National Black Theatre Announce Landmark 50th Season Liberation: A Journey Beyond Walls
Dr. Barbara Ann Teer's National Black Theatre announces its 50th season as it gears up for a major capital redevelopment project of its current site by launching a new programmatic arm entitled "NBT Beyond Walls". "NBT Beyond Walls" will allow National Black Theatre to work outside the confines of it's formal space, to share pedagogy and artistic offerings with various institutions, constituencies and audiences while helping NBT ignite a local, national and international presence. NBT will also utilize this program period to formalize the documentation and archiving of the institution's legacy in order to capture and preserve its contribution and impact on the field. Taking the institution on a journey beyond it's familiar walls the historic 50th Season will be the theme "Liberation: A Journey Beyond Walls," which will comprise seven Signature Productions and one international partnership. The international partnership is an exciting opportunity to work with the Kulturhuset Stadsteatern (National Theatre of Sweden), which is officially establishing NBT's international extension, the National Black Theatre of Sweden, opens in November of 2018.
"In the catalytic year of 1968 when my mother founded NBT, (Dr. Barbara Ann Teer); her commitment was not to the western canon of theater but to the liberation of her people. She used theater as an entry point for Black artist to come into relationship with their divinity, the audience to come into relationship with their activism and as a result, this awakening the two would take transformative actions around the healing of our national consciousness," said National Black Theatre CEO Sade Lythcott. "50 yrs later NBT finds itself more committed than ever to the vision of Dr. Teer and the reimagining of what Harlem, America and indeed the world might look like when the undergirding of every program is rooted in the healing principle of Black liberation. This is a very exciting time for NBT's legacy and history, I hope you will all join us on this journey beyond walls."
The 50th season kicks off on October 17 with the first stop of the national tour of Art for Justice awarded co-production of The Peculiar Patriot, written and performed by Liza Jessie Peterson and directed by Talvin Wilks presented by ArtsEmerson. The powerful one-woman, multimedia show follows protagonist Betsy LaQuanda Ross, a self-proclaimed peculiar patriot, as she makes regular visits to penitentiaries to boost the morale of her incarcerated friends and family, navigating love amid barbed wire. Peterson, who drew heavily from the nearly two decades she spent working at Rikers Island for the piece, recently appeared in Ava DuVernay's Academy Award-nominated documentary on the U.S. prison system, The 13th. The Peculiar Patriot, co-produced by Hi-Arts, will run from October 17 - 28, 2018 at Emerson College's Paramount Center, in Boston.
Picking back up in February 2019, NBT will produce the two workshop productions from NBT's current I Am Soul Playwright Residence's, Lee Edward Colston & Eric Micha Holmes. Colston's The First Deep Breath directed by Malika Oyetimein, follows Pastor Albert Jones as he plans a special church service to honor his late daughter Diane on the sixth anniversary of her death. But when his eldest son, Abdul-Malik, returns home from prison, the First family of Mother Bethel Baptist Church is forced to confront a hornet's nest of long-buried secrets. With each member of the Jones clan desperately fighting to stay afloat, sometimes a family that stays together drowns together. The First Deep Breath will run from February 13 - 17, 2019 at NBT.
Mondo Tragic by Holmes is a live audio-drama that investigates how shockumentaries (or "mondo" films) from the 60' and 70's shaped a biracial man's racial journey. When the lead character becomes captivated by the prospect of documenting the life of a public figure, he is forced to reckon with memory and fantasy, film and documentary, Blackness and Africaness. Mondo Tragic is a genre-bending, multi-media, socially conscious, an experimental piece exploring form to find the truth. Mondo Tragic will happen March 2019 at NBT.
In April 2019, NBT will partner with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and Carnegie Hall to present Migration: The Journey Of Black Bodies. This one-day event examines the movement of the Black bodies in America and the impact that movement has had in the quest for liberation. Utilizing the archives of the Schomburg Center and using multidisciplinary performance and community dialogue, NBT will commission new pieces by theater-makers of African descent to examine the works of James Baldwin, Harriet Powers, Marcus Garvey, Harriet Tubman, and Jacob Lawrence to seek to understand the complexities Black people have faced migrating in America. Migration will happen at the Schomburg Center in April 2019. Dates to be announced.
NBT in partnership with the Apollo Theater's Salon Series presents a workshop performance of Ilathi a new musical with book, music & lyrics by Jason Michael Webb & Lelund Durond Thompson. Ilathi (meaning "altar" in Zulu) is a full-length musical set mainly in Durban & Johannesburg, South Africa in the 90's. We follow Tshidi, a 24-year-old singer, who suddenly learns her life's purpose from a spiritual vision: she must secure a life in America for her 6-year-old son, M'pho. Utilizing musical traditions found in Gospel and traditional Zulu music, Ilathi is a sonic mash-up looking at the power of love, faith, and ancestral grace as a means to save the lives of people you love. This musical is inspired by the real life of Tshidi Manye. Ilathi is being developed as a part of NBT's L.A.B. series. The National Black Theatre will be in residence for one week at the Apollo Theater in April, 2019 as part of its Salon Series program on the Soundstage. The Apollo Salon Series, which began in 2016, supports innovative artists and works-in-progress projects. Tickets will go on sale at the Apollo Theater November 1, 2018.
Closing out the 50th Season NBT will be producing the world premiere of 125th & FREEdom conceived, choreographed and directed by Ebony Noelle Golden. Golden is the inaugural SOUL Directing resident for NBT. 125th & FREEdom is a site-specific performance that takes the whole corridor of 125th street as a theatrical stage and explores the question: "If Harriet Tubman was alive today, how would she free black people?" 125th & FREEDOM is comprised of 10 choreo-poetic rituals from the East River to the Hudson River. Each ritual is identified as a suite. With additional choreography by Jaimé Dzandu & Audrey Hailes and the musical direction of Kelvin Bell, 125th & FREEDOM will take to the streets of Harlem. These pieces will happen June 2019.
For all the up to date information around and to find out more, visit NBT at www.nationalblacktheatre.org.