CCNY Launches New Haarlem Arts Theatre; First Up, BLUES FOR MISTER CHARLIE
The City College of New York (CCNY) and its Department of Theatre and Speech are launching the New Haarlem Arts Theatre (NHAT), a new professional theater company in residence at Aaron Davis Hall, which will produce its first season in the summer of 2011. The objective is to establish a professional theater uptown that will rank among the best in the country and to produce bold theatrical works that express the true history, culture, and diversity of America.
New Haarlem Arts Theatre (NHAT) will produce James Baldwin's "Blues for Mister Charlie," directed by Eugene Nesmith, NHAT's founder and Artistic Director, June 23 to July 17 and the musical revue, "It Ain't Nothin' but the Blues," directed by Alfred Preisser, co-founder and former Artistic Director of the Classical Theatre of Harlem, July 27 to August 21. Performances will be in Theatre B of Aaron Davis Hall, located at W. 135th Street and Convent Avenue. Both productions will run Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:00 PM, with matinees Saturdays and Sundays at 2:00 PM. Tickets are $25-15. Box office is SMARTTIX, (212) 868-4444, www.smarttix.com.
A management team headed by Eugene Nesmith, founding Artistic Director, has been formed to build and sustain a vibrant cultural institution in partnership with CCNY that will offer a home for the best emerging modern theater imaginable. In this new theater company, emerging professional actors from the CCNY community will work alongside the most daring, imaginative, and creative artists in their field on a high professional level.
NHATwill also serve as a community anchor with the capacity to unite students and local residents in a range of programming that will address the professional and educational aspirations of the unique and culturally essential neighborhood that is Harlem. Productions will encourage artistic freedom, risk taking and bold experimentation with theatrical forms. NHAT also aims to attract audiences from around the city to Harlem again.
"Blues for Mister Charlie" will have its first major New York production since its Broadway debut in 1964. This timely production, designed to entertain and provoke, re-imagines Baldwin's notions of race, class and gender relations, casting actors beyond racial lines to present a modern complex picture of American culture today.
"It Ain't Nothing but the Blues" will have its first major NY production since its Broadway debut in 1999. This musical revue written by Charles Bevel, Lita Gaithers, Randal Myler, Ron Taylor and Dan Wheetman takes one on a journey exploring the history of the blues and its relationship to American culture.
The Advisory Board of NHAT includes Prof. Eugene Nesmith, Producer/Artistic Director of NHAT and Chair of CCNY's Department of Theatre and Speech; Angie Balsamo and Chris Rempfer, Dramaturgs; Prof. Rob Barron, Associate Artistic Director of NHAT and faculty of Department of Theatre and Speech; Nicholas Betito, House Manager; Patricia Black, Executive Board Member of City College Alumni Association; Lynne Scott Jackson, faculty of CCNY's department of Media & Communication Arts; Donald Jordan, Executive Vice President of City College Alumni Association; Jim Joseph, Theatre Manager of The Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club; Prof. Brandon Judell, faculty of CCNY Department of Theatre & Speech; Prof. Katherine Kavanagh, faculty, BMCC; Eric Krebs, commercial theater producer; Michael Mowatt-Wynn, CEO of Harlem & The Heights Historical Society; Joan Newman, Director of Administration of CCNY Department of Theatre and Speech; Alfred Preisser, Founder of Classical Theatre of Harlem; Scott Siegel, Producer and creator of "Broadway by the Year Series" for Town Hall; Elena Sturman, Executive Director of City College Fund and Mark York, President of the Ziegfeld Society.
Eugene Nesmith is the Founding Artistic Director of The New Haarlem Arts Theatre and the Chair of CCNY's Theatre Department. Mr. Nesmith approaches this new cultural entity with over 25 years of experience in professional theatre as an actor, director and educator, and with a passion to bring great live performance to the community of Harlem. For years he was a member of New York Theatre Workshop's Usual Suspects Group. He was selected to be a member of Lincoln Center's first Directors Lab. Most recently, he was selected to be a member of ATHE's Theatre Leadership Institute. Mr. Nesmith has directed various productions at regional theatres and Off Off-Broadway theaters in New York City. He has published critical essays in The Village Voice and in such scholarly journals as Yale Theater, American Theatre Magazine, and Black Theatre News, to name a few. His critical writings can also be found in such book length projects as "A Source Book on Black Performance," edited by Anna Marie Bean, and "Black Comedy," edited by Pamela Faith Jackson. Mr. Nesmith has also been a judge for The Village Voice Obie Awards and a panelist for the Theater Grants and Policy Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts. Most recently, he served as a speaker and interviewed James Earl Jones at the International Indian Diaspora Film Festival in New York City. As an actor he has performed in various roles Off Broadway and in Regional Theaters, in such roles as Brutus in "Julius Caesar" with Shakespeare and Company, Aaron in "Titus Andronicus" with Target Margin Theater and Baylen in "Glenn Garry Glen Ross" for the Milwaukee Repertory Theater. In 1993, Mr. Nesmith was co-founder with Victoria Norman of The African-American Theatre Program at the University of Louisville.
Alfred Preisser (www.alfredpreisser.com), director of "It Ain't Nothin' But The Blues," is an NYC based director, writer and producer of theater who has helmed over 40 professional productions in NY, regionally and internationally.
CCNY's new President Lisa Staiano-Coico, has announced that one of her priorities is to bring more focus to the arts and training of artists at CCNY, and to that end, she has been one of the major funders of NHAT's season, along with VP Karen Witherspoon, Acting Provost Juan Mercado, Elena Sturman, Executive Director of the City College Fund and Acting Dean Geraldine Murphy.
The theater's website will be: http://newhaarlemartstheatre.org/
Photo: Eugene Nesmith, founding Artistic Director of New Haarlem Arts Theatre (L), and Stephan Macari, member of cast of "Blues for Mister Charlie" (R), in rehearsal at CCNY on May 26, 2011.
Photo Credit: Agate Elie