Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #35

March 22nd, 2007  |  Published in Kay Bourne Arts Report


by Kay Bourne
The 2007 IRNE Awards – (l to r: A. Robert Phillips, Lisa Simmons, Keith Mascoll, and Kaili Turner
photo by Bob Nesti

309 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #35 Once a year the actors, playwrights, scene and costume designers, directors, producers – all the artists who makes theater happen! – gather for a huge party put on by the Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) fondly known as the “ernies.”
The 15 reviewers give out awards to the various theater artists they’ve voted on as the best of the year, some 43 acknowledgments in all. The first of the evening was for ‘Best New Play’ In the Large Theater grouping, “Mauritius” by Theresa Rebeck staged by the Huntington Theater Company won, while Jacqui Parker took the honor for her “Dark As A Thousand Midnights” which was the highlight of Our Place Theater’s 2006 African American Theater Festival. A list of all the winners is given at both www.stagesource.org and www.theatermirror.com.
The 10th anniversary of the I.R.N.E. Awards took place Monday night, March 19 in the Cyclorama, the enormous hall at the Boston Center for the Arts, generously provided by Libbie Shufro, President and CEO of the BCA. Her staff, along with the IRNE critics and producer Tony McLean worked long hours to have the night run smoothly. Among the sponsors for the night are Chobee Hoy of Chobee Hoy Associates Real Estate Services in Brookline who has been a key financial angel of the event for the past four years.
“This night and these awards give small theaters the attention they deserve,” noted William Young who won ‘Best Supporting Actor in a Drama for a Small Theater.’ He was in “Five By Tenn” at SpeakEasy. Anthony Chisholm won ‘Best Supporting Actor in a Drama for a Large Theater’ with his role in August Wilson’s “Radio Golf” at the Huntington. Chisholm is currently in rehearsals for the Broadway debut of Wilson‘s final play which is slated to open in New York in April.

by Kay Bourne
(l to r: James Milord John ADEkoje)

310 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #35 Nigerian American playwright (and indie filmmaker) John ADEkoje has an uncanny grasp of the African American young male sensibility. This insight into the psychic pain these youth are grappling with was amply evidenced by his powerful soliloquy play “Love Jones” about a street kid holed up in an apartment while his enemies circle ever nearer.
He brings this savvy to a more complex story with the emotionally involving Company One production “Six Rounds Six Lessons,” currently at the Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont St. in the South End. The premiere continues through March 31. For more info call the box office at 617-933-8600.
Directed with the panache Lois Roach has taught us to expect from her confident stage craft, the story is a K.O. for her and for the cast. Adekoje, however, should probably rework some of the scenes to make a smoother journey for the theater-goer who sometimes wonders who the central character is.
Even so, Adekoje never fails to let us see beneath the mask Paul Laurence Dunbar so famously described: “We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes — we smile, but, O great Christ, our cries To thee from tortured souls arise.”
Ace couldn’t be trying harder to break from the cycle of broken families – he’s gone to college, met and married his love who loves him deeply as well, and, returned to the neighborhood he strongly identifies with to hopefully raise a family. He’s the fighter in the ring with so many historical counts against him which have wrecked havoc on his upbringing and sense of self that while you’re cheering for him, you wonder how can he possibly win the six rounds or six generations he’s battling.
All the characters win our sympathy even when they are behaving badly, thanks to some fine acting. James Milord is convincing as the beleaguered Ace, as is Wesley Lawrence Taylor as his father who cares about his family but has left the home even so.
Juanita A. Rodriguez stands out as Ace’s mother, the black woman straight out of a Langston Hughes poem who has her own struggles but has tried to set them aside to raise her children. Terri Deletsky lets us in on her problems trying to fit into a Black family and Black neighborhood she embraces because she loves Ace even though she doesn’t feel quite at home in the situation she finds herself.
There is a monumental performance from Jason Bowen as Ace’s bitter, self indulgent brother who, now confined to a wheelchair, expects Ace to take care of his rent and other needs.

Also excellent is Karimah Moreland as Trisha, Ace’s sister, who seems to have fallen prey to a boyfriend who will only mire her down.

Tory Bullock is moving in a beautifully understated performance (and bit of writing from Adekoje.) And Jesse Tolbert is another winner as the Kid.

A final character importantly in the mix is the deejay in a manic (and brilliant) performance from Keith Mascoll who, like an ancient god, comments on the action through the records he spins and the off-handed remarks he delivers.

visit Company One’s website

312 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #35Comic LaVell Crawford is the bon bon in the confectionary display – a chubby sweetie. For instance, as the Everyman character Bobby in the play based on Eric Jerome Dickey’s novel, “Friends And Lovers,” he was the ladies’ pick over the matinee idols in the cast. “I was the lovable character who tried over and over again to win Christie’s heart only to be rebuffed,” Crawford describes. “I was fobbed off in favor of the good looking guys.” Well, as you might guess, ultimately, “Bobby” wins his heart throb to the delight of the play-goers.
You can see what the fuss is about at Comedy Connection in Faneuil Hall on Sunday, MARCH 25, at 8pm. This appearance is Crawford’s debut at the popular downtown club; his previous Boston engagement was in a comedy show at the Strand some five years ago.
Born in St. Louis, Crawford and his two sisters were raised by a single mom. Some of his comedy comes from those youthful days: at one point his mom moved the family to a neighborhood that meant he attended a school with mostly white students. “They celebrated Halloween with fancy costumes,” he compares; “we celebrated trick or treat and I dressed as a real estate agent in the clothes Daddy had left in the closet when he ran off.”
Crawford was spurred to do comedy when a cousin bragged how her boyfriend was doing stand-up. “Hell, if he can do it, I can do it,” Crawford thought. He worked out his routines at Sanford’s Supper Club in St. Louis on Tuesday nights.
Now based in L.A., Crawford has appeared on Comedy Central’s “Premium Blend,” and was a finalist in the Comedy Central “Laugh Riots” standup competition. He has headlined at Laffapalooza, America’s longest-running urban comedy festival, and at the Montreal “Just For Laughs Festival.” On TV, he’s appeared on “The Jamie Foxx Show,” “Motown Live,” “Showtime at the Apollo,” “BET’s Comic View,” and HBO’s “Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam.”
LaVell Crawford tickets

by Kay Bourne
311 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #35 Some of the problems contemporary Africans face are issues uniquely the burdens of nations less well off than the powerhouse countries; other puzzles are exactly the same intrigues you would see argued in our criminal courts.
In Abderrahmane Sissako’s film BAMAKO, set in a courtroom in the capital of of Mali, two stories are ingeniously played out side by side: the World Bank is on trial for demanding debt payment so onerous it challenges the sovereignty of African nations. In the meantime, a detective believes an unemployed married father has murdered his sexy wife, a popular Bamako lounge singer.
The movie which was produced by American actor and activist Danny Glover (who makes a cameo appearance) opens Friday, MARCH 23, at the Coolidge Corner Theater.
Glover, you’ll recall, put highly regarded indie U.S. Black filmmaker Charles Burnett on the commercial map when he produced and took a leading role in 1991′s “To Sleep With Anger.” Sissako also has a track record as a filmmaker with “Waiting For Happiness”, which makes him a contender for a broader following.

Coolidge Corner Theatre website

by Kay Bourne
316 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #35A young survivor of the Rwandan genocide and a middle age British writer help each other to reconnect to living in the new drama “I Have Before Me A Remarkable Document Given To Me By a Young Lady From Rwanda.”
The play, developed by playwright Sonja Linden‘s encounters with refugees at the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture has its New England premiere at Stoneham Theatre. Directed by Weylin Symes, the two person cast features Dorcas Evelene Davis as Juliette and Owen Doyle as Simon. Linden had a writer’s residency at the foundation from 1997 to 2004.
In one hundred terror-filled days from April to July 1994, in the central African country of Rwanda, Hutu extremists murdered an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, while the U.S. and the U.N. stood by without intervening. Though the killings occurred on a brutal, low-tech level by machete-wielding military and civilian butchers, this was no random violence but the result of a genocidal plan. A recent movie based on these events, “Hotel Rwanda” featured Don Cheadle as a Hutu who managed the four-star Hotel des Mille Collines in Kigali which he used at great peril to himself as a refuge to house his countrymen fleeing the murderers.
For more info about the Stoneham Theatre and the drama which opens APRIL 5, call 781-279-2200.

Stoneham Theater Website

by Lisa Simmons
(Terrence Howard as Jim Ellis in Pride) © Lionsgate Pictures

314 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #35Gridiron Gang meets Glory Road with a touch of Coach Carter, only this time the action happens in a pool in Philadelphia. There has been a rash of these “savior” films over the last few years, some do it better than others, some inspire more than others, but equally they tell a story of misguided and misunderstood youth, guided and passionate coaches and an unwielding and racist society.
PRIDE stars Terrance Howard as Jim Ellis who built a swim mecca from an nascent swim team in 1971. A former swimmer who had seen his share of pain and humiliation as the only black swimmer on his college swim team, Ellis transforms the Philadelphia Department of Recreation into a haven for inner city youth and inspired them to dream beyond their imaginations.
Inspired by true events, the film follows the teams trials and tribulations as it attempts to compete in a white arena. Bernie Mac (as Elston), plays the rec centers janitor who has lost his way but who joins Ellis as a youth mentor and a support who at times gives Ellis the added strength to go forward.
Kimberly Elise, who plays Sue Davis the guardian and sister of one of Ellis’ swimmers plays both love interest and nemisis at times. As councilwoman whose job it is to close the center, she is conflicted with what Ellis is trying to do and the possibility of setting the kids up for broken dreams.
All of these pieces are there to draw you in, make you believe, and stand up and cheer, but first time director Sunu Gonera doesn’t quite give the film that opportunity. Moments start to build but are left hanging before they peak. It felt as if in a hurry to release the film, they may have left some of their best moments on the cutting room floor.
PRIDE is well-intentioned, well acted and does represent an uplifting story of inner city youth and the inspirational journey of a man who truly cared. A story about the power of dreams and one persons ability to change the course of another persons life. A story about a black swim team who against all odds gets a shot at glory.

PRIDE – the official website

by Lisa Simmons
(l to r: Kal Penn, Irrfan Khan, Sahira Nair, Tabu)
photo credit: Mira Nair

313 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #35Mira Nair is back after her foray into the English countryside with her last film Vanity Fair . She has returned to her roots with her new film NAMESAKE based on a novel by Jhumpa Lahiri. Nair skillfully and beautifully navigates this story of love, family, responsibility and pride.
The story is told through the lives of Ashoke (Irrfan Khan) and Ashima (Tabu) as they make a home and a life in America far from the comfort and familiarity of India. From marriage to birth to death, we watch intently, almost voyeuristically, as we share in their joys and their pains.
What is in a name? For a younger generation, not much, just what our parents called us – but they had a reason for naming us for who we are. It is through this name calling, this namesake that the story is told, a story of denial of who we are, of where we have come from and ultimately of where we are going. A name that, once realized, sets one free.
This story is wonderfully told, resonating with all parents, immigrant or not, rich or not because it is a story about the dynamic of families and the growth that we all go through in raising children, making choices and letting go.

NAMESAKE – the official website

315 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #35 “If a black man had to be honest, what would you ask him?” Confessions of… A Black Man, starring Corey Manning, Boston’s first stand-up comedian to be certified as an Artist, will perform a collection of poetry, songs, dances and monologues, mixed with his original and straightforward stand-up comedy. This One man show covers a range of topics with honesty that others often ignor or filter. Saturday, MARCH 24at 8pm at Hibernian Hall, 184 Dudley Street. Purchase tickets here.
Free Screening of Movin’ Up – A Helping Hand a locally produced docu-drama adapted from a play by Boston playwright Irma Askew, produced by former Cambridge Community TV (CCTV) staffer Rudy Hypolite Sunday, March 25th 7pm at CCTV. “Movin’ Up: A Helping Hand” is about young, black women who moved to Boston from the rural South in the 1960s and 1970s for employment as domestic workers in upper income homes. This docu-drama utilizes both the narrative storyline of the dilemma encountered by these young women, the thriving jazz scene in Boston, as well as archival material and interviews with members of the Women’s Service Club, to advance this untold piece of Boston’s history. Cambridge Community TV is located at 675 Mass. Avenue, Cambridge. Phone: 617-661-6900

Reggae’s newest sensation NATURAL BLACK performs for the first time in Boston, backed by Inner Power Band, plus special guest from Trinidad, MARLON ASHER on Friday, MARCH 30 at Club Lido’s, 1290 North Shore Road, Revere. Doors open at 9pm, showtime 11pm. Tickets $30 in advance at Irie Jamaican Restaurant 617-929-3866, Taurus Records 617-298-2655 and all Hip Zepi Locations 617-350-6870. For info call 617-943-4544.
THE ARTS CHAMPION AWARDS DINNER & ARTISTS’ BALL will benefit the Boston Center for the Arts and its Youth & Community Engagement Initiative, and will be held at The Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont Street, on Saturday, MARCH 31 The Awards Dinner is at 6:30 pm with the Artists’ Ball from 9:30 pm – 1 am. Tickets are $50 for Artists’ Ball only, or $200 for the dinner and The Ball. For more info call 617-426-ARTS

NO LONGER HIDDEN: BLACK CLOTH DOLLS 1870-1930 Black Cloth Dolls from the collection of Pat Hatch, a Harvard resident, is the spring exhibit at the Harvard Historical Society. An extraordinary collection of dolls illustrates the changes in the social and political fabric of our country, how dolls were affected by technology, and highlights the dolls as objects of history and folk art . The exhibit was curated by Roben Campbell Opening celebration is Friday March 30 6-9pm with talks by Pat Hatch and > Roben Campbell, music, and refreshments. Free admission, donation suggested. Harvard Historical Society, 215 Still River Road, Harvard, MA. Call 978- 456-8285 for exhibit hours and visit the Black Cloth Dolls website here.
Members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra will perform traditional Latin and Celtic tunes in the sixth of this season’s eight free Community Chamber Concerts organized by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and performed in various venues around Greater Boston. The program, which includes such Latin-inspired tunes as Gade’s Jalousie and the tango from Albéniz’s España, will be performed at 3 pm on Sunday, APRIL 1 at Bethany Congregational Church, 18 Spear Street, Quincy. Future Community Chamber Concerts this season are April 15 at Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury and April 29 at the First Baptist Church in Worcester. Admission is free with a reservation, which can be made by calling 617-638-9300.
ACT ROXBURY presents “Are You Ready, My Sister?” at Hibernian Hall on APRIL 3 – 5 at 10am, the exciting story of Harriet Tubman, and the Quaker women who helped her bring 300 fugitives to freedom. This historical adventure story is told by two actress/puppeteers using a giant patchwork quilt; as the plot unfolds, each square of the quilt comes to life with shadow-puppets and painted back-lit scenery. Besides providing a brilliantly colorful setting, the quilt is a metaphor of women’s work and collaborations. The play features audience participation, dramatic scenes and live music based on the spirituals of the slave-era. Appropriate for adults and students grades 3-8. Tickets are $10, with discounts for student groups. Please contact Jonathan at 617-541-3900 x324 to reserve tickets. Hibernian Hall is located at 182 Dudley Street, Roxbury

409 Edgecombe Avenue: The House on Sugar Hill, a new play by Katherine Butler Jones and directed by Akiba Abaka runs April 5-21 at Boston Center for the Arts – Plaza Theatre 539Tremont St. This play revolves around Madame Stephanie St. Claire, the luminous and controversial “Numbers Queen” of Harlem, who lived among many of the elite Black leaders and celebrities of the 1930′s at this prestigious address. Flamboyant Mme. St. Clair was an enigma, who championed the rights of the oppressed, yet she staunchly held her ground against white racketeer Dutch Schultz, who tried to encroach into her numbers game, and she went to jail for a murder attempt on her playboy husband. Tickets on sale now at A Nubian Notion or call 617-933-8600. For more information, call 617-427-9417
Still playing: “Six Rounds, Six Lessons by John ADEKoje directed by Lois Roach with Jason Bowen, Tory Bullock, Terri Deletetsky, Keith Mascoll, James Milord, Karimah Moreland, Juanita Rodrigues, Wesley Taylor, Jesse Tolbert March 9 thru March 31, 2007 Wednesdays thru Sundays at the Boston Center for the Arts 539 Tremont Street, Boston

URBAN MUSIC AWARDS Saturday, April 14, 2007, the 2nd Annual New England Urban Music Awards will be held at the Berklee Performance Center in Boston, MA. A host of New England artist and other music industry professionals will showcase their talents with their unique styles and sounds. Come and see some of the best performances on stage from New England’s own and celebrate the work of some of the most talented entertainers in the region. Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://urbanmusicawards.org/

The Providence Black Rep presents the world premiere production of DONE, a new play based on interviews with over one hundred teenagers. Celebrate Opening Night on Friday, April 20 at 8pm. Pre and post show receptions will feature fine wines from M.S. Walker, and refreshments from Apsara, Blaze Eastside, and Edible Arrangements. DONE is a realistic depiction of a group of teens and their culture of vulnerability, social pressure, music, humor, sex, violence, and a genuine longing for human contact – and runs until May 20 at The Providence Black Repertory Company, 276 Westminster Street, Providence, RI
Bank of America Celebrity Series in partnership with ACT Roxbury presents Daniel Bernard Roumain – DBR – composer, performer, violinist and band-leader who seamlessly blends funk, rock, hip-hop and classical music into a revolutionary sonic vision. DBR is Haitian-American. This free Lecture/Demonstration will happen at Roxbury Center for Arts at Hibernian Hall on Thursday, MARCH 29 at 7 pm. Reservations not needed. First come, first seated. Free and open to the public.

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