Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #22

September 12th, 2006  |  Published in Kay Bourne Arts Report


by Kay Bourne
(pictured: (left) Michael Maso, Huntington Theatre’s Managing Director and (right) Kenny Leon, RADIO GOLF Director)

178 590x442 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #22Tour buses regularly pass by the Huntington Theatre , the guide on microphone pointing out the pretty façade of a playhouse built in 1925 as American’s first civic theater.

On one such morning, playwright August Wilson was standing on the sidewalk beneath the marquee enjoying a cigarette as the trolley passed by. The conductor pointed out the theater, noting on mic that the play currently at the Huntington was by August Wilson. The guide suddenly realized that Wilson himself was standing there on the sidewalk. “And there’s Mr. Wilson!” the guide excitedly informed the tourists.

“What did you do?” Huntington’s Michael Maso asked Wilson when the playwright told him what had just occurred. “I waved,” said Wilson, always an ordinary Joe.

Mr. Maso, the managing director of the Huntington since 1982, was dipping into his trove of memories of Wilson, who passed away almost a year ago, October 3, 2005.

At a coffee hour to introduce the cast and crew of August Wilson’s “Radio Golf,” Kenny Leon also reminisced about his friendship with Mr. Wilson. Over the years the Huntington has staged seven of Wilson’s plays as he tinkered with them before they got to Broadway.

The final drama in August Wilson’s ten-play Pittsburgh Cycle, “Radio Golf,” completes his extraordinary contribution to the American theater and to black letters. Set in each and every decade of the 20th century, these profound plays bring the African American experience out from the fringes and far from the weirdness of racist stereotypes and put the truth firmly and forever center stage of the American theater.

“Radio Golf” revisits Aunt Esther’s house (now slated for demolition), the setting of “Gem of the Ocean.” Directed by Leon, who also was at the helm for “Gem,” “RADIO GOLF” opens September 8 at the Huntington Theatre, where it will be performed until October 15, only.

It was two years ago, September 13, that August Wilson spoke at Roxbury Community College; a memorable night, where he gave a talk that ultimately became his one-man show (and acting debut) as Wilson enacted many of the characters from his plays, “How I Learned What I Learned.”

The talk so impressed one young black man that he rushed to the microphone during the Q & A to say that although he’d never heard of Mr. Wilson before this night, now he was thirsting to see his plays. Mr. Wilson’s humility was never more evident. Not at all offended by someone not knowing who he was, he was obviously thrilled at the young man’s embrace of the voices he’d heard.

Also, a tribute to August Wilson, sponsored by the Huntington with RCC is slated for this Monday, September 11, again at RCC in the media center at 1234 Columbus Ave, on the corner of Tremont Street, across from the Reggie Lewis athletic center. The event hosted by Karen Holmes-Ward of WCVB-TV, channel 5, will feature Constanza Romero (August Wilson’s widow), Kenny Leon, and special guests. The event celebrates the life and language of the great playwright.

Purchase RADIO GOLF tickets here

story and photo credit: Kay Bourne
(pictured: Akiba Abaka)

175 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #22Is racism hard wired? Robert Johnson, Jr.’s play “Patience of Nantucket” set in the early 1800′s looks at a miscarriage of justice in the distant past. Yet, Patience’s trials may cause a shudder of recognition in today’s audience.

Director Akiba Abaka says that she was attracted to the historical drama “because Patience Cooper’s pain seems to embody the experience of black people in the Americas. Yet, I was also struck by how beautifully her pain is written by Robert Johnson. So the play is not depressing, but cathartic and cleansing.”

“Patience of Nantucket” opens September 7 for a three-week run at the Plaza Black Box Theatre at the Boston Center for the Arts, 534 Tremont St. in the South End. The show opens ‘Up You Mighty Race’ theater company’s season which this year is devoted to playwrights who live in the Boston area: News From the Locals: New Plays from Local Playwrights. The play also begins the fall season at the Boston Center for the Arts, a complex of theaters and galleries occupying an entire city block.

UMass Boston playwright and historian Johnson, who is also an attorney, came across the court records of Cooper’s incarceration and trial when he was head of the James Bradford Ames Fellowship. The program supports research and publication of black and Cape Verdean history on Nantucket.

Johnson’s scholarly digging revealed the tragic life of Patience Cooper, an African American woman in 19th century Nantucket who was wrongfully convicted of killing a white shop keeper. Her standing as a middle class woman on the island where her family, free blacks, had migrated many years previously from Rhode Island did not mitigate against her being railroaded by a justice system caught up in local and Massachusetts politics. (Abaka directed a portion of the play for the New Diaspora Theatre Festival in New Bedford in 2004 and the following year took the excerpt to the National Black Theater Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina).

A house still standing on York St. on Nantucket Island provides an example of the economic standing Patience Cooper had in the Nantucket community. A year or so ago, when the Museum of African American History took possession of a residence at 24 York Street in Nantucket, the Museum’s executive director said at the press announcement that the handsome house was a “stunning finding.” The old homestead was built for a prosperous black family prior to the American Revolution, and occupied by descendents for centuries. Absalom Boston, the wealthy black sea captain, lived in the same neighborhood. The house is next door to the Nantucket African Meeting House, also belonging to the Museum of African American History.

Nantucket black history challenges the stereotypical notion that all black people of antebellum period were living in slavery or of low incomes, however, the middle class Patience Cooper suffered the consequences of a black skin even so.

In the role of ‘Patience’ is Marie Guinier. Joe Lee Baker Bey, who thrilled audiences as Bynum Walker in August Wilson’s “Joe Turner’s Come And Gone” two seasons ago, returns to Up You Mighty Race to play the Reverend James Crawford, also a historical figure. Dosha Beard, who also gave an exciting performance in the Wilson play, here portrays a witness for Patience, while the strong actor Jeff Gill, seen both in the Wilson production and in the Langston Hughes “Don’t You Want To Be Free,” plays a lawyer who comes to the island to convince Patience to sign a confession of guilt. For further information, call 617-427-9417 or 617-287-6794.

Click here for PATIENCE tickets

review and photo credit: Kay Bourne
(pictured: (left) Ryan Landry with (right) Leslie Uggams)
Click image to visit North Shore Music Theatre’s website.

176 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #22 The best known scapegoat in all of literature is Cinderella, who, unlike Patience of Nantucket, escapes her miserable situation. At the constant beck and call of her demanding, imperious stepmother and two crass stepsisters who bully her unmercifully, she is rescued from her chimney corner – scullery maid existence when, by her own initiative and the intervention of a fairy godmother, she attends a state ball where she catches the eye of the country’s prince.

On March 27, 1957, CBS broadcast a musical version of the popular story based on Charles Perrault’s fairytale written in the 17th century (about the same time the town of Nantucket was settled in 1676 but centuries after the island was inhabited by the Wampanoag).

Composer Richard Rodgers and Librettist Oscar Hammerstein II (“Carousel,” “South Pacific,” “Showboat,” etc.) had been approached by the station to write an original musical for TV and coincidently they’d also been approached by Julie Andrews‘ agent to write a musical for Andrews who had just completed her extraordinary success as Eliza Doolittle in the Broadway musical “My Fair Lady.”

That TV musical has become a staple of resident theater especially summer stock. Most recently, and pretty much at the same time, both the Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine and the North Shore Music Theater in Beverly, MA staged the show. These were quite different productions, but successful, each in its own way.

The director in Ogunquit, Gabriel Barre, saw “Cinderella” as a rollicking musical comedy, while NSMT’s director, Charles Rapole, revisited Rodgers and Hammerstein’s original concept of “Cinderella,” seeing the show as more demure. Both generally kept to a script which had softened the narrative by making the stepmother less cruel and the story less extreme (in one version of the classic fairy tale a step sister hacks off her toe with an axe in hopes of fitting her too large foot into the glass slipper).

Both productions were notable for diverse casting with some eight African American actors in the shows, most in major roles.

The magnificent Leslie Uggams, who is a wonderful singer, played the fairy godmother at Ogunquit with aplomb and grace. Versatile and now legendary, Ms. Uggams has worked steadily throughout a long career that began at age six as a regular in the TV show “Beulah.” She seems more on our radar screen these days, however, appearing opposite James Earl Jones on Broadway last season in a straight drama, “On Golden Pond,” for instance, and just last month at the Cape Playhouse in a musical “The Rink”.

Another standout at Ogunquit was Stanley Wayne Mathis as Lionel, the Royal Steward (who knocked them out on Broadway recently in “Kiss Me Kate”); his comic timing is perfection and he gets roars of laughter with lines that would pass by unnoticed in lesser hands.

Boston’s own Ryan Landry at Ogunquit was a howl as the avaricious stepmother looking to feather her nest by marrying off her awkward daughters.

At North Shore, the capable and pleasing Terry Burrell made a gracious Queen Constantina.

North Shore Music Theatre official website

by Lisa Simmons
179 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #22Did you know that Gridiron is another name for Football Field? An avid sports watcher most of my life, I thought I knew most things sports, but it just goes to show, you don’t know everything. Just like you might think you know Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson , as a wrestler, a comic actor, a woman in drag, but did you know he can carry a dramatic film as a lead?

Gridiron Gang, is a film based on a true story and draws heavily from the documentary of the same name. It is a story about a juvenile detention camp probation officer (Sean Porter) who with the help of Malcolm Moore (Xzibit) takes a group of young hardened felons and turns them into a football team.

It’s a little bit ‘Glory Road’ meets ‘Remember the Titans’ meets ‘Miracle’ meets ‘Friday Night Lights’ – but that’s okay because the movie works. Johnson hopes that the film reaches kids, as well as adults and hopes that you come away believing that, as he says, “Every kid deserves a second chance.”

“I was a screw up, and I was lucky that I had someone in my life who gave me that support,” he admitted.”

This role came to Johnson. It was the studio, Columbia Pictures, that called him, because they thought that he would be perfect for this role, and they were right.

“They [the studio] thought that I was someone the kids would respond to,” Johnson humbly states. He was moved by the documentary and he was excited about the challenge of playing this incredible person. “I wanted to capture him here (pointing to his heart).” Johnson said.

In a world where we sometimes see no hope for kids like this, Gridiron Gang shows that there are people who care. People who are out there day in and day out, working towards making this world a better place for others, and people who believe in hopes and dreams and enstilling hopes and dreams in others.

It is a testament to the director of this film Phil Joanou, who took these circumstance, these kids, some of them who have never acted before, and created a film that is both authentic and powerful.

It is in films like these that we see “the power and value of sports,” Johnson says. “Sports is universal and motivates young people and people in general and films like this touch the emotional side of us, as well as the human spirit.”

He is right, this film does touch the human spirit, the human mind and the humanism in all of us. It is a feel-good movie, and I think we can all agree, we need more of these kinds of films these days.

GRIDIRON GANG official movie website

by Caldwell Titcomb
(pictured: Lisa Daltirus, Soprano)

180 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #22To help celebrate the Boston Lyric Opera’s 30th anniversary season, the company is sponsoring a Artist Residency program that brings three African American opera stars to town, September 7 to September 15.

The aim is to present free interactive sessions in a variety of Boston neighborhoods to invite young people and their families to meet multicultural, internationally renown opera stars. Each one-hour session will consist of music and conversation with four gifted singers. Two of these singers are black: soprano Lisa Daltirus, who sang the title role in “Tosca” here two years ago; and bass Morris Robinson, who appeared in “Aida” here in 1999.

The project will culminate in a gala concert at 8pm on September 15 at the Wang Theatre, where the singers will join a chorus and orchestra conducted by Willie Anthony Waters. In the summer of 1999, Maestro Waters became the first and only African-American artistic director of a major opera company, when he was appointed The General and Artistic Director of Connecticut Opera, the sixth- oldest professional opera company in the United States.

The four public sessions are free and will take place: Thursday, September 7, 7:30-8:30pm at Roxbury Center for the Arts, 184 Dudley Street, Roxbury; Friday, September 8, 7:30-8:30pm at Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center, 41 Second Street, Cambridge; Wednesday, September 13, 7-8pm at The Strand Theatre, 543 Columbia Road, Dorchester and Thursday, September 14, 4:30-5:30pm at the Wang Center for the Performing Arts, 270 Tremont Street, Boston.

The September 15 gala tickets are available at 1-800-447-7400 or the Wang Theatre box office. For further information about the residency program, contact Luke Dennis, Community Programs Manager at 617-542-4912, ext. 239 or ldennis@blo.org.

Wang Theatre website

182 590x456 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #22Mark your calendars for Saturday, OCTOBER 14, 2006, 6-10pm.

A TASTE OF FILM fundraiser, to benefit The Color of Film Collaborative, Inc.

To be held at Hibernian Hall, 184 Dudley Street, Roxbury, MA

Come and sample food from Boston restaurants while you get a taste of the 15 films that The Color of Film has funded so far with its MINI-GRANT AWARD. Meet the grant-winning filmmakers and see their winning films.

Proceeds to benefit The Color of Film’s MINI-GRANT Program, which awards grants of $500 – $1,500, TCOF’s monthly filmscreening series at The Boston Public Library – Copley Square, and its annual filmscreening special events. More info to come!

by Cheryl K. Symister-Masterson
(pictured: Eperanza Spalding)

183 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #22Anyone dedicated to their art knows the sacrifices in time, money and relationships. Asked about feeling the loss of social space with people her own age because of her chosen profession, 22-year old bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding exhales “The story of my life…But now, being in the city, I’m meeting lots of cool people.” Since graduating from Berklee College of Music last year and teaching there in the summer, Spalding is filling up her calendar with international tours, U.S. club dates, interviews and personal dates that are blossoming into fulfilling relationships.

From her strained beginnings in Portland, Oregon (she describes her neighborhood as “pretty scary), she found music – or did it find her? Months after learning the bass, she played in ensembles that performed jazz, blues, pop and hip-hop. Recognizing her talent and flexibility as a bassist and vocalist, she was urged to attend Berklee by family and friends. “I started college at 16, and the other kids [who] were fifteen and sixteen weren’t doing what I [was] doing.” Quickly, though, she was sought out for gigs that would get her future employment with pianist Michel Camilo, percussionist Teri-Lynn Carrington, violinist Regina Carter, The Boston Pops Orchestra, guitarist Pat Metheny, vocalist Patti Austin and saxophonist Joe Lovano, among others.

Like bassists Slam Stewart, Major Holly and Jay Leonhart, she sings as she plays bass. But Spalding has a wider, more lyrical range that races alongside the bass line. Her first CD as a leader, JUNJO (Ayva Music) joins her with pianist Aruan Ortiz and fellow Berklee faculty member percussionist Francisco Mela.

Esperanza will be appearing at Scullers Jazz Club on Tuesday, September 12, 8pm. For many artists, there are musical and affectionate reasons why they play at Scullers. Spalding has hers: “Well, I love Fred Taylor, the booker, and it is a big enough venue that I get a prestigious feel, but it is intimate enough. I really feel like I am sharing with my Boston jazz community. Plus, the view is mad pretty.”

For more information on Esperanza Spalding and her music, please visit her website.

Esperanza Spalding’s website

by Lisa Simmons
Picture Busby Berklee, Jimmy Cagney and Dorthy Dandridge.

181 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #22You’ve got a little dancing, a little singing, a little prohibition and a little love interest, with talent. IDLEWILD fills the screen with big musical numbers that feature talented singers, dancer and actors.

Andre Benjamin, aka recording artist, Outkast’s Andre 3000 (Four Brothers), plays the quiet, shy piano player Percival Jenkins who is straight and narrow, while Outkast’s Big Boi plays Rooster, the out-going performer-turned-manager of a nightclub that Terrance Howard (Hustle and Flow) wants to take control of and will stop at nothing, including murder, to get what he wants.

The film is full of soul, but I have to say a bit all over the place, but at times it really works. If you are a fan of Outkast and their unique music videos, you will love this movie. It’s just nice to see the old love stories from years gone by and a nostalgic look at this era through the eyes of someone new. In this case, it’s Bryan Barber , Idlewild’s director/writer, (and director of many Outkast music videos) who really seems to have a fondness for this time. The movie also includes actors Cicely Tyson, Ben Vereen, Macy Gray, Ving Rhames, Faizon Love and new comer Paula Patton. Click the IDLEWILD image above to go to the movie’s website.


144 590x834 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #22 Our second shipment of The Official ONE LOVE dvd’s and cd’s are in and available for sale!! Below are comments from audience members at The Color of Film’s Official ONE LOVE dvd & cd RELEASE PARTY in March at RCC, where we had the co-star of the movie, CHERINE ANDERSON as our special guest:

“Fantastic. I loved it.” “…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…”

“…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…”

“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…” “…Proud to be a Jamaican tonight.”

The Official ONE LOVE dvd and cd are the first of many quality, independent films and products available to you, through TCOF. The ONE LOVE dvd is $20 and the soundtrack is $16 by emailing an order to robin@coloroffilm.com or visiting The Color of Film website .
Order ONE LOVE dvd and cd here

(ähts): The Boston Arts Festival 2006 will take place SEPTEMBER 9 and 10 at Christopher Columbus Park on Boston’s waterfront, adjacent to the historic North End. The festival is a custom-built artists’ village in the center of the park, with Boston’s best visual artists. A waterfront stage plays host to Boston performing artists providing a preview of either an upcoming season or show. Participatory arts and family-friendly activities will also be programmed. For information, please call 617-635-3245.

Nancy Hurlbut’s solo play “Surly Girl, or Things Are Not the Way They Seem,” has two preview shows on Saturday Sept. 9, at 2 and 8 PM at Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston. Hurlbut is performing, Gail Gallagher is producing, and Karen MacDonald is directing. The play gradually reveals the truth about the aftermath of WW II in the life of Frankie, the oldest girl in a Brahmin family. The play explores violence in the family setting. A soundscape and projected images anchor the piece. After each performance Nancy and others will want to hear the reactions of the audience in a structured feedback session. KBAR arts editor Kay Bourne is a panelist. A reception follows the evening show. Admission is free, and reservations must be made in advance at the website www.surlygirl.net or by calling Ms. Gallagher at 617-803-2907.

September 15 through October 15 Roxbury Community College (RCC) presents Celebración 2006: Hispanic Heritage at RCC, a series that will highlight unique aspects of Hispanic language, arts and culture. All events are open to the public. For info call 617-541-5381.

New African Company, New England’s Oldest Professional Black Theater Company (38th Season!!!) & Roxbury Center for the Arts ~Proudly Present~ OM! A Street Corner Griot’s Comedy . Welcome to the world of a Street Corner Griot, where ill-fated love affairs, sparked in subterranean jazz and poetry clubs; Friday night card games with the fellas, and rites of passage; and a nation-wide manhunt for an escaped convict named OM! are all just part of a normal weekend. Written by Mwalim *7) Directed by Born Bi-Kim from September 15 – 24, Fri & Sat @ 7:30 PM Sun @ 2:00 PM $10 & $15 at The Roxbury Center for the Arts @ Hibernian Hal, 184 Dudley Street, Roxbury. For info call 617-541-3900 x2324.

“An African Legacy: The 29th Annual John Coltrane Memorial Concert” will be held at Northeastern University’s Blackman Theatre, 360 Huntington Avenue on Saturday, September 23 at 8pm. Ticket are $20, $10 for NU faculty & staff, seniors and WGBH members; $5 for NU students. For tickets, call 617-373-2247.

SCHOOL OF THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, BOSTON, PRESENTS Loïs Mailou Jones: The Early Works: Paintings and Patterns 1927–1937.Design Work by Pioneering Artist of the Harlem Renaissance. SMFA’s Grossman Gallery September 15 through October 14. Opening Reception is Thursday, September 14, 5 to 7 PM Grossman Gallery. The Lecture: Loïs Mailou Jones: Artist and Friend will be presented on Monday, September 18, 6 PM at Anderson Auditorium. Edmund Barry Gaither, curator, scholar, and a longtime friend of Loïs Mailou Jones discusses her work and extraordinary life. Gallery Talks are Tuesday, September 26, 12:30 PM and Thursday, September 28, 6 PM

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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

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