As part of its inaugural Locally Grown Festival Theater J is presenting the world premiere of The Hampton Years. Written by Jacqueline E. Lawton and directed by Shirley Serotsky, The Hampton Years explores the development of African-American artists, John Biggers and Samella Lewis while under the tutelage of Austrian Jewish refugee painter and educator, Viktor Lowenfeld during their time at Hampton Institute – now Hampton University – during WWII. As the play unfolds it reveals the dreams and travails of young artists in a still segregated society while examining the impact of World War II on a Jewish immigrant and his wife finding shelter in the US and his controversial influence in shaping the careers of African American students. The Hampton Years runs through June 30.
Archive for theater
Modify. Transform. Adopt. Convert. All of them are simple words with often complicated implications. In the play The Convert written by Danai Gurira and directed by Michael John Garcés at Wooly Mammoth Theatre the complications are made clear and real.
Set in 1895 amid the colonial scramble for Southern Africa, the play follows Jekesai, a young girl who escapes village life and a forced marriage arrangement, ultimately discovering Christianity under the guidance of an African teacher. However, as anti-colonial sentiments rise to a boiling point, Jekesai must choose between her new European God and the spirits of her ancestors.
The Convert runs February 13 through March 10. In addition to performances, there is a series of discussions and activities to complement the show.
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.
The most exciting arrival on Pennsylvania Avenue NW since President Obama was welcomed to his new home in January 2009 took place last night July 12 with the opening party for Del Frisco’s Grille. Obama brought an excitement and fresh vibe to the 1600 block of Pennsylvania Avenue and following his lead Del Frisco’s is doing the same for the 1200 block. With a tasty menu of what owners are calling “a modern twist on the classic bar and grill” they have brought some excitement to the dining and bar options in an area that had been longing for something fresh. Del Frisco’s is certain to become a favorite for the lawyers, lobbyists and public servants that work in the surrounding blocks and now have a new place to play. It is a perfect addition to the neighborhood.
As Washington, DC prepares to host the first International AIDS Conference in the United States in twenty years in July, Arena Stage is bringing HIV/AIDS center stage with their production of Tony award winning play, The Normal Heart written by Larry Kramer and directed by Tony winner George C. Wolfe. Set in a time not that long ago, at the onset of the AIDS epidemic, according to press notes the play takes raw look at “a circle of friends that struggle to contain the mysterious disease ravaging New York’s gay community. Dismissed by politicians, frustrated by doctors and fighting with each other, their differences could tear them apart – or change the world.” The Normal Heart runs at Arena through July 29.
Sitting at any Passover Seder is a meaningful experience. Sitting at a Passover Seder with two newly-freed slaves in Richmond, Virginia in 1865 brings new dynamics to that experience. This is just what is occurring when the intricate stories begin to unfold in The Whipping Man, written by Matthew Lopez and directed by Jennifer Nelson, now playing at Theater J in Washington, DC. The two former slaves and the son of their former master explore slavery, secrets and the souls of men. Reviewers and crowds have applauded the production that runs through May 20.
This week a treasured venue of Washington, DC cultural life will re-open its doors after a $29 million dollar renovation. The stage of the historic Howard Theatre where the careers of Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Marvin Gaye and many others were launched has been restored her glory. It is only fitting that the new generation of performers who will be presented at the venue are direct descendants of such legacy. Acts booked in coming weeks include Wale, Chaka Khan, Yaasin Bey and The Roots.
As important as the music being performed in the venue is the fine detail in the resurrection of the external façade of the building and the newly unveiled statue of Duke Ellington that sits outside. The statue is a captures the spirit of the most remarkable cultural ambassador and favorite son of the District. Inside and out the Howard Theatre gives Washingtonians an opportunity to pay homage to the music of yesterday and the artists of today.