RICHARD WESLEY'S PLAYBOOK Set for Crossroads Theatre Company, 3/2
Legacy Month, a celebration of Crossroads Theatre Company's history and contributions to the American cultural landscape, will continue with Richard Wesley's Playbook, a celebration of the prolific playwright and screenwriter's work with performances, video and testimonials on Sunday, March 2.
The program will begin with a luncheon reception with Wesley at noon, followed by the stage program at 2 p.m. at the theater located at 7 Livingston Ave. Tickets are $75 for the reception and staged reading, $25 for the stage program only. The event is a fundraiser for the theater.
Born and raised in Newark, Wesley first made his mark on the New York theater scene in 1971, four years after graduating from Howard University with a BFA. His play, Black Terror, about a revolution about to take place, was produced by the New York Shakespeare Festival at the Public Theatre. He won the Drama Desk Award that year as most promising playwright.
Wesley often worked themes and places from his own background into his works. The Mighty Gents, produced on Broadway in 1978, told the story of aging gang members who had once ruled Newark. His 1989 play, The Talented Tenth, examined the lives of six successful Howard graduates. Both plays were given productions at Crossroads.
His screenwriting credits include the 1974 film, Uptown Saturday Night and the 1975 film, Let's Do it Again, both starring Bill Cosby and Sidney Poitier. He also wrote the screenplays for Native Son (1984) and Fast Forward (1985). Wesley's television credits include Murder Without Motive (1991), Mandela and De Klerk (1997), and Bojangles (2000). He has written for the series Fallen Angels
and 100 Centre Street. Wesley currently is an associate professor in playwriting and screenwriting at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts.
"It is particularly meaningful that we are honoring Mr. Wesley at this time because of the recent passing of two of his most influential mentors - Leslie Lee and Amiri Baraka," said Marshall Jones III, Crossroads' producing artistic director. "Richard returns the favor by mentoring and nurturing new generations of emerging writing talent in his role at NYU. Crossroads is proud to honor one of America's foremost playwrights and screenwriters, whose plays and films have engaged and entertained audiences throughout the world."
Since its founding in 1978 by Ricardo Khan and Lee Richardson, who graduated from Rutgers' Mason Gross School of the Arts, Crossroads has been "dedicated to creating and producing professional theater of the highest standards of artistic excellence." According to its mission, its work celebrates the culture, history, spirit and voices of the entire African Diaspora, and presents "honest and positive portrayals of people of color from around the world."
Crossroads has provided an artistic home to such artists as George C. Wolfe, Ntozake Shange, Mbongeni Ngema, Vernel Bagneris, Ruby Dee and the late Ossie Davis, Guy Davis and, in April this year, to Walter Mosely, for the development and production of new works for theater.
It is one of a diminishing number of theaters dedicated to the production of and support of black theater, and the only black theater company to be honored with the Tony Award as Best Regional Theater in America (1999).
Crossroads has produced the world premieres of Wolfe's The Colored Museum and Spunk; Shange's The Love Space Demands; Ngema's Sheila's Day and Bagneris' And Further Mo'. Crossroads' production of Ain't Nothin' but the Blues moved to Broadway. Productions, including Black Eagles and Flyin' West, have gone to such venues as Ford's Theatre and the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and the Public Theater in New York. More recently, its world premiere production of Fly, by Khan and Trey Ellis, also went to Ford's Theatre, where it was seen by First Lady Michelle Obama. André De Shields came to Crossroads to direct Ain't Misbehavin', which he starred in when it premiered on Broadway.