street like in Memphis, [Tennessee]. They got like 20 or 30 music joints like on one strip, [along with] restaurants and bars. You can’t just have a venue and people can’t go get dinner before the show, a cocktail after the show. What you gonna get? Are you going to get robbed after the show? That’s what’s going to happen here now. Why can’t we have this [be] Beale Street? I feel like the South Side is like the Africa of the city. I think we have the opportunity to do crazy stuff like they did in Dubai. It’s cheap to do. We bought the Regal for $100,000. When I say “we” I mean the companies I chair. We bought it from the FDIC. It took us about nine months to negotiate because it’s a landmark. We had to get a blessing from a commissioner. We got about $7 million dollars worth of work to do. Three million dollars of that is on the facade. We probably are going to do a Kickstarter campaign.

When do you plan on opening?

We hope to be running by 2017.

How can people get more information about the Regal?

They can go to www.regaltheater.org and it has a lot of information about the project and the Regal itself.

To read full article, go to: http://rollingout.com/2016/06/03/new-regal-theater-868707/

THEATER: “Fall of The Kings” by Mai Sennaar Opens Tonight at Historic Andrew Freedman Home in the Bronx

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Bronx, NY – Designated as a New York City Historic Landmark, the Andrew Freedman Home, a vibrant location for arts and culture, is revitalizing the artistic landscape of the Bronx, New York.  On September 5, New York University alumni and producer Walter E. Puryear will mount “The Fall of the Kings,” a new American drama set in the 1940s.

The play tells the story of an African-American heiress and her Caribbean (Cuban) husband fighting to sustain their family in the midst of an economic disaster.

Described by the New York Times as “exactly the sort of place…that contemporary arts dreams are made of” the venue carries an undeniable palatial air and encompasses over 100,000 square feet. Freedman, a millionaire, former owner of the New York Giants and financier of the city’s first subway lines, bequeathed funding to construct the Home in the 1920s as a luxurious residence for once-wealthy senior citizens.

Playwright Mai Sennaar (photo via baltimoresun.com)
Playwright Mai Sennaar (photo via baltimoresun.com)

The playwright, Mai Sennaar, is an alumna of the Tisch School of the Arts. She is a mentee of noted playwright and screenwriter Richard Wesley (The Mighty Gents, Broadway) and Broadway and film actress Novella Nelson. At the age of 19, Sennaar’s first play, “The Broken Window Theory,” was produced at the famed Nuyorican Poets’ Cafe starring Tony Award-winner Tonya Pinkins and directed by Tony Award-nominee Michele Shay.

“The Fall of the Kings” production crew includes choreographer, Dyane Harvey-Salaam, whose Broadway, film and television credits include: The Wiz (original stage and film versions) and the Spike Lee film “School Daze.”  Set designer, Christopher Cumberbatch’s work has appeared both in theatre and in the Spike Lee films, “Crooklyn” and “Malcolm X.” Composer Dianaruthe Wharton Sennaar is a founding member of Sweet Honey in the Rock and composer for Ntozake Shange’s Broadway hit “For Colored Girls…”  The award-winning, Grammy-nominated composer and trumpeter Christian Scott is a featured guest soloist on the play’s main theme.

“The Fall of the Kings” is an immersive theatre experience where the fourth wall crumbles and the story moves the audience through intimate rooms and enthralling portrayals, welcoming the audience right into the home and lives of the Kings.

“Kings” opens today, September 5 at 8pm, with performances running through November 1st.  Tickets range from $30-$45. Discounts are available for groups, Bronx residents, seniors, and students. Exclusive Bed & Breakfast and Bus trip packages are also available.

For tickets and information: www.thefallofthekings.com

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)

Stephanie Mills Returning to “The Wiz” for NBC’s Live Broadcast this December

Stephanie Mills

Stephanie Mills will ease on down to NBC’s upcoming musical adaptation of “The Wiz,” itself an African American musical adaptation of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”

Mills played Dorothy in Broadway’s “The Wiz” in 1975 and in a 1984 revival, but will portray Aunti Em in NBC’s live broadcast of the play. The network is looking to find a newcomer to play Dorothy.

Stephanie Mills in The Wiz on Broadway

NBC announced in March that “The Wiz” would follow NBC’s previous live musical productions “The Sound of Music” and “Peter Pan.” But “The Wiz” will be the first to be co-produced by Cirque du Soleil’s new stage theatrical division, which will also help adapt the show for the Broadway stage.

The announcement was reportedly made at the Peacock network’s New York upfronts, and was later shared on Twitter by executive producer Craig Zadan.

The production will air on Dec. 3, with plans to bring it to the Broadway in the 2016-17 season.

article via eurweb.com

OPERA: South African Isango Ensemble Reimagines Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” at New Victory Theater

Pauline Malefane, foreground, of the Isango Ensemble in a reimagining of Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute” at the New Victory Theater. (EMON HASSAN FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES)

Less glockenspiel, more drumming! A very different sort of “The Magic Flute” took the stage at the New Victory Theater on Sunday afternoon in front of an attentive and appreciative family audience. This two-hour adaptation of Mozart’s fairy tale opera was presented under the Xhosa title “Impempe Yomlingo” by the South African Isango Ensemble, a company that recruits performers from townships in the Cape Town area and presents classics from the Western canon in an updated, African context.

But perhaps “updated” isn’t quite the right word: In the program notes, the show’s director, Mark Dornford-May, relates a myth from the Tsonga tradition about the andlati birds that live high in the mountains and cause terrifying storms and lightning. Only a hero brave enough to seek them out with a magic flute can appease them and avert destruction.

“The story may never have reached Mozart, but the similarities are fascinating nonetheless,” Mr. Dornford-May writes. “Who knows? Maybe one of the greatest pieces of European opera had its roots and inspiration in a South African folk tale.”

Certainly, few productions can match the colorful exuberance and pulsating energy of this “Flute,” or field as versatile a cast as this, in which every member sings, dances and drums. The bare set evokes a township square. The traditional orchestra is replaced by eight marimbas, supplemented by an array of percussion, including djembes, oil barrels, hand clapping and — standing in for Papageno’s glockenspiel — suspended water bottles of graduated pitches. Tamino’s flute is a trumpet, played with jazzy vigor by Mandisi Dyantyis, the ensemble’s co-music director and conductor.

The vocal performances were a testament to South Africa’s deep pool of singing talent. The notes were all there — Pauline Malefane courageously scaled the heights of the Queen of the Night’s arias; Mhlekazi Mosiea was a dignified Tamino; Ayanda Eleki, a proud, patriarchal Sarastro — even if there were times when they audibly strained the limits of the singers’ technique. But the cast offered portrayals with ample personality and charisma, among them Zolina Ngejane’s superfeisty Pamina and Zamile Gantana’s bon-vivant Papageno.

But this African “Flute” is, above all, a story of community, and the music, too, is at its most convincing where it draws on South Africa’s glorious choral tradition. If that means taking liberties with Mozart’s score, fine: Tamino’s taming of Monostatos and his posse of slaves suffers no injury by the infusion of a bit of calypso rhythm. The celebrations that greet Sarastro’s first appearance — complete with ululating women — are a jubilant riot.

The communal aspect also raises the stakes for the lovers’ trials, which are presented as a series of tribal initiation rites, with Tamino’s face painted white, like that of a tribal youngster embarking on a circumcision ritual. In traditional productions, this is often the part of the opera where the tension slackens, but in this post-apartheid setting, the young people’s quest for dignity, wisdom and reconciliation is shown to be of vital importance to everyone.

THEATER REVIEW: “Bootycandy” Looks at Black Attitudes Toward Gays

“Bootycandy”: Robert O’Hara’s play stars, from left, Lance Coadie Williams, Phillip James Brannon and Benja Kay Thomas at Playwrights Horizons. (SARA KRULWICH / THE NEW YORK TIMES)

The reaction isn’t the concern and outrage we expect, to say the least.

“What was you doing?” his mother suspiciously demands.

Reading a book, comes the meek answer.

“You was just sitting up in a library reading a book, and some man got up and decided to try to follow you home?” she says scornfully.

His stepfather, vaguely hearing this conversation, barely looks up from his paper to mutter his own comment: “You need to take up some sports.”

The scene grows only more bracing and hilarious as the interrogation continues. When the boy, Sutter (Phillip James Brannon), who’s decked out in full Michael Jackson regalia, complete with one sequined glove, reminds his mother that this same man has approached him before, she and his stepfather continue to view his experience as proof of his own wayward behavior.

Why the hell is he reading the likes of Jackie Collins anyway? Why does he play so many Whitney Houston albums? The ultimate solution to this problem of men following him around, proposed by this dismissive mother: “This school year: no musicals.”

“Bootycandy,” which Mr. O’Hara has directed as well, kicks off the season at Playwrights Horizons in New York, where it opened on Wednesday night, with a big, bold bang, underscoring this theater’s reputation as one of the city’s more adventurous incubators of daring playwriting. As raw in its language and raucous in spirit as it is smart and provocative, the play depicts the life of a black gay man in a series of scenes that range widely in style. Many fly wildly into the realm of the absurd, while others are naturalistic pictures of Sutter’s life as he comes to terms with his sexuality and the damage his culture’s attitude toward it may have inflicted on his psyche.

Mr. Brannon plays the central character throughout. Convincing as boy, teenager and man, he modulates his performance with wonderful grace as the tone shifts from scene to scene. Four other terrific actors — Jessica Frances Dukes, Benja Kay Thomas, Lance Coadie Williams and Jesse Pennington — each play several roles, many outrageously comic.

Passages from Sutter’s life alternate with scenes that play upon similar themes. In one, a minister, embodied by Mr. Williams in roof-raising hyper-evangelical mode, admonishes his flock for paying heed to salacious rumors about “sexually perverted” members of the church choir, only to rip off his clerical robes and reveal something rather startling underneath.

Continue reading “THEATER REVIEW: “Bootycandy” Looks at Black Attitudes Toward Gays”

Tupac Shakur’s Songs Fuel Broadway Musical ‘Holler if Ya Hear Me’ Opening June 19 at Palace Theater

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Saul Williams, center, in “Holler if Ya Hear Me.” (Credit Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times)

In the spring of 2001, Todd Kreidler met his boss, the playwright August Wilson, for breakfast at the Cafe Edison, as was their custom. Mr. Kreidler was assisting Wilson as he brought his play “King Hedley II” to Broadway, but really he was there to learn whatever Wilson wanted to teach him. And that morning, the subject was Tupac Shakur.

After a bit of chitchat, Wilson was exasperated with his charge. “You don’t really know ‘Dear Mama,’ ” he said, referring to Shakur’s signature ode to his mother. He got up, threw money on the table, marched out the door and to the nearby Virgin Megastore. There, he bought a copy of Shakur’s album “Me Against the World” and pressed it into Mr. Kreidler’s hands.

“There’s nothing contained in your life that’s not contained in that music,” Wilson told him, Mr. Kreidler recalled. “There’s love, honor, duty, betrayal, love of a people. There’s a whole universe in that music!” He made it clear, with some vulgarities for emphasis, that Mr. Kreidler wasn’t to return to rehearsal until he’d absorbed it all.

Tupac Shakur
Tupac Shakur in 1992. (Credit Eli Reed/Magnum Photos)

So on the day in 2010, when Mr. Kreidler opened a FedEx box with 23 of Shakur’s CDs and two books of his writings, tasked with building from them a musical rooted in that rapper’s words, he was prepared.

The result is “Holler if Ya Hear Me,” which opens at the Palace Theater on June 19, and weaves 21 songs by Shakur (two of which are musically arranged versions of his poems) into a story about a community struggling to pull hope from the grasp of entrenched social ills. Put differently, it’s not a Broadway-ification of Shakur’s life or vision so much as a repurposing of his words into an emotionally felt, family-friendly context.

“It’s a story about unconditional love that uplifts all of his words,” said Kenny Leon, the musical’s director, a veteran of Wilson’s “Fences” and the current “A Raisin in the Sun.” In that, “Holler” has plenty in common with the rest of Broadway, and the creative team was careful in managing how the play handled what Mr. Leon termed “the things that people think they hate” — bad language, guns, violence.

But it’s an open question whether the familiar Broadway audience, or even the middle-class black theatergoers who have been drawn in by “Raisin,” can make room in their hearts and wallets for Shakur’s words. Hip-hop has made it to Broadway before, but the Tony-winning “In the Heights” tested the waters Off Broadway first, and didn’t have to contend with an implied star whom people find controversial even years after his death.

The $8 million production seems to be splitting the difference; opening directly on Broadway — in a prime Times Square location that last housed “Annie,” no less — but after the Tony awards deadline. (Pop-minded shows like “Bring It On – The Musical” have lately taken a similar route.) Though influential producers were invited to the show’s workshops, they by and large declined to invest. Instead, the lead producers are Eric Gold, a longtime Hollywood manager and producer who is new to Broadway, and Shin Chun-soo, a South Korean theater impresario. “I’m prepared to nobly fail or to nobly succeed,” Mr. Gold said.

Murdered in 1996 in a case that’s still unsolved, Shakur remains, even after all these years, one of hip-hop’s most celebrated figures, a radical thug intellectual with an outsize gift for creating his character in real time. He was prolific and contradictory, a child of activists signed, late in his career, to Death Row, the label that mainstreamed gangster rap.

Continue reading “Tupac Shakur’s Songs Fuel Broadway Musical ‘Holler if Ya Hear Me’ Opening June 19 at Palace Theater”

“A Raisin In The Sun” Revival Garners Four Tony Nominations

A Raisin In The Sun

The Tony Nominations for 2014 were announced this morning, and the current production of the Lorraine Hansberry classic, A Raisin In The Sun, earned four, including Best Revival of A Play.  Raisin‘s LaTanya Richardson Jackson was nominated in the Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role in a Play, and Sophie Okonedo and Anika Noni Rose both were nominated in the Featured Actress category for their outstanding work in the production.

Denzel Washington, who anchors the play by reviving the Walter Younger role that garnered Sidney Poitier a Tony nomination in the original Broadway production, was overlooked in the Leading Actor category.

Another notable nomination is Audra McDonald for her Leading Actress performance as Billie Holiday in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill. The full list of Tony nominees follows: Continue reading ““A Raisin In The Sun” Revival Garners Four Tony Nominations”

Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Kyle Abraham Hip-Hop Performance Pieces Captivate at Lincoln Center Out of Doors

Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s “Word Becomes Flesh” was performed at Lincoln Center Out of Doors. (Photo: Ruby Washington/The New York Times)

In a split bill at Damrosch Park Bandshell in New York City, Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s “Word Becomes Flesh” and Kyle Abraham’s “Pavement” explored race, power and, most specifically, what it means to be a black man in contemporary society as part of the Lincoln Center Out of Doors series last Thursday night. Using spoken word, movement and music, Mr. Joseph takes on the issues confronting black fatherhood in “Word Becomes Flesh,” which program notes describe as a “choreopoem.” First performed in 2003 by Mr. Joseph, the work is a recitation of letters written to his unborn son. Now “Word” is reimagined for an ensemble cast of six. The performers share their fears about bringing a child — first addressed as “heartbeat” and later as “brown boy” — into the world.

Spurts of movement — diagonal runs from the wings; slow, exaggerated steps; and springy jumps — often serve to accentuate the wistful text, which magnifies the idea of multiple, insecure fathers-to-be. “You have an intrinsically intimate relationship with your mother,” one dancer says, “but your dad didn’t check out when you were in the womb.”

For all of its words, Mr. Joseph’s loquacious piece lacks poetry. Mr. Abraham’s “Pavement” is more elegiac, yet the thorny sightlines of the Damrosch bandshell did the piece few favors. Mr. Abraham is a beautiful dancer — unpredictable and spry, with the kind of articulation that is likely to become only more refined and subtle with age — but his packed productions are somewhat unconvincing.  “Pavement,” influenced by the writings of W. E. B. Du Bois and John Singleton’s 1991 film “Boyz N the Hood,” is set in the historically black neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. It was there, at 14, that Mr. Abraham first watched the Singleton movie; audio clips from the film are included in the production.

Tension is wonderful in a work, and Mr. Abraham’s propensity for moving his dancers in multiple directions — his movement phrases show a body swirling one way and then the next before evading momentum with a backward hop in arabesque — can be exhilarating. But the push and pull between narrative and dancing throughout “Pavement” gives it a choppy, locomotive feel. The film audio is overkill.

Continue reading “Marc Bamuthi Joseph and Kyle Abraham Hip-Hop Performance Pieces Captivate at Lincoln Center Out of Doors”

Denzel Washington Returning To Broadway For ‘Raisin In The Sun’ Revival

After unconfirmed rumors from Showbiz411, the man himself, Denzel Washington has confirmed that he is indeed returning to Broadway in 2014 to star in a revival of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, to be directed by Kenny Leon.  Washington confirmed the rumors last night at the New York premiere of his action-comedy 2 Guns, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Although he didn’t say whether he’ll be joined by Sophie Okenedo, Anika Noni Rose and Diahann Carroll, as Showbiz411 also previously reported.  But since they got Denzel’s involvement right (as well as the play, director and producer), I’d assume that they are also correct on the casting of the three actresses.

Denzel didn’t tell the WSJ what role he’ll be playing in the production, but, really, who else would it be but the lead protagonist, Walter Lee Younger? Certainly not Joseph Asagai nor George Murchison. Besides, I don’t see Denzel returning to Broadway to take a supporting role.  Assuming Sophie Okenedo and Anika Noni Rose are indeed attached, they’d likely play Walter Younger’s sister (Beneatha) and wife (Ruth).  Showbiz411 pegged Diahann Carroll as the family matriarch, Lena (“mama”).  Scott Rudin will produce.

Continue reading “Denzel Washington Returning To Broadway For ‘Raisin In The Sun’ Revival”

Cicely Tyson and Vanessa Williams Return to Broadway in ‘The Trip To Bountiful’

trip-to-bountifulAfter three weeks of previews, the Broadway production of Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful starring Emmy winner Cicely Tyson, Academy Award winner Cuba Gooding Jr., Emmy Award nominee Vanessa Williams and Tony Award nominee Condola Rashad, opened on Tuesday at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre to several rave reviews (see below). Directed by Michael Wilson and produced by Nelle Nugent, the 14-week limited engagement will end on June 30, so if you’re interested, get your tickets by clicking here.

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article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson

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