Kay Bourne Arts Report – Issue #80

February 19th, 2010  |  Published in Kay Bourne Arts Report


by Kay Bourne
(pictured: Akiba Abaka)

687 590x669 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #80With a portrayal of Puck the Trickster, 10-year-old Jawel Zimbabwe joins the ranks of powerful house actors from Mickey Rooney (1935) to Stanley Tucci (1999). Jawel may well be the youngster actor ever to take the role in a professional production of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (directed by Marshall Hughes for Roxbury Rep). The Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) Awards have taken notice. Zimbabwe is nominated for ‘Most Promising Performance By A Young Actor’ in a category that acknowledges four other child actors.

The IRNE Awards will take place APRIL 19 at the Boston Center for the Arts Cyclorama. A reception starts the evening off at 7pm, the awards ceremony follows at 8pm. The IRNEs recognize theatrical excellence in big theaters such as shows from Broadway and the Huntington to the small theaters that are the backbone of the theatrical scene in the Boston area.

Among this year’s nominees are the musical “Suessical” produced by the Wheelock Family Theater, “Fences” at the Huntington Theater, and “The Best of Both Worlds” (the gospel play at A.R.T. in Cambridge). Donald Byrd is nominated for his choreography of “The Color Purple,” as are several cast members for their performances and Paul Tazewell for costumes for the musical based on Alice Walker’s novel. Jacqui Parker gets a nod for her supporting performance in “A Civil War Christmas” at the Huntington and so too Uzo Aduba in the same category in that play. Crystal Fox is up for Best Actress in “Fences.” Barbara Meek is up for Best Supporting Actress in “Raisin in the Sun” at Trinity Playhouse in Providence, R.I. Company One has a number of nods.

The much anticipated evening also offers the Kenneth A. MacDonald Award for devotion to the Boston area theater over many years.

by Kay Bourne
(picture courtesy of Company One)

688 590x393 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #80Worlds collide in Karen Zacarias‘ comedic drama “LEGACY OF LIGHT.” So who better to direct than LOIS ROACH, an African American Bostonian who has deftly handled plays of the Black experience, the mainstream American experience, and plays where the two merge.

With the New England premiere of “LEGACY OF LIGHT” at the Lyric, Roach is broaching time not culture. She is bringing together stories that happen in the 18th century and the 21st. During the Age of Enlightenment, as Sir Isaac Newton was watching apples fall, another brilliant physicist, Emilie du Chatelet finds herself with child. At 42, fearing she will die in childbirth, she races to complete her research and leave her legacy in science. Meanwhile, present day scientist Olivia, unable to conceive and wondering what she will sacrifice for motherhood, arranges for a surrogate. This character, as it turns out, will pull together the past and the present in a stellar collision.

Roach’s task is to pull off the seemingly unbelievable premise that parallels converge. The effort first involves the backstage artists, her creative team. Her message to the scenic designer, the costume designer, the lighting designer, and the sound designer in particular: “it’s critical that we show the world of the 18th century and the 21st converge and collide. We sat down early this past fall to begin with that objective,” she said.

A graduate of Emerson College, Roach’s theatrical training began even earlier. Her first teacher, she says. was Vernon Blackman, who led the drama department at the Elma Lewis School of the Arts, which expanded into the National Center of Afro American Artists.

“Mr. Blackman taught me to trust my gut,” says Roach. She notes two other artists of color who influenced her. Guy Williams was a fellow student at Emerson. “Guy taught me to hold my ground.”

Later Roach met up with Thomas Grimes, with Roach a playwright and actor. “Thomas taught me to do the work.”

That she paid attention, has been evident in the success she’s had directing over the years, from “Snake Bite” with SpeakEasy, to “Yellowman” and others with New Rep, “Having Our Say,” “Old Settler,” “Crowns” and others with Lyric, “Six Rounds, Six Lessons” with Company One, “Tremonisha” for Opera Providence, and on and on.

In May, Company One will present its annual award in her name recognizing outstanding commitment to the Boston theater community. (The other award is named for David Wheeler given in recognition of an emerging talent in the Boston theater scene.)

Roach has directed out of the country (Derry, Northern Ireland bringing together women from the Catholic, Protestant and Southern communities), however, her admirable career has been in Boston. “I’m glad I’ve stayed,” she told this writer. “Boston has been very good to me. Every time I started to leave for New York or L.A. or Washington, D.C. something creative or personal kept me here.”

Roach feels that she’s been given the plays she’s suppose to direct, and that something she brings to each and everyone of them is her spirit. “I love life and I love laughter. Hopefully I am patient, and learning to be patient. I also think that life is messy and you have a choice; you can succumb or you can rise above it. Grab ahold and keep on going.”

“Legacy of Light” continues through MARCH 13. For more info call 617-585-5678 or visit online.

Official Website of the Lyric Stage

by Kay Bourne
689 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #80The Black citizens of Orangeburg, South Carolina still wait for justice.

In a powerful retelling of the events that led up to the unprovoked deaths of three Black youth shot to death by a barrage of bullets from a phalanx of policemen from the national guard and state police in 1968, a film documentary methodically details the events that led to what became known as The Orangeburg Massacre.

The documentary continues with the aftermath of cover-ups and political double talk that has obscured the true story of that awful night on the campus of South Carolina State College. Told in an even handed manner through interviews and reenactment, “SCARRED JUSTICE: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968″ never harangues or over dramatizes, and is all the more emotionally moving because of its even-handedness.

The Northern Light Production, incisively produced and directed by Bestor Cram and Judy Richardson, has been picked up by public television stations across the country for airing during Black History month. California Newsreel offers the video to public schools, libraries and others for $49.95 (it is not yet available for home video).

An intense viewing experience, “Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968″ gives solid evidence on behalf of a state investigation into the cover up of a tragic event.

Official Site of the movie The Orangeburg Massacre

by Kay Bourne
(pictured: Lydia R. diamond)

686 590x885 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #80Expect something different from playwright LYDIA R. DIAMOND this time out.

The talented Boston transplant has had three successes in the past couple of theater seasons here, all of them entertaining, even at moments funny, however, their emphasis is on being thought provoking takes on Black life in the context of White racism and oppression.

Company One gave us two of the dramas: The Bluest Eye based on Toni Morrison‘s novel in which an adult’s self hatred prompts tragedy for a young child and Voyeurs de Venus which inter-cut two stories: Sartjie Baartman, a 19th century African woman taken from her home and displayed as a curiosity in Paris under the derogatory nickname “the Hottentot Venus” meshed with a contemporary African American woman academic and writer wrestling with the dilemma of presenting Baartman’s story without further exploiting her.

Very recently, Underground Railroad at the Central Square Theater staged “Harriet Jacobs”, which reconfigured the plot of a slave narrative into a theatrical piece and while not one word was from the narrative, but was written by Diamond, the story was based on the Jacobs’ memoir set in ante bellum North Carolina.

By contrast in style and tone, “STICK FLY” opening FEBRUARY 19 at the Huntington’s second stage, the Calderwood Pavilion at the BCA – is what Diamond calls “a family parlor play.”

The comedy drama looks at a wealthy African American clan on Martha’s Vineyard wrestling with interracial romance, sibling rivalry, and issues of class and racial identification and parental expectations.

Diamond has found that in many ways adaptation was more difficult a challenge to her as a writer than sheer invention. With, for example, the Morrison story which “people know well and love, there was a lot of pressure to honor the tone and spirit of the novel. The satisfaction in writing a stage adaptation is located in a different place than when you are enjoying making something new. It’s partly a technical pleasure certainly.”

“With “STICK FLY”, for instance, the satisfaction is to live in the daydream of making up a story,” she said.

There was a major writing challenge for Diamond, however, and one she hadn’t expected. She admits that “my first attempt at writing a ‘well made play’ was grueling, a real learning curve.” For Diamond, who was more used to letting the characters drive the plot as with “Voyeurs de Venus”, the elements she adhered to were “like Ibsen, there is an invisible fourth wall and the actors do not acknowledge the audience (in Harriet Jacobs, by contrast, actors as characters of enslaved Africans toiling in the American South spoke directly to the audience about the horrendous nature of their daily lives).”

Other considerations of the “well made” play were that the story took place in the same space and at a time that moved chronologically. “As with “All My Sons” recently at the Huntington,” she pointed out, “or Lorraine Hansberry‘s “Raisin In The Sun,” “Stick Fly” is a comedy of manners,” says Diamond, who feels humbled by “the skills it took” writing in this tradition of stage plays and grateful for the help she got from “talented dramaturges and actors” when she tried out the script in workshops.

“What started out as a heady little exercise in writing for me then became a full scale project that I worked on with as much heart and dedication as any script,” she said.

The production initially opened at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. ; “the same show picked up from there and plopped down here,” she quips.

Kenny Leon directs. “He’s great!” says Diamond about working with the fabled theater director whose recent achievements include the popular 2004 Broadway revival of “Raisin In The Sun” starring Sean (P. Diddy) Combs and this past season’s “Fences” at the Huntington which he is restaging in April for Broadway starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis, Leon’s fifth revisit of the August Wilson classic.

Diamond’s high praise for Leon relies on a number of key attributes. “Technically, he knows how to direct a play and through his work with August Wilson, he has a reverence for the written word.”

“There’s nothing a playwright likes more than to hear a director say, ‘My whole goal is to make a production that looks and sounds like the play you”ve written.’”

“From the very first day of rehearsals he told the actors he loved the play and was concerned that they not ad lib but be attuned to the rhythms of the language. He understands the musicality of language.”

“Also he has a good eye and he put together an amazing cast. He works well with actors. He’s very collaborative and can hear and incorporate what others say. He’s confident and secure enough in his own vision to hear other people’s ideas and use them when they’re right. He’s pleasant, respectful, able to articulate his vision and humble in all of that,” she said.

In the funny and moving “STICK FLY”, the complexities of a well-to-do African American family come to the surface. Sparks fly when Kent LeVay brings Taylor his fiancé to the family’s luxurious Martha’s Vineyard summer home to meet his parents. Taylor, under the microscope and unaccustomed to the LeVay’s affluent life style, challenges the household dynamic. When Kent’s womanizing older brother arrives with his White girlfriend, long-hidden family secrets are revealed.

“There is an enduring love in this family,” says Diamond whose play looks at sibling rivalry and the dynamics of parents and children.

Diamond herself is an only child who spent her younger years traveling from one college town to another with her mother who is a musician and professor. “She always took me to plays and musicals,” says Diamond, who initially intended to be an actor and enrolled in Northwestern University where discouraged by the lack of roles for African American woman changed her focus to performance studies and playwriting. After graduation she immersed herself in theater in Chicago where many of her plays have been done to critical acclaim. She first visited Martha’s Vineyard as an adult and points out that the characters in “STICK FLY” are purely of her imagination.

Martha’s Vineyard has been the summer destination of affluent African Americans over the past century or so.

Three recent novels have depicted aspects of this Black experience (as did the movie “The Inkwell” so named for a beach that Black summer residents favor). Boston born Dorothy West, who was an important voice in the Harlem Renaissance of the 30′s and who afterwards made Martha’s Vineyard her home, set her novel “The Wedding” in the section of Oak Bluffs’s exclusive summer colony long a stronghold of well-to-do summering Blacks. Apparently, so too did Toni Morrison with the powerful and dramatic “Love,” although Morrison doesn’t specify the setting by name. So too, did Stephen L. Carter with his run away best seller debut novel “The Emperor of Ocean Park,” a mystery that intersects two privileged worlds: upper crust families who summer on Martha’s Vineyard and the inner circle of an ivy league law school.

Diamond says the setting for “STICK FLY,” however, most resembles Edgartown, a resort spot at the other end of the island.

STICK FLY ticket information

by Lisa Simmons
690 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #80“PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: The Lightning Thief” (20th Century Fox) is a Harry Potter meets Narnia with a bit of James Bond, Jr. type of adventure, that not only tests our knowledge of Greek mythology but takes us on a fun and exciting journey to find the lightning bolt that Zeus believes Percy stole.
Percy, mortal son of Poseidon, is thrust in to a new world of Demigods and half humans when the accusation of theft makes it too dangerous for him to live in the “normal” world. His mother and protector bring him to camp half blood where he can be safe and learn to hone his skills as a Demigod. Not long after he arrives, Hades appears and has captured his mother in the underworld. It is this instance that sends Percy on his journey to find the thunderbolt to free his mother from Hades’ grasp and stop a war between the gods.

It’s a great film for kids and a great film to see this school vacation week. The movie, directed by Christopher Columbus is based on a series of adventure and fantasy books written by Rick Riordan and we can be sure there will be many awaiting the next four films.

The official website of THE PERCY JACKSON movie

by Joseph Crowley © 2010
(pictured: Andrew Garfield in “Red Riding: 1974″. courtesy of Phil Fisk/IFC films)

691 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #80The unique experience of the three “RED RIDING” films is not a gimmick. Helmed by three different directors, they were made for British tv and are being released theatrically here (you can see them separately or all at once). It’s accomplished film making at its best.

An intriguing storyline set, mostly, in the volatile 1970′s, a decade when corruption in high office (from Watergate on down) was exposed to the masses – “RED RIDING” is set in three separate years that the killer was terrorizing (based on David Pearce‘s four novels about the Yorkshire Ripper, who claimed thirteen victims before being arrested).

“RED RIDING: 1974,” “RED RIDING: 1980″ and “RED RIDING: 1983″ are each a fully formed film. But the fun thing about watching all three is seeing how seemingly minor characters at the fray of one film turn out to be very integral to the entire slew of murders. Also, the acting and storytelling is superior to just about everything being released by Hollywood studios these days. These films show how everyone is connected somehow – and , though it shows police corruption and cover ups at their most vile and destructive – these films also demonstrates how much humanity is in each person. And, no matter what a human being has experienced in life, there’s always hope.

The very different directors – James Marsh (best known for “Man On Wire”), Anand Tucker (“Shopgirl”) and Julian Jarrold (“Kinky Boots”)- bring a unique stylization to each story without confusing the viewer.

Set in drab, working class neighborhoods, with small-time hoods, cops and working class heroes interacting, the “RED RIDING” films are a superior entertainment for film lovers who appreciate solid film making and great acting. They present a harsh slice of life without the moralizing of a “message” film. Also, the viewer will be on the edge of your seat as you try to figure out the identity of the killer. You will not be able to predict the various twists and turns. Or the consistent superior film making presented here. This is a unique film presentation – one to be savored by film lovers everywhere.


682 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #80Celebrate the many ways to say “LOVE” with a Post Valentine’s DINNER & A MOVIE event presented by The Haley House Bakery Cafe and The Color of Film Collaborative, Inc., Saturday, FEBRUARY 20.
The night includes a three-course, mid-winter Latin feast, followed by three short films featured in past Roxbury Film Festivals:
produced by Tyrone Huff
The dinner table is set as Randal, a young Black man, attempts to impress his future, Mexican in-laws. Add in a side of language barriers, a helping of cultural differences, a bowl of Chiles and this table heats up into what turns out to be one fun, comedic and heartwarming take on that ever-dreaded ‘meeting of the parents.’

produced by Kena Tangi Dorsey
Ayana, a 29 year old fun loving woman, is finally settling down and getting married today. She has chosen the all around perfectly, geeky-handsome man Sean to do it with. When Ayana goes to the church to get ready, Shamar, her tall, dark, five o’clock shadow wearing ex-flame pays her a visit.

produced by Raouf Zaki
In impoverished Baghdad under Saddam’s dictatorship, 16-year-old Amal hopes to regain her social status at school by volunteering to find a book as a class gift for the departing literature teacher. Meanwhile her emotionally fragile little brother becomes obsessed with the notion that a visiting uncle from America–whom he confuses with Santa Claus–will bring him toys. Ashamed to have never been able to give his son a toy, the children’s father sells some more prized family possessions and buys a little car for his son. Amal finds the perfect book in the street market and presents it to the astonished but immensely pleased teacher. Only then does she realize the irony and sacrifices that link the two gifts.

The 3-course Latin feast includes: ~ Ensalada mixto with fresh herbs, tossed in a lemon vinaigrette

~ Pasta Latina Primavera: penne pasta with chicken sausage tossed in a zesty sofrito sauce with fresh carrots, mushrooms, broccoli and green and red bell peppers topped with parmesan (vegan option: no chicken sausage).

~ Flan de leche: custard topped with whipped cream (vegan option: ensalada de frutas – mixed fruit salad)

Doors open at 5:30pm. Dinner & Dessert served at 6pm, films start at 7pm, followed by a discussion led by Nina LaNegra of The Roxbury Media Institute. Tickets are $25 per person.
Ticket info for FEB 20 DINNER & A MOVIE

692 590x898 Kay Bourne Arts Report   Issue #80Sax player, actor and playwright JEFF ROBINSON (pictured to the left as Parker) revisits his widely acclaimed, moving study of the life of alto saxophonist, bebop genius Charlie Parker in LIVE BIRD a one man performance, set in a bar in Harlem where Bird reminisces about his life and music and plays some of his own tunes. “LIVE BIRD” will be performed on the anniversary of Charlie Parker’s death, MARCH 12, at the Cambridge Multi-Cultural Arts Center, 41 Second Street, Cambridge. For more info call 617-577-1400.
BLACK PEARL SINGS! by Frank Higgins plays at Merrimack Repertory Theatre, until MARCH 7, featuring CHERENE SNOW (as Pearl) and VALERIE LEONARD (as Susannah), both in their Merrimack Rep debuts. Ticket information at 978.654.4MRT.

Two-hundred-plus voices strong, Greater Boston’s Mystic Chorale will present “MYSTIC CHORALE CELEBRATES GOSPEL” with guest director Jonathan Singleton in the Converse Hall at Tremont Temple, 88 Tremont Street, downtown Boston, FEBRUARY 27 8pm and FEBRUARY 28 at 3:30pm. General admission tickets at $15 and $10 for senior citizens and students. For information, call 781-316-2500.

Meet the imaginative artist CULLEN WASHINGTON JR. on FEBRUARY 28 from 6-8pm when The Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists extends an open invitation to attend the final day of his exhibit of “HERO’s STORY,” which explores the stereotypes, expectations, and hopes that an African American boy confronts as he grows to manhood. The reception is at the museum, 300 Walnut Avenue in Roxbury. For more info call 617-442-8614.

The musical version of the “Ugly Duckling” story “HONK!” runs at The Wheelock Family Theatre, 200 The Riverway, 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.

AUDITIONS: The Metro Stage Company is holding non-equity auditions for “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” on MARCH 1, from 7-10pm (by Appointment Only) at the Cambridge Family YMCA Theatre. Callbacks will be held on March 2. MSC is seeking a diverse cast of five men and four women for its June 4-12, production. All actors will receive a small stipend. To schedule an audition please contact Chris Teague, Executive Producer, at auditions@metrostagecompany.com or by calling 617-524-5013. Audition requirements listed at www.metrostagecompany.com.

Tickets on sale now for the 2010 TANGLEWOOD JAZZ FESTIVAL taking place in September 4-5, featuring Kurt Elling, The Count Basie Orchestra, Bob James, Donal Fox, Julian Lage, Jessica Molaskey, and more. Tickets are available through Tanglewoods website, www.tanglewood.org or by calling 617-266-1200.

On MARCH 4, The Roxbury Community College Foundation presents the Boston premiere of Janet Langhart Cohen’s critically acclaimed “ANNE & EMMETT,” directed by Robbie McCauley, at Roxbury Community College’s Mainstage, 1234 Columbus Avenue, Roxbury with a playwright talk back immediately following the play. For information call Angela at 617-933-7447.

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.

NU Arts Alive presents “AN EVENING WITH MAYA ANGELOU” on Friday, MARCH 26. Showtime 8pm in the Blackman Auditorium, tickets are $30, for more information call Danielle Anzaldi Roca at 617-373-3449.

Middle and high school students looking for new educational opportunities are invited to THE BOXXOUT YOUTH ORGANIZATION EXPO, on Saturday, MARCH 27. The Boxxout Youth Organization Expo is an exciting, hands-on event, where students can experience many innovative programs, interact with special guests, compete for door prizes, and learn about many great educational opportunities! Students and/or their mentors can sign student participants up for the Expo at www.boxxout.org/expo.html. Registration is required, and ends on March 17. Breakfast and Lunch will be served.

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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