The fall 2012 arts season will bring a breath of fresh air to the Washington theater community, and also a number of works featuring African American actors. With a mixture of dramas and musicals, familiar favorites and new work, offerings that appeal to old and young, several theaters are offering five very good reasons to visit them during the first half of their season.
Ralph Ellison’s groundbreaking novel that shined a penetrating light on race in America, Invisible Man, first published in 1952, has been adapted for the stage by Oren Jacoby and opens September 5 at the Studio Theatre. The show was first mounted last season at the Court Theatre in Chicago receiving tremendous praise and attention from audiences and became the highest grossing drama in that theaters history. The Studio Theatre production is the Washington area’s premier and is being directed by Christopher McElroen, a co-founder of the Classical Theatre of Harlem.
In late September Fly, written by Trey Ellis and Ricardo Khan lands on the stage of Ford’s Theater. Directed by Mr. Khan, Fly explores the lives of four Tuskegee Airmen that helped to break barriers of segregation in the United States military during World War II. Fly is the second in a series of productions being presented through the Lincoln Legacy Project, an initiative by Ford’s Theater to use the stage in fostering dialogue around the issues of tolerance, equality and acceptance.
As the holiday season approaches, the musical reigns supreme. Arena Stage makes your foot tap and soul sing with the world premier of Pullman Porter Blues, written by Cheryl L. West, who also wrote Before It Hits Home, Jar the Floor and Holiday Heart. In Pullman Porter Blues three generations of men from the Sykes family are all porters on a train heading from Chicago to New Orleans in June 1937 and the audience gets to take that ride with them on a journey through conversations about race, hope and reality, laced with 14 original and classic blues songs.
The Broadway musical that made stars out of Jennifer Holiday, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Loretta Devine and an Oscar winner of Jennifer Hudson, for her film portrayal of Effie White, Dreamgirls comes to the Signature Theatre in November. An exciting score that everyone can sing along to with characters in search of success and love that everyone can relate to, Dreamgirls is an American theater jewel that always shines.
And because theater is truly for everyone, children can’t be left out. Imagination Stage’s popular production of P.Nokio: A Hip-Hop Musical will run again from September 29 – October 18. A modern take on the tale of Pinocchio with a hip-hop twist, P. Nokio learns the power of truth. Through fun music, rhymes and dance it is an incredible lesson any kid can cheer about and it is a great introduction to the theater for young arts lovers in the making.