Photos: The Negro Ensemble Company Revives ZOOMAN AND THE SIGN

Running June 27 to July 7 at American Theatre of Actors.

By: May. 29, 2024
Photos: The Negro Ensemble Company Revives ZOOMAN AND THE SIGN
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The Negro Ensemble Company (NEC) produced the world premiere of Charles Fuller’s Obie Award-winning play, “Zooman and the Sign,” 44 years ago at Theater Four on West 55th Street.  Now The Negro Ensemble Company, Inc., in cooperation with Penn Live Arts, is reviving the play for contemporary New York audiences June 27 to July 7 at American Theatre of Actors (ATA), 314 W. 54th Street, directed by Phyllis Yvonne Stickney. See photos from the production. 

The play explores the effects of gun violence on a family and its struggle to convince apathetic neighbors to take a stand together to achieve justice. Playwright Charles Fuller is best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning work, "A Soldier’s Play," which was also originally produced Off-Broadway by NEC. He was born and raised in Philadelphia. This revival of "Zooman and the Sign" is the New York mounting of a production that NEC performed in February for Penn Live Arts at the Annenberg Center in Philadelphia to celebrate the remarkable playwright and shed light on how his work still resonates today. NEC is the 23/24 season artist-in-residence of Penn Live Arts.

The drama achieves new resonance today when American citizens need to generate new understanding of the social forces behind the scourge of gun violence that society has been helpless to resist.  Previously this season, from March 20 to 28 NEC presented "No Policy No Justice," an evening of three one-acts, at La MaMa Community Arts Space, 74 E.4th Street.  That evening explored the tragedy and trauma of the gun violence epidemic and its disproportionate impact on communities of color, particularly on families of shooting victims. 

"Zooman and the Sign" delves into the complexities of urban life, racial tension, and personal responsibility. Set in a gritty neighborhood, the story revolves around Zooman, a troubled young man who commits a senseless act of violence, taking the life of a young girl. The impact of this heinous crime reverberates through the community, forcing residents to confront their own complicity and silence in the face of such atrocities. Central to the narrative is a sign erected by the victim's grieving father, proclaiming the guilt and shame of those who knew but did nothing. This sign becomes a symbol of accountability, challenging the characters to reflect on their own morality and ethical choices. As the family grapples with the community's inaction, tensions rise, and a searing dialogue unfolds, questioning societal norms and the individual's role in the collective responsibility for justice.

Director Phyllis Yvonne Stickney was named in the 25th anniversary of Essence Magazine as “one of the 200 African American Women who has changed the world.” She has received two AUDELCO Awards, The Ellie Charles Award for Contribution to Society and the Arts, The Jewel of African Award, The Phenomenal Woman Award and CT Vivian’s Torch of Leadership. Stickney was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 1998 and on September 12, 2023, received The Lifetime Achievement Award as a Comedic Icon. Her film appearances include "New Jack City," Die Hard III," "Jungle Fever," "What’s Love to Do With It?" "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" and other iconic films. She is Founder/Executive Director of a non-profit community based organization called Alternative Careers in the Arts.

The cast includes Wadiah Brown, Ashlee Danielle, Isaiah Joseph (as Zooman), Salif Kone, Isaiah Martinez, Benjamin Rowe, Constance Thompson and Reginald L. Wilson.

Video/projection designer is Michele Baldwin. Lighting designer is Melody Beal.  Set designer is Patrice Davidson. Sound designer is Twan Howard. Costume designer is Rhonda Lucas.  Stage manager is Erica Jeudy.  Assistant stage managers are Lawrence Floyd and Liam Riordan.

NEC's Artistic Director/Producer is Karen Brown. Producer is Jacqueline Jeffries.

Photo Credit: Negro Ensemble Company

Photos: The Negro Ensemble Company Revives ZOOMAN AND THE SIGN
Constance Thompson, Benjamin Rowe

Photos: The Negro Ensemble Company Revives ZOOMAN AND THE SIGN
Isaiah Joseph

Photos: The Negro Ensemble Company Revives ZOOMAN AND THE SIGN

Photos: The Negro Ensemble Company Revives ZOOMAN AND THE SIGN
Isaiah Joseph

Photos: The Negro Ensemble Company Revives ZOOMAN AND THE SIGN
Reginald L. WIlson, Benjamin Rowe

Photos: The Negro Ensemble Company Revives ZOOMAN AND THE SIGN
Benjamin Rowe

Photos: The Negro Ensemble Company Revives ZOOMAN AND THE SIGN
Benjamin Rowe

Photos: The Negro Ensemble Company Revives ZOOMAN AND THE SIGN
Reginald L. Wilson, Benjamin Rowe




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