Plays by African American Women Take the Broadway Stage

Thursday, September 22, 2011

On Thursday night, "The Mountaintop," opens in previews. The Broadway play is the first of three plays penned or adapted by African-American women that are opening on Broadway this fall. Scroll down to learn more about Katori Hall's ode to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., as well as "Stick Fly" by Lydia Diamond and "The Gershwins' Porgy and Bess," which was adapted by Suzan-Lori Parks.

"The Mountaintop" by Katori Hall at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre With Samuel L. Jackson playing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Golden Globe-winner Angela Bassett in the role of a maid at the Lorraine Motel, this show, which opens in previews on Sept. 22, is guaranteed to attract some major crowds. It's set at the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was staying when he delivered his famous "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech on April 3, 1968 during the Memphis sanitation strike. The next day, he was assassinated.

"The Mountaintop" is Jackson's Broadway debut. (Bassett first took the Broadway stage in "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" in the '80s.) Grammy Award winner Branford Marsalis created the music for the Broadway show and Kenny Leon (Stick Fly, Fences, A Raisin in the Sun) is the director of the production, which opens officially on Oct. 13.

The production comes to the Great White Way from London's West End. "The Mountaintop" made history lat year after it got an Olivier Award for Best Play, a first for a female African-American playwright.

"Stick Fly" by Lydia Diamond at the Lyceum Theatre "Stick Fly" opens in previews on Nov. 18. The show, also directed by Kenny Leon (The Mountaintop), got some star power and music credibility after pop star Alicia Keys announced she would produce the Broadway show.

"I’m passionate about this play because it is so beautifully written and portrays black America in a way that we don’t often get to see in entertainment," Keys said in a press statement. "I know it will touch audiences who will find a piece of themselves somewhere inside this house.”

"Stick Fly" is set in Martha's Vineyard at the LeVay family's summer home and follows a meeting between the family and the new partners of the adult LeVay sons. Dulé Hill ("Psych," " The West Wing") plays Kent "Spoon" LeVay; Tracie Thoms (Rent, "Cold Case") plays Kent's fiancee, Taylor; Mekhi Phifer (Clockers, Eight Mile) plays Flip LeVay; and Rosie Benton plays Flip's white girlfriend, Kimber. Condola Rashad (Ruined) plays a maid named Cheryl and Tony Award-winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson ("Lackawanna Blues") plays Kent and Flip's father, Joe LeVay.

The play had its world premiere at Chicago’s Congo Square Theatre Company in 2006, and opens officially on Broadway on Dec. 8.

"The Gershwins' Porgy & Bess" adapted by Suzan-Lori Parks and Diedre Murray at the Richard Rodgers Theatre The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Suzan-Lori Parks (Topdog/Underdog, The America Play) and the OBIE-winning composer Diedre Murray (Running Man, Best of Both Worlds) adapted "The Gershwins' Porgy & Bess" for Broadway. (The play was originally written by George Gershwin, DuBose and Dorothy Heyward and Ira Gershwin.

The revival, directed by Diane Paulus, opens in previews on Dec. 17. The musical is set in Charleston, South Carolina, and is the love story of Bess, played by Audra McDonald ("Private Practice," "Grey's Anatomy,") and Porgy, played by Norm Lewis ("Dreamgirls," "Les Miserables," "Chicago"). Comedian, actor and author David Alan Grier ("Race," Dance Flick) plays Sporting Life.

The show comes to New York from the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass. It opens officially on Jan. 12.


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Comments [2]

cynthia gale

This was a wonderful evening-I never lost contact with the stage-although I was 3 tiers up next to the ceiling! I have been familiar with most of the Gershwin songs-but I only knew: Take a Boat to NY from an 1980's jazz artist.I was surprised this was written in 1935! I never attended a 3hr Opera some of the critics refer to-I only recall a film with Sammy Davis Jr. being the Sporting Life. Taking an opera to a musical show availabilty to a wider audience, I found two African American ladies on my next seats making a vocal call & response to what action was taken on-stage. I have to say first: it must have been so important to them to see black actors on the stage! I hope this successful evening will encourage them to future participation in the Arts.
To have such great talents as Audrea and John Lewis perform and then to have a "commercial" enterprise-excuse me- an entire cast of African American performers emloyed that gain tourists tickets and provide some intro to the Black experience in America...this is not a "shame". This is how we take small steps to instruct racial tolerance!

Jan. 26 2012 06:09 PM
DT from Brooklyn

I actually find this a bit troubling: New York is home to amazing black female playwrights (Lynn Nottage, Tracey Scott Wilson) and even a wonderful black female director (Liesl Tommy) and this trio (the notoriously flawed Porgy and Bess among them) is what gets the attention? That is a shame.

Sep. 22 2011 07:40 AM

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