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LeLand Gantt Brings RHAPSODY IN BLACK to TPAC This Weekend for Three Performances

Gantt Explores His Personal Journey To Transcend Racism in America

LeLand Gantt Brings RHAPSODY IN BLACK to TPAC This Weekend for Three Performances

As with most intelligent and clever actors struggling to find paying work during difficult times, Leland Gantt readily admits that he was inspired to create Rhapsody in Black, which has been described as "a powerful personal narrative on racism, identity, and self-image" to provide some work for himself, allowing him to "stay in town to do more tv and film." Now, however, as acclaim for his one-man show continues to grow, he's finding himself "out of town" - he's based in New York - to give theater-goers all over the country a chance to see his the result of his creativity on his personal journey to transcene racism in America.

Nashville audiences will have an opportunity to see for themselves what Rhapsody in Black is all about this weekend when Gantt performs his show - which was directed by award-winning actress Estelle Parsons - as part of Tennessee Performing Arts Center's inaugural Perspectives theater series at the Andrew Johnson Theatre.

"I started trying to find some work for myself," Gantt explained during a recent phone interview with BroadwayWorld. "I wanted to stay it town to do more tv and film. It was frustrating. I had decided to become a massage therapist after years of working in a restaurant and when I came back to the industry, the general consensus was, 'LeLand, who?' So I decided to do something about that."

What followed was the creation of nine monologues, he says, which "all sounded like me." That fueled his creativity to discover exactly what he was writing about. "There were a lot of epiphanies along the way," Gantt says. "And in March of 2013, I unveiled it at WorkShop Theatre Company's Sundays@Six reading series."

After that, he continued development of Rhapsody in Black at The Actors Studio, which led to Parsons coming on-board as directorial consultant. Ultimately, Rhapsody in Black won both Best Director and Best Storyteller awards at the United Solo Festival in 2014, ultimately leading to his signing with a new agent and bookings throughout the U.S.

LeLand Gantt Brings RHAPSODY IN BLACK to TPAC This Weekend for Three Performances In Rhapsody in Black, Gantt explores his personal journey to understand and to transcend racism in America, taking audiences on a journey that begins with an underprivileged childhood in McKeesport, Pennsylvania, to teenaged involvement with crime and drugs, eventually leading to scholastic achievement and an acting career, in which he often found himself the only black person in the room.

His experiences of consistently being designated as "The Other" results in a performance that has been called "remarkable" as he expresses himself in moving detail.

"Multiple elements, including the incredible persona of its star, combine to give Rhapsody its super-powered emotional punch. Charming, self-deprecatingly funny, linguistically awesome, LeLand imbues every word from his mouth with all the passion and poignancy of a preacher speaking the Gospel," according to one review.

Now, during the post-pandemic renaissance in American theater, Rhapsody in Black has become an even more dynamic work, one that reflects a trend in theater to be more fully representative of the diversity found throughout the world.

"Because of where the cultural zeitgeist found itself coming out of the pandemic and post-George Floyd, there's been a flood talk about diversity and the work of marginalized people is now flooding the industry," he muses. "A lot of people are holding true to their promises of making the theater more reflective of everyone - there's been a lot of work out there forever - but now it's burgeoning into something bigger."

A creative renaissance in theater, Gantt suggests, might be part of a much-larger evolution in art that has come out of the dark days of the pandemic: "When you take something like theater away from people - what it does for people - their heartbeats come into sync," he says. "People were hungry for theater, they were dying for it. Like igniting a wildfire, opening theater back up has led to a huge resurgence in the pool of creativity out there in the zeitgeist."

"Theater should challenge you to think about taking a better look at yourself," Gantt contends. "We have to willing to look at the things we take for granted - how to do, what to do, when to do anything and everything since we came onto this planet."

In addition to his work in Rhapsody in Black, Gantt's regional credits include: Two Trains Running and Radio Golf (Syracuse Stage); Walter Mosley's The Fall of Heaven, world premiere (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park); Gem of the Ocean (Arena Stage), Jitney (Pittsburgh Public Theater), and In Walks Ed (Longwharf Theater). Off-Broadway/Broadway: Slippery When Wet (La Mama), Another Man's Poison (Peter Jay Sharpe Theater), OyamO's Killa Dilla and Let Me Live (Drama Desk and Audelco Award nominee for Featured Actor), and the revival of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (u/s Rock Dutton). Film and television credits include: Miracle at St. Anna, Requiem for a Dream, Malcolm X, Presumed Innocent, Law and Order, Law and Order SVU, J.A.G. and HBO's The Affair.

Rhapsody in Black runs September 23 through 25 at TPAC, with performances at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights and on Sunday at 2 p.m. For further details and ticket information, call (615) 782-4040, or go to www.tpac.org.



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From This Author - Jeffrey Ellis

Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 35 years. In 1989, Ellis and his partner l... (read more about this author)


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