Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #79

January 26th, 2010  |  Published in Kay Bourne Arts Report

Contents
BATTLE COACHES NY FINALIST
DENZEL TAKES CHARGE IN “ELI”
“HARRIET JACOBS” A MUST SEE!
THE GOOD NEGRO IS. . . . GREAT!
STORY OF COMPOSER McHUGH SINGS
JEFF BRIDGES’ OSCAR BUZZ PERFORMANCE
UP-COMING EVENTS & COMMUNITY INFO


BATTLE COACHES NY FINALIST
by Kay Bourne
(pictured: DeAma Battle)

677 590x856 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #79Not all coaches pace on the side lines.

The founder of the Art of Black Dance and Music, African dance anthropologist DeAMA BATTLE of Somerville was sent recently to South Beach for a week where 140 teen artists were buffing their skills. She had been invited, all expenses paid, to give pointers to a single artist, Nayilah Antoine of Brooklyn, NY, who’d made it to the finals of the 2010 Presidential Scholars in the Arts.

Antoine started out as one of 4000 hopeful candidates for the YoungArts competition, a program of the privately funded National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts, based in Miami.

By the time she was readying for the finals, she was one of one hundred and forty 17 and 18-year-olds competing. Twenty of them will go to the White House in a program that disperses $500,000 in monetary awards and eligibility for $3 million in scholarship opportunities. Past participants include actress Vanessa Williams, the executive director of the American Ballet Theatre Rachel Moore, novelist Allegra Goodman, and Tony award nominated dancer/choreographer Desmond Richardson.

First off, Antoine had to winnow done to the dance she would do before the judges. All of them were from the old Mali Empire; she chose the Mandiani.

“It’s a coming of age dance for young women,” said Battle approvingly of the traditional choreography.

Battle comments that Antoine’s strengths in this presentation are that “she jumps out and engages with the audience from start to finish. That’s what this dance is about, involving the audience.”

Battle added that as the week went on, Antoine grew stronger in her presentation. “Her face had gone blank part way through; now her facial expressions are alive throughout. And she has learned ways to slow the movement down in order to breathe properly.”

Twenty-one dancers had made it to the finals representing Classical Indian, ballet, jazz, choreography, modern, Irish Step, and tap, and there were notable coaches in each of the areas including ballet’s Edward Villella and choreographer of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet Mark Godden. The nine disciplines in the arts represented were jazz, musical instruments, photography, theater (Liv Ullmann was one of the coaches), visual arts, voice, and writing.

Battle currently teaches at the Boston Conservatory of Music, Dance, and Theater, the Parkway Academy in West Roxbury, and an elders program in Cambridge through a grant from the Cambridge Arts Council. She is also archiving African rooted dances in a film documentary.

Art of Black Dance and Music website


DENZEL TAKES CHARGE IN “ELI”
by Joseph Crowley © 2010
678 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #79THE BOOK OF ELI shows us why DENZEL WASHINGTON is both a respected Oscar-winning actor and a Movie Star. His presence and pure talent come through loud and clear in this intriguing film.

Set in post-apocalyptic America, Washington travels West to deliver an (initially unnamed) book. He’s been doing this for thirty years – with forces against him, conspiring to end his travels. A cross between a great episode of “The Twilight Zone” and one of the more entertaining science fiction films of the 1970′s (think “The Omega Man”), THE BOOK OF ELI has lots of action, great set design, some fun, over-the-top acting (Gary Oldman), a subtle turn by Jennifer Beals, and the young Mila Kunis in a good supporting role.

Stark, serious, but never boring, and moving at a steady pace – THE BOOK OF ELI is a fun night out at the movies. The Hughes Brothers have directed with a sure hand, pulling off a great popcorn movie, with plenty of action and laughs as well (Frances de la Tour and Michael Gambon as a quirky elderly couple, all too eager to invite Washington to dinner, are hilarious).

It’s unusual to have such a commercial Hollywood film that also demands one’s attention. Though there’s plenty of comic book-style violence but, in the end, THE BOOK OF ELI challenges the viewer to think of the price of one’s religious beliefs while never being heavy handed about this message. A twist at the end will take the viewer by surprise. That’s just one of many reasons to venture out into the cold to see this entertaining film.

The Official Site of The Book of Eli


“HARRIET JACOBS” A MUST SEE!
by Kay Bourne
(pictured: Kami Smith as Harriet Jacobs)

679 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #79A young girl dreams of romance against all odds but then she recalculates in LYDIA R. DIAMOND‘s beautifully astute dramatization of “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl.”

Given an emotionally involving production by the UNDERGROUND RAILROAD THEATRE in collaboration with artists from THE PROVIDENCE BLACK REPERTORY COMPANY, which has been perceptively directed under the sure hand of MEGAN SANDBERG-ZAKIAN, “HARRIET JACOBS” Jacobs” continues at the Central Square Theatre through the end of January.

The slave narrative published prior to the Civil War in 1861 under the pseudonym of Linda Brent languished in private libraries nearly forgotten until Oxford University Press urged by historian Henry Louis Gates, Jr. re-issued the story of unfathomable evil and the hopes of a girl on the brink of womanhood as part of a series on Black women writers of the 19th century. Then, even more recently, in 2004, historian Jean Fagan Yellin, who had earlier authenticated the memoir as the real deal prompting Gates’ original interest, wrote her monumental biography of the narrative’s author Harriet Jacobs (“Harriet Jacobs, A Life”).

Diamond has reached into both sources for a play that is a companion piece to “The Diary of Anne Frank” and an instant classic in its own right.

Harriet Jacobs’ recollections of life as a slave in Edenton, North Carolina capped by seven years hidden in a crawl space delivers a message of the near miraculous possibility of finding selfhood and maintaining hope while living in the maw of terror.

Everyone involved in the gripping production is on the same page in bringing this uber powerful, existential adventure from American history to life.

A stage set completely in taupe and black by Susan Zeeman Rogers, scenic and object designer, that borrows its aesthetic from painters William H. Johnson (“Going To Church”) and Henri Matisse, is at once utilitarian and suggestive. At the rear is a house made of boards that opened up, serves as Harriet’s grandmother’s bakery and, above which, is a tiny garret. The floor of the stage has whirls of lines (reminiscent of Matisse’s book of 100 cut-outs, “Jazz”) that at one spot become a tree with Spanish moss dripping from its branches.

The ensemble of supporting actors in this all-Black cast enter from the same doors as did the audience. They are carrying glass preserve jars lit from within and filled with cotton bolls on their rough bark branches symbolic of the King Cotton economy springing from avaricious plantation owners that kept slavery going in this country long after it was illegal to import Africans as chattel. The white master raping Black women that was a significant part of ensuring a new generation of free labor is very much at the heart of the Harriet Jacobs travail.

These versatile actors will play White characters as well as Black with a purpose apart from non-traditional casting, instead, suggesting that the story is told from the Black perspective and also referential to the survival skills of servants knowing their masters while their masters fail to plumb them (a theme explored to great theatrical effect also by Jean Genet).

The actors pause momentarily facing the audience with a look on their faces that can well be regarded as accusatory or at least with a dare that the audience not turn away from the story that follows. Americans, Black and White have shied away from coming to terms with the painful truths of slavery (which Oprah Winfrey learned when ticket sales did not meet expectations for her film production of Toni Morrison‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning historically based tale from slavery times, “Beloved.”)

Frankly, Harriet Jacobs, while just as candid, is easier to take and more readily accessible.

When Kami Rushell Smith as Harriet emerges from the crawl space, helped down by the ensemble, the mood alters to one of lightness for she is a person who despite the condition of slavery embraces life. Played to perfection by Smith in an endearing portrayal, Harriet is, as she surely was, charming. She is a teenager without guile, and pleasant to look at, all of which attracts different kinds of attention from affection to jealousy to lust. She is also a romantic, who has filled her head with love stories, for unlike the vast majority of slaves, Harriet was taught to read. She loves to do so even knowing that reading is punishable by death in the codes set up to manage slave life.

Reading also militates against her accepting slavery as her lot for she cannot see herself as merely a piece of property.

Her master, the self satisfied, predatory Dr. James Norcom, in a chilling performance from Raidge, doesn’t see things that way, however, and, even though he is some 40 years older, relentlessly pursues Harriet from age 12 on to his wife’s rage. Kortney Adams is quite terrifying as the elegant but cruel, scornful Mrs. Norcom.

When Harriet’s true love Tom, appealingly played by Sheldon Best, offers Norcom $700 Tom has painstakingly set aside dollar by dollar earned through a talent for wood crafting to buy Harriet so he can marry her, Norcom burns the money in the fireplace telling Tom, “I’ll sell her to you for $850 not a penny less… on the day hell freezes over.” Tom disappears from Harriet’s life not knowing how to make up for his failure to save her from the tormenting Norcom.

To her grandmother’s disquiet, Harriet accepts the advances of a smitten White lawyer, nicely limned by De’Lon Grant as a man who ultimately is more wed to the institution of slavery than to any feelings he might have for Harriet. The grandmother, in a solid performance from Ramona Lisa Alexander, will be the knight in shining armor when matters come to a head for Harriet, a lesson Harriet absorbs.

The cast of characters is filled out nicely by Obehi Janice as a house servant of Harriet’s age and the baritone voiced Mishell Lilly as a field hand who tells the men’s side of the sordid, gruesome existence that is the life and death as a chattel slave.

At one point in the story, Harriet waxes lyrical about the beauty of the cotton fields, then almost shamefaced at her embrace of the landscape but unwilling to deny the visual poetry of it that thrills her, acknowledges the tragic dimension that they are plowed and harvested with blood and tears. This dichotomy, Harriet’s good heart matched against the evil intentions that envelop her, becomes the portal through which Diamond inveigles the audience to enter Jacobs’ world which they will find unforgettable.

“Harriet Jacobs” runs at Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Avenue in Cambridge until January 31 with performances Thursday, Friday, Saturday evenings and Sunday matinees.

“HARRIET JACOBS” website and ticket information


THE GOOD NEGRO IS. . . . GREAT!
by Kay Bourne
(pictured: James Milord as Pelzie, and Marvelyn McFarlane as Claudette)

680 590x393 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #79When the going gets tough in TRACEY SCOTT WILSON’s deftly written “THE GOOD NEGRO,” heroes emerge.

The insider’s guide to machinations behind the scenes in the Civil Rights Movement era in Birmingham, Alabama gets a rousing production from COMPANY ONE that is intense and moves swiftly. The imaginatively plotted drama is eloquently directed by SUMMER L. WILLIAMS. To restate a phrase from the period, Williams keeps her eye unwaveringly on the prize of interweaving several plots into one powerful denouement. “The Good Negro” is stirring as well as enlightening.

The drama illuminates how ordinary people, children among them, can tip the balance and help determine the outcome of events, if at considerable personal cost. The story-line commences when a prim and proper Black mother who has taken her young daughter into a “Whites only” bathroom in a downtown department store is arrested for breaking the Jim Crow law.

Three years prior to the pivotal 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery for Black voting rights and to end segregation in public places, and a year and a half before the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. gives his “I Have A Dream” speech, the movement was heating up in Birmingham.

A sprawling city with a bustling downtown shopping district, Birmingham became known as “bombingham” in the early 60′s when racist Whites regularly fire bombed homes and even churches associated with Black people defying Jim Crow. The bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church which killed little four girls attending Sunday School classes is the most notable example.

The arrest of Claudette Sullivan (in a beautifully modulated performance by Marvelyn McFarlane) is a citizen’s arrest, backed shortly by uniformed police who haul her and her small daughter off to jail.

The cop wanna be, white supremist who nabs Mrs. Sullivan is Gary Thomas Rowe, Jr., given a right-on-target portrayal by Greg Maraio (who has the drawl down perfectly). His zeal catches the eye of two F.B.I. agents who are looking for a candidate to infiltrate the local KKK. As J. Edgar Hoover’s eyes and ears on the scene, Jeff Mahoney and Jonathan Overby aptly portray loyal company men who follow orders, despite occasional second thoughts about Hoover’s directives to prove that the Civil Rights leadership has ties to the Communist Party.

At the center of this maelstrom-in-the-making is James Lawrence, a thinly veiled stand-in for the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lawrence in a sturdy, multi-dimensional performance from Jonathan L. Dent, is perplexed about how to galvanize sufficient numbers of Black supporters to overwhelm the local White power structure or as he puts it, fill the jails to over flowing. He feels the time is now for direct action. He seizes upon the arrest of the upright Mrs. Sullivan as a banner for bringing more people into the protest. Lawrence’s weak spot is an eye for the ladies which pains his wife, well played by Kris Sidberry, and creates for her the dilemma of staying with him for the good of the movement or giving up on the relationship.

Discussing the best way to move forward politically with Lawrence are two high level aides. Insightfully played, Cliff Odle‘s jovial Henry Evans is an old hand at political maneuvering whose friendship with Lawrence is emotionally important to him. Cedric Lilly brings welcomed humor to his characterization of the newbie to the campaign, the rather prissy Bill Rutherford who learns on the job just how important the movement is to him personally.

In a deeply moving performance, James Milord plays Pelzie Sullivan, the average Joe whose wife’s arrest brings him into the movement in a way he wouldn’t have guessed. He is the little man of the movement who becomes a giant because of it.

Christina Todesco has provided a set that manages to separate various threads of the story yet give us a complete picture of what’s going on at all times. She is aided in this achievement by lighting designer Jarrod Bray whose skillful work accentuates the varying moods perfectly. The sound and projection design, which is seminally important to the drama has been well done by Jason E. Weber. The clothes from Miranda Giurleo also help in the characterization, especially the “Peter Pan” collared outfit worn by Mrs. Sullivan.

An old French proverb tells us that the more things change, the more they stay the same. As you watch “The Good Negro” doubtless you’ll be reminded of contemporary political figures whose weaknesses caught out undermine their ability to do good. The playwright doubtless wanted to jog our thinking in this way.

First and foremost, however, the message of “The Good Negro” is a salute to the courage of the men and women in this mighty movement that brought America that much closer to the ideals of its Constitution.

“THE GOOD NEGRO” continues through February 6 at The Boston Center for the Arts, Plaza Theatre, 539 Tremont Street in the South End.

The Official Site of Company One and ticket information


STORY OF COMPOSER McHUGH SINGS
by Kay Bourne
676 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #79ALYN SHIPTON calls his bio of composer JIMMY McHUGH “I FEEL A SONG COMING ON” for good reason.

Like Stevie Wonder in more recent times who once told this writer that songs came to him all hours of the day and night, even when he was brushing his teeth, McHugh could write music through sheer perseverance – and, indeed, he liked tidiness and order while at work.

But there were also those moments when songs would poke out uninvited from his subconscious. So he always kept a pad and pencil with him.

In the small hours of one night, however, he woke up with a song running around in his head. Blurry with sleep, he scribbled the tune on his bed sheet. Come morning, he forgot all about it, and by the time he remembered, the sheets had been whisked off to the Beverly Hill Laundry. After some frantic phone calls from his hotel room, the soiled linen was returned to him. He told the story to a reporter from the Boston Herald at the time, 1939, but without mentioning the title of the tune. Later McHugh would conveniently link the song to “I Couldn’t Sleep A Wink Last Night” written for Frank Sinatra who sang it in the 1949 movie “Higher and Higher.”

Born in 1894, the prolific writer of songs that became both pop and jazz standards, was the eldest son of the five children James and Julia McHugh raised in a home with little money in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, then an Irish American enclave.

He got his start as an office boy and go-fer at $8 a week at the Boston Opera House on Huntington Avenue (now the site of the Marino Center at Northeastern University) where his back stage experience gained him crucial expertise on what goes over well with theater audiences. He learned piano from his mother who encouraged him putting a rag time spin on songs (and before he headed for New York at age 21 to be a song plugger, he played piano at ice cream parlors on Revere Beach where the poor and middle class enjoyed themselves).

To an interesting degree, the biography is a lesson book on how to write a song (and work successfully with a lyricist such as Dorothy Fields or an arranger such as Duke Ellington who had a long professional relationship with McHugh), as well as, an insider’s history of the music business as it developed from Tin Pan Alley to the clubs in Harlem in the Jazz Age to vaudeville and on to Broadway and Hollywood (he scored some 55 films with every star from Shirley Temple to Judy Garland).

Most unusually, McHugh’s more than 500 songs appealed straight across the board so that even his first significant hit (written with Gene Austin) “When My Sugar Walks Down The Street” while recorded early on by, among others, the comb and tissue paper specialist Red Mckenzie and the London based Savoy Havana Band, was recorded by the Greenwich Village dance band of Billy Wynne (featuring “hot” trumpeter Red Nichols) and the diametrically opposite stylistically speaking African American blues queen Clara Smith and her Jazz Band.

His next hit on a par with “Sugar” broke as radio was coming in. “I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me” became one of the most performed songs of all time with Louis Armstrong‘s trumpet and vocal version in 1930 leading the way. The song found its way into the repertoire of Teddy Wilson, Earl Hines, Billie Holiday, Artie Shaw, Count Basie and nearly every one else of note among the big names of the swing era. Later, it became one of the songs most requested of Frank Sinatra.

The Beatles explosion in 1965 lost McHugh and other composers of his ilk their centrality on the radio and elsewhere but it had been an exceptionally long run.

Good songs take on a life of their own, however. Take the 2007 mega Broadway hit “The Jersey Boys” about the career of Frankie Valle and the Four Seasons, for example, which has three McHugh songs: “I Can’t Give You Anything But Love,” “I’m In The Mood For Love,” and “Moody’s Mood For Love” (a jazz reworking by sax player James Moody of “I’m In the Mood For Love” which he yodeled his way through – and which McHugh had to take legal action to get the royalties owed him).

Very likely, McHugh’s songs will be coming on as long as there are music lovers, and in some part thanks to Shipton’s enlightening biography which switches on the klieg lights once again for McHugh.

“I Feel a Song Coming On” link


JEFF BRIDGES’ OSCAR BUZZ PERFORMANCE
by Joseph Crowley © 2010
681 590x881 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #79“CRAZY HEART” contains the definitive JEFF BRIDGES performance. Bridges, the most underrated actor of his generation, plays Bad Blake, a long-forgotten faded Country-Western singer whose life now consists of performing in bowling alleys for the price of a drink; the occasional impersonal sexual hook-up with a fan; and a lot of time spent in regret, bitterness, and alcoholic oblivion.

One reason Bridges’s talent has been taken for granted is he’s not a showboat actor. His performances are subtle, from his early work in “The Last Picture Show” – the first of his four Oscar-nominated performances – and the 1973 film version of Eugene O’Neill’s “The Iceman Cometh” through “Starman”, “The Fabulous Baker Boys” and his hilarious turn in the cult favorite, “The Big Lebowski”.

Bridges has the unique gift of making viewers – even those who’ve been watching him for 40 years – believe he IS the character he’s portraying. Each turn – whether as the President of the United States (his Oscar-nominated turn in 2000′s “The Contender”)or a Silent Screen Cowboy Star (1975′s “Hearts of the West”) – it’s an honest piece of acting work. Unlike many movie stars, Bridges is able to play the man, and get past his familiarity as a film actor.

CRAZY HEART contains scenes of heartbreaking loneliness as we see Blake (four times divorced) try to make it through one more night, just so he can end it in a haze of drinking. The fact that the viewer cares about this character, who has all but given up on life, is a tribute to Bridges’ multi-layered characterization. Blake’s pride and longing for affection (even from a bar full of strangers listening to his old tunes) shows us the man he could have been and the man he still might be if he can only put down the bottle, and his desire, even in his dissipated state, for acceptance and love.

Bridges (who released a CD of his music in 2000) brings a deep wistfulness and unbridled emotion to his singing that adds to his deeply affecting work in this film. Though the film itself is familiar (has-been drunkard performer in a self-destructive mode) is overly familiar to even the most casual film viewer (think Fredric March in 1937′s “A Star is Born”), director SCOTT COOPER, in an impressive film debut, makes the story seem fresh with a fast-moving pacing and by populating his film with well-drawn supporting characters and great turns by veteran actors Colin Farrell (quite good as a former protégé of Blake’s who is now at the top of the Country-Western music scene), Robert Duvall(who played a similar Country-Western alcoholic singer in his Oscar performance, “Tender Mercies”) and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

If you like great acting, that is reason alone to catch CRAZY HEART: Jeff Bridges deserves every accolade he’s won – and surely an Oscar should be awarded for his work here. But if you’re also looking to be moved by a wonderful film, this is another good reason to see CRAZY HEART.

Crazy Heart official website


UP-COMING EVENTS & COMMUNITY INFO

If you were not able to attend last week’s inspiring and memorable Martin Luther King Jr. Service and Celebration 2010 at Boston’s Faneuil Hall presented by The City of Boston, The Museum of African American History, and The Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra (BYSO), click here to view the entire event, featuring special guest speaker SONIA SANCHEZ with music by the BYSO’s Intensive Community Program (ICP) string musicians. The program will also air on Boston City TV (Comcast channel 24 and RCN channel 16) this week, January 27, 28, 30 and 31 at 9:25pm, January 30 at 1:55pm, and January 31 at 1:30pm.

The musical version of the “Ugly Duckling” story “HONK!” comes to the Wheelock Family Theatre, 200 The Riverway, JANUARY 29 through FEBRUARY 28. The award winning show by George Stiles and Anthony Drewe tells a story of love and how being different can be especially rewarding. The plot is taken from the beloved Hans Christian Anderson fable. For more info click here. .

Register now for “The Power of Film” — a panel discussion at the ACLU of Massachusetts Statewide Conference on Saturday, FEBRUARY 6. “The Power of Film” will feature nationally renowned filmmakers and experts: * Tony Grocki, “Waiting for Mercy”; * Robb Moss, “Secrecy”; * Judy Richardson, “Scarred Justice”; * Arnie Reisman, “Hollywood on Trial.” moderator: Lisa Simmons, The Color of Film Collaborative; The panel will showcase their films and discuss the importance of film in “shining the light” on government secrecy and other civil liberties issues. “The Power of Film” will also feature a dozen clips from feature films put together by the ACLU’s Los Angeles affiliate, called “Privacy: Hollywood Style,” which eerily shows fantasy sequences of privacy invasions that now seem all too real.

The PATRICIA ADAMS QUARTET performs FEBRUARY 7 at Ryles Jazz Club Sunday Brunch, 212 Hampshire Street, Inman Square Cambridge. Featuring Ray Santisi, piano; Greg Loughman, bass; Gary Johnson, drums; Patricia Adams, vocals, with jazz and blues standards of Tin Pan Alley and the Harlem Renaissance while diners enjoy a bevy of menu selections. No cover charge. Parking in two complimentary lots. Wheelchair accessible. Family friendly. For information call Ryles Jazz Club at 617-876-9330.

JONATHAN DEMME, who directed Oprah’s film version of Toni Morrison’s “Beloved,” is known for his love of Haitian art and support of Haitian artists. Appropriately, in association with Coolidge Corner Theatre honoring him with its annual Cinema Award, there is a fund raiser underway to benefit Partners in Health. Coolidge supporters have donated $3500 to match the first 140 tickets sold to this upcoming event by February 7. That will enable the Coolidge to send $7000 to the relief efforts. Demme directed the indie documentary “THE AGRONOMIST” centered on the life of Jean Dominque, a Haitian radio personality and Haiti’s struggle for a broad based democracy. For more info about the Demme event and the fundraiser, click here.

Two women from vastly different backgrounds are united through song in BLACK PEARL SINGS! by Frank Higgins at Merrimack Repertory Theatre, FEBRUARY 11 – MARCH 7. ; For information click here or call 978-654-4MRT. The all-Equity cast features Cherene Snow (Pearl) and Valerie Leonard (Susannah), both in their Merrimack Rep debuts. A search for lost African-American folk music leads Susannah, an ambitious “song collector” for the Library of Congress, to Pearl, a woman with a soulful voice, a steely spirit and an incredible history. After meeting Pearl in a Texas jail, Susannah is convinced Pearl may know a song rare enough to earn her a teaching job at Harvard, a post denied to her thus far because of her gender. Pearl has dreams of her own, and hopes her songs will be her ticket out of jail for a reunion with her long-lost daughter. The legacy of the past clashes with their hopes for the future, as they journey to find their way out of the shadows and into the spotlight. Black Pearls Sings! made Theatre Communication Group’s top ten list of most produced plays in America for the 2009-2010 season.

BOSTON BLACK THEATER COLLECTIVE BEGINS SERIES OF STAGED READINGS. The Boston Black Theater Collective will stage its first reading at Jamaicaway Books in Jamaica Plain, with a series of short vignettes by award winning playwright Ed Bullins and his company Roxbury Crossroads Theatre. The reading will take place FEBRUARY 16, 6-8pm and is free and open to the public. Under the new initiative, “The Boston Black Theater Collective” (BBTC) four area companies are working together in a collaborative effort to produce a series of staged readings to take place over the course of the year. The Trotter Institute at UMASS Boston and The Color of Film Collaborative, Inc., in association with StageSource, The Greater Boston Theatre Alliance, are partners in this effort to provide programming, financial and technical support to African American theater companies.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum presents: Djembe Dell’ Arte – African Dance and Drumming on FEBRUARY 16, 10:30 – 11:30 a.m. This presentation is free and open to the public, in the Stephen Smith Center at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Columbia Point, Boston. Everyone in the family will enjoy this dynamic program led by Michelle Bach- Coulibaly of Brown University, featuring songs, high-energy dance, and drumming from West Africa. To make a reservation, please call 617-514-1644 with your name, the number in your party, and your contact information. Space is available on a first-come, first-served basis. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Provincetown Theater Company is SEEKING ACTORS FOR A READING of “Wetu in the City” a new play by Mwalim, to be directed by Born Bi-Kim. The play requires 10 actors to play 13 characters (6 female & 7 male). Contact mwalim@gmail.com . They will be preparing the play in the Boston area and present one reading of it in Provincetown on March 10th, as well as another possible reading in the Boston Cambridge area in May. This is not a paid project, but an opportunity for aspiring and emerging actors to work on the development phase of a new play.

The Boston Public Library is seeking works for its Made in Massachusetts, local filmmaker screening series held every week in 2010. Interested filmmakers should contact Kathy Dunn, Communications Department, The Boston Public Library – Copley, at 617-536-5400 x4319 for submission guidelines.

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