Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #9

March 23rd, 2006  |  Published in Kay Bourne Arts Report


by Kay Bourne
 Kay Bourne Arts  Report   Issue #9 Filmmaker, Lisa Simmons and her sister, Alison Simmons, were cleaning out the house of their Aunt Mil when they came upon a large box in the back of a closet. The big carton contained a treasure trove of playbills, flyers, and photographs from a time in the 1930′s when Boston was a star among some thirty-nine Black Theater Units, functioning in various cities, nationwide.

The WPA Federal Theatre Project was established as part of an economic recovery program under President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” The Depression had put nearly everyone on the skids. For a lively group of theater artists of Color across the country, and here in Boston, directed by Ralf Coleman, however, the Federal Theatre Project gave steady employment. There were also Theatre Project units devoted to Yiddish, Irish, and Italian ethnicities, which in Boston, often shared costumes, actors, and stage space. Above is a cast photo from a Boston Negro Federal Theater play entitled, “JERICO.”

“I knew I’d hit gold!” exclaimed Simmons at the debut screening of her work-in-progress, documentary short, “Boston’s Negro Theater: 1935-1939.” An audience at the Great Hall in Dorchester, March 20, ooh-ed and aah-ed at the stills of actors, including a young Frank Silvera, from a time gone-by. Ralf Coleman’s company put on plays throughout Boston, often at the Repertory Theater, now the Huntington currently operated by Boston University (where in recent years, August Wilson’s plays were staged, prior to going onto Broadway). The early Monday evening screening of Simmons’s documentary, edited by Robin Saunders, was sponsored by Filmmakers Collaborative, the Huntington Theater, and the Codman Square Library branch of the Boston Public Library.

Obviously pleased at the enthusiastic response to her film and its topic, Simmons told the sizeable audience that she plans to expand the 12-minute “Boston’s Negro Theater: 1935-1939″ to perhaps an hour. “I’m going to put myself into it somehow – so many of the people were family members, including Uncle Frank (Silvera).” she said.

by Kay Bourne
 Kay Bourne Arts  Report   Issue #9Even before those heady times, Ralf Coleman had established the Boston Players, which he directed. The company provided the cast for the New York production of Paul Green’s “Roll Sweet Chariot” (1933 – 34) with Ralf as the romantic lead, Tom Sterling and his brother, Warren Coleman, as the mythic “John Henry.” The following year, Warren originated the role of Crown, on Broadway, in the debut of the opera “Porgy and Bess”.

Film, TV, and theater actor, FRANK SILVERA, however, emerged from the Boston unit’s WPA Federal Theater Project years. And taking a leaf from Ralf Coleman’s book, Silvera would act, direct, produce and write plays for the stage and screen. He acted in some 63 movies and TV episodes. Born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1914, Silvera was five years old when his family moved to Boston. He was educated in Boston Public Schools, and before deciding on an acting career, went to Northeastern Law School, with plans to become a teacher of Law.

Following the WPA years, Silvera headed for New York and then Hollywood. He was very active in The Civil Rights Movement of the 50′s and 60′s, and gave James Baldwin his first Broadway experience as a playwright when Silvera produced (with Maria Cole, Nat “King” Cole’s wife) and directed “The Amen Corner” in 1965. He also took the lead in Baldwin’s other play, “Blues For Mister Charlie” when the drama about the Civil Rights Movement was produced in L.A. where Silvera was then making his home.

Silvera, was cast in motion pictures with roles portraying Black, Latino, Polynesian, and Mexican characters. In 1952, Silvera’s film debut was in “Viva Zapata,” and appeared in a number of movies now available on video, including “Valdez is Coming” (1971), “The Greatest Story Ever Told” (1965), “Toys in the Attic” (1963) and “Killer’s Kiss” (1955).

As seen in the photo above, Silvera held the role of ‘Don Sebastian Montoya’ in “The High Chaparral” television series from 1967 until his sudden and accidental death during the fourth season in 1970. The two-hour “New Lion of Sonora” episode is regarded as the conclusion of the series, with the first hour a tribute to Silvera, highlighting Montoya’s memorable presence through flashbacks.

HIGH CHAPARRAL/Frank Silvera link

by Kay Bourne
 Kay Bourne Arts  Report   Issue #9When Spike Lee first read Russell Gewirtz’s script for “INSIDE MAN,” it’s likely Lee empathized, immediately. The story is about some contemporary Jews who take revenge on a banker whose wealth was jump-started by collaborating with the Nazis. There’s a stash of diamonds, for example, and diamonds are dirty, whether stolen by Nazis bent on exterminating Jews or mined by Black South Africans during Apartheid. And there is also the expose that, usually behind great wealth is a great crime (whether the evil doers are Fascists or slave holders in America’s South.)

“INSIDE MAN” (40 Acres and A Mule Filmworks) stars Denzel Washington as a NYPD detective matching wits with a clever bank robber played by Clive Owen. Lee likely enjoyed a story that portrays Black and Jewish intelligence dueling effectively with both minds operating to the detriment of sleazy power brokers. The most fascinating character, to my mind, however, is “A Fixer” played by Jodie Foster. Her character is runs a business which makes problems of the very rich and elite, go away.

On the surface, though, “Inside Man” would come across as merely a high-octane, action picture that any Hollywood worthy could have helmed, were it not for the recognizable “Lee” touches.

To begin with, Lee’s a New York City homie, with all the boroughs as his ‘hood. His camera gets down with the city symphonically. You feel his love for his bustling hometown and for the myriads of people who reside in it. He finds their starchiness, humorous and heroic. In the readable and informative chronicle of Lee’s career “That’s My Story and I’m Sticking to It” by Spike Lee as told to Kaleem Aftab (W.W. Norton & Company, 2005), the authors make note that “from the get-go, Spike was showing a propensity to make use of friends and family, a fascination with New York as a backdrop and a desire to tell stories from a Black perspective.” Lee’s got his brothers working in “Inside Man” and many of the important behind-the-camera artists, as well as actor Denzel Washington, have been with Lee on previous movies.

Lee’s a true descendant of the great Oscar Micheaux with his Micheaux Film and Book Company, who generations back made films from a Black perspective. In 1918, Micheaux was the first Black man to make a feature length film which he financed himself. And when D.W.Griffith’s racist “Birth of a Nation” hit the screens, Micheaux immediately filmed a Black response, “Within Our Gates” (1920). For decades, his were the only films taking on issues of race from an African American point of view.

INSIDE MAN website. Opens in theaters Mar. 24

The Color of Film and Roxbury Community College’s Media Arts Center invite you to the screening of “Two Short Films by Boston Filmmakers of Color” on Thursday, MARCH 23, 6:30pm at RCC’s Media Arts Center, 1234 Columbus Ave. at the Orange Line, Roxbury Crossing T-Stop, directly across from The Reggie Lewis Track & Field Center. Suggested donation is $5, free to TCOF members, RCC students and staff with ID.

“MARIA,” directed and produced by Nisha Murickan (13 minutes long) is a compelling, visual exploration of post- traumatic conscioiusness. Join Maria, as her painful past continues to intrude upon her fragmented mind, without warning. What happens when barriers that seem to protect her inside from without, the sacred from the profane, and herself from her past, finally break down?

“T WINS,” directed and produced by Jibril Haynes (25 minutes long), is a dark comedy where two people pursuing separate passions collide with unexpected results. An aspiring actress, studying with a “famed” acting coach, and her boyfriend-rapper (Jaden) reach their boiling points when neither can truly respect the other’s craft. The tension results in a wildly played-out scenario…and another “Fred Williams Acting School graduate” is born! Q&A with filmmakers immediately following. (These two films aren’t suitable for children.)

The Color of Film hosts a monthly series of staged readings and screenings to highlight and present the works of local, independent filmmakers of Color. The series runs from September to June at RCC and The Boston Public Library, Copley Sq. Branch. The COLOR OF FILM website

 Kay Bourne Arts  Report   Issue #9The Color of Film Collaborative, Inc. & ROOTZ TO RHYTHM tv thank all who attended our Special Event, The Official dvd & cd RELEASE PARTY of the film ONE LOVE, a few weeks ago, at RCC where we had the co-star of the movie, CHERINE ANDERSON as our special guest, along with Boston’s most talented reggae performers: IGINA, D!ARRYVAL and ANDREW G.

Here are some comments from those who attended the screening: “…a complete experience to come to a public setting and see a Black Love story that ends on a positive note with such talented young people…” “Better than The Harder They Come” “Very Good. Proud to be a Jamaican tonight.”

“…Thank you for opening that movie to the Boston community. It was REALLY good! Hopefully, more quality movies like that will come out of Jamaica and marketed abroad…” “Fantastic. I loved it.”

“It was really an immense pleasure to attend the ONE LOVE event. I enjoyed watching a bunch of our young, Black people show-casing their talents. Also, I enjoyed the movie, including the young woman from Jamaica who played the lead role…She was wonderful…”

Hopefully, these remarks will move you to support this independent film, by ordering your own Official ONE LOVE dvd at $20 and Official soundtrack at $16 by emailing an order to robin@coloroffilm.com. As the only distributor to donate proceeds from sales of the Official ONE LOVE product to The Jamaica Hurricane Relief efforts, we ask you to take up this cause with us, leave the bootleg copy at the barber shop and get an OFFICIAL copy for your home library, from The Color of Film.

Hailed as the “Best Jamaican Film Ever” and Winner of the: AUDIENCE AWARD‚ Bahamas Int’l Film Festival ‘04; BEST ACTRESS, Urban world Film Festival ‘05; BEST SOUNDTRACK‚ Monaco Int’l FF ‘05; FILM OF THE YEAR‚ Santa Barbara African Film Series’05, ONE LOVE is a romantic comedy infused with the music and culture of Jamaica. A story of forbidden love between a young Rasta reggae musician played by Ky-Mani Marley, the son of Bob Marley, and the gospel singing daughter of a devout Pentecostal preacher, played by Cherine Anderson. Both actors bring their distinctive musical talents to this inspiring motion picture. ONE LOVE also stars Idris Elba of the HBO hit series The Wire with screenplay by world renowned and preeminent writer, Trevor Rhone (The Harder They Come).

 Kay Bourne Arts  Report   Issue #9THE COLOR OF FILM joins the First Weekend Club ©, sponsored by the Black Hollywood Education and Resource Center (BHERC) to promote the idea to Boston movie goers, the importance of going out to see a movie on the first weekend of its release, which is the crucial Hollywood moment. Club members pledge to support movies on the first weekend of release, and encourage other filmgoers to do the same. The Club is designed to financially advocate approval of African American themed films, in addition to those that portray people of color in a more diverse, three-dimensional way. The importance of BHERC is seen in its national appeal. Since its inception, club membership has increased to more than 37,000 filmgoers, with chapters in Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, North Carolina, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Sacramento, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, D.C. and now, Boston, with the efforts of The Color of Film.

To join the TCOF/First Weekend Club, email your name and phone number to robin@coloroffilm.com with First Weekend Club in the subject line.

Independent Reviewers of New England
 Kay Bourne Arts  Report   Issue #9Company One presents “A MORE PERFECT UNION,” an original play by Kirsten Greenidge, directed by Juanita Rodrigues. A MORE PERFECT UNION is the newest work from Boston-based playwright Kirsten Greenidge, inspired by the national news headlines and experiences of Fenway High School teacher, Obain Attouoman; a humanistic story of a society’s struggle to overcome stereotypes, miscommunication and bureaucracy, in search of a real justice. A MORE PERFECT UNION runs until April 1, Thursdays – Saturdays, 8pm; Saturdays 4pm, Sundays 7pm at The Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, Boston. $25 Gen. Adm., $15 Students/ Seniors; group discounts available upon request. Info: 617-933-8600.

Also, good luck to Ms. Greenidge, pictured here (l), with Shawn LaCount the Artistic Director of Company One(ctr), and Juanita Rodrigues(r). Her play, “103 WITHIN THE VEIL” has 7 nominations in various categories, including “BEST NEW PLAY” at the Annual IRNE AWARDS taking place Monday, MARCH 27 at the Hotel Lenox. www.COMPANYONE.org

 Kay Bourne Arts  Report   Issue #9The remarkable life and stellar career of legendary singer, NAT KING COLE comes to the Stoneham Theatre in UNFORGETTABLE: THE NAT KING COLE STORY, from MARCH 30 until APRIL 15, featuring Broadway star, MONROE KENT III as Nat King Cole, the beloved superstar whose tremendous appeal transcended the boundaries of race, culture and geography. Call the Stonehame Theatre Box Office at 781-279-2200 or click KENT’s photo to the left, to go to the Stoneham Theatre website for more information.

“VOICE OF GOOD HOPE” by Kristine Thatcher, directed by Kortney Adams, featuring: Akiba Abaka, Michelle Dowd, Dhonyale Jones, Susan Lombardi- Verticelli, John McClain, Janelle Mills, and Wesley Lawrence Taylor, runs until APRIL 1, Fridays & Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm. The Theatre Cooperative is located at 277 Broadway, Somerville, MA. Tickets $20, $15 students and senior citizens. 50% discount for Military Personnel March 18th and Sunday Matinees “Pay-What-You-Can”. For ticket information and reservations, go to www.theatrecoop.org or call 617-625- 1300. “…a thought-provoking, determinedly non- sentimental homage to the late Texas Congresswoman Barbara Jordan…Thatcher’s play is admiring…the play raises profound questions about race, justice and political ethics that are very much of this moment.” – Chicago Sun Times

The Revels presents “ARE YOU READY MY SISTER?” at Hibernia Hall, Dudley Street, Roxbury, MA on APRIL 1 at 4pm and 7:30pm. Info: www.revels.org and 617-972-8300.

On Friday, APRIL 7, South Africa’s SOWETO GOSPEL CHOIR will debut at The Boston Symphony Hall, 8pm, as part of its 46-city US tour. More information in next week’s Kay Bourne Arts Report.

Connect with Facebook

Leave a Response

About The Color of Film

The Color of Film Collaborative is a non-profit organization that supports and fosters the individuals and organizations in the creation of diverse images of people of color in film, video, theater and other media, by providing artists with opportunities to exhibit, distribute and find funding for their work, as well as provide a supportive environment where they can share and develop their ideas, their vision and their work with their peers. About Us

Roxbury International Film Festival

Join us July 29th - August 1st, 2010 for the 12th Annual Roxbury Film Festival. Incredible movies will be playing and other events will be happening and more. Find out more

Dinner & A Movie (DAAM)

In collaboration with The Haley House Bakery Café, the Color of Film Collaborative presents our ongoing film series, featuring independent cinema and delicious food. Read more...

The Roxbury International Film Festival

Now going into its 12th year, the Roxbury International Film Festival is proudly presented by The Color of Film Collaborative to promote productions of color. Find out more here...

Contribute to The Color of Film

Help give back to the Arts in Boston - contribute to the Color of Film Collaborative today with a Donation or as a Volunteer. Contribute to TCOF