Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Black Stars of the Great White Way: 3 Female Playwrights Present Productions this Season!!!

If you didn't already know, the hottest ticket of Broadway right about now is "The Mountaintop" with Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Basset. Portraying the late Martin Luther King, Jr. and the  mysterious maid he meets the very night before his assassination,  the two megawatt movie stars bring experience, passion, and true talent to their roles. Their performances have been buzzed about  ever since the play opened at the Bernod B. Jacobs Theatre on October 13th, 2011. It will run until January 15, 2012 (unless it gets extended, of course, which it should). It is truly a funny, spirited, controversial and powerful play.

What makes it really remarkable, though, is the playwright herself and the significance her production brings to this particular Broadway season.

For the first time ever, three Black Women Playwrights will have their work performed simultaneously on The Great White Way.  In addition to "The Mountaintop" creator Katori Hill, Lydia R. Diamond will debut "Stick Fly" in December at The Cort Theatre.  Her play was produced by Alicia Keys (who also composed the music-I guess she couldn't resist!) and also boasts some serious star power: Mekhi Phifer, Dule Hill, Tracie Thomas and Ruben Santiago-Hudson star in this drama about a rich Black family's secrets and lies. Joining the Broadway babies that are Ms. Hill and Ms. Diamond is veteran playwright Susan Lori Parks. She's revamped the classic "Porgy and Bess", which will be  featuring the talents of Audra McDonald and David Alan Grier (yes, that David Alan Grier) and begins previews December 17th at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.

A historic event, yes. But these women have had their way paved by others, such as  Miki Grant whose play "Don't Bother Me I Can't Cope" swept the Broadway stage from 1972-1974 and was nominated for numerous Tony Awards. She was one of the many, young and old,  who came out to Times Square on October 7th, 2011 for the annual "Black Stars of the Great White Way" gathering.
Playwright and Actress Micki Grant
(Don't Bother Me I Can't Cope)

 The event drew many from the theatre world: dancers, actors, composers, choreographers and the like.

Linda Twine, Composer
(Sophisticated Ladies, The Color Purple)
Ebony Jo Ann, Actress/Singer
(Ma Rainey's Black Bottom)
George Faison, Choreographer
(1st Black man to win Tony for Choreography, "The Wiz")

Maurice Hinds, Dancer/Choreographer
(Sophisticated Ladies)

Daniel Watts, Vivian Nixon, Actors
 (Memphis, Ruined)

"The Lion KIng" Cast Members
Norm Crosby, Actor
(Chicago, Porgy and Bess)

Still, without writers, without words, there would be no plays, no productions. This is not lost on Katori Hill who names Pulitzer Prize winning playwright Lynn Nottage ("Ruined") as her mentor and admires the work of  other emerging playwrights such as Rhada Blank, Dominique Morisseau and Pia Wilson.

Ms. Hill, who is also an actress, is open to writing in other genres.  She  initially thought she was going to be a novelist. The theatre, though, is the truth: "Playwriting requires you to write stories of witness--people have to be in the room for it to happen. The actors, they are like shamans or priests. When molecules react something spiritual happens."

I''m sure all of her Broadway contemporaries,  in  their truest theatrical fashion, would totally agree!

No comments: