Photo Flash: African-American Shakespeare Company Presents BLACK EAGLES

The African-American Shakespeare Company closes their production of Leslie Lee's Black Eagles this weekend on March 31st. The show is directed by the company's Artistic Director, L. Peter Callender. This marks a return of the company to the Marine's Memorial where it presents the extraordinary drama about the Tuskegee Airmen, America's first black fighter pilots. The play opens onstage during a reception honoring the airmen. As the now-elderly WWII pilots reminisce, their younger selves join them, which serves as the basis for the story of this brave company to be retold.

Willie Rogers, the last member of the original Tuskegee Airmen died at age 101.

"I have always wanted to do this play ever since I became Artistic Director of AASC," says Callender. "With the recent passing of Willie Rogers, I felt in my bones it was time to bring their story to SF and keep the memory of the! se great American heroes alive and strong."

The relationship between the African-American community and the military has been a fraught one over the years, including how the draft was handled during Vietnam, but as Callender notes "There are several stories of African-American heroes (male and female) from past wars, space exploration, The Buffalo Soldiers; builders, and inventors where the contributions have been of immense importance. "I recently read about a group of 11 African-American soldiers brutally mutilated and killed by German SS soldiers in Belgium. Their bodies were found frozen solid some time later. Pursued by the Germans, these men were taken in by a family who hid them in their farmhouse. They might have been safe there, but when they heard that the Germans were close to discovering them, they sacrificed themselves to save the lives of the Belgian family who protected them. The family would certainly have been killed for p! rotecting these soldiers. This is true heroism! These are the forgotten stories. We wish to bring these stories up from the depths to remind a fractured nation of the sacrifices of brave men and women of color."

Callender also notes that World War II was a time when national pride was at the forefront. "Our nation was at war, and although there were serious racial differences from sea to shining sea, when the shooting started, even though racism was rampant in many places, including the bases and in foxholes, for the most part, everyone was in hell when the shells dropped. This is just a reminder that, even though we have differences, when it comes to protecting our nation and its people,allits people, we are one: Americans!"

Cast includes AASC company members Devin Cunningham (Zonita, Cinderella), Gift Harris (Jitney) and joining them is Callender's son Brandon Marcus Callender. "I have always ! wanted the opportunity to act with or direct my son, so I am thrilled to finally have this opportunity with Black Eagles," says Callender before playfully pausing and lifting one brow. "We will see how he feels at the end of the process!"

Performances on Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 3pm through March 31st at the Marines' Memorial Theatre located at 609 Sutter Street, 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94102.

Purchase single tickets through Brown Paper Tickets at https://blackeagles.brownpapertickets.com/ 1.800.838.3006

Visit african-americanshakes.org for more show information and tickets.

Photo Flash: African-American Shakespeare Company Presents BLACK EAGLES
Tuskegee Elders (center) reminisce about their younger years in Italy, 1944. Photo by: Joseph Giammarco

Photo Flash: African-American Shakespeare Company Presents BLACK EAGLES
(L to R: Brandon Callender, Joseph Pendleton, Devin A. Cunningham, and Luchan Baker) enjoy a moment of levity reading a poem written by fellow Eagle; Photo by: Joseph Giammarco

Photo Flash: African-American Shakespeare Company Presents BLACK EAGLES
Elder Eagles (rear, Thomas Robert Simpson, Gift Harris, Todd Risby) tell of the troubling times being put the stockade for requesting civil rights. Photo by: Joseph Giammarco

Photo Flash: African-American Shakespeare Company Presents BLACK EAGLES
Black Eagles receive their flying orders from General Lucas, Commander Office (Gene Thompson). Photo by: Joseph Giammarco

Photo Flash: African-American Shakespeare Company Presents BLACK EAGLES
Proud to be members of the 99th, EAGLES celebrate with pride (L to R: Luchan Baker, Devin A. Cunningham, Joseph Pendleton, Brandon Callender, and Ron Chapman). Photo by: Joseph Giammarco

Photo Flash: African-American Shakespeare Company Presents BLACK EAGLES
Roscoe (Ron Chapman), shares a moment with his friend, Julius. Photo by: Joseph Giammarco

Photo Flash: African-American Shakespeare Company Presents BLACK EAGLES
Buddy (Donald Ray Antoine) and Pia (Margherita Ventura) imagine the quiet, peaceful times after the war. Photo by: Joseph Giammarco

Photo Flash: African-American Shakespeare Company Presents BLACK EAGLES
General Lucas (Gene Thompson) briefs Young Eagle (Brandon Callender). Photo by: Joseph Giammarco

Photo Flash: African-American Shakespeare Company Presents BLACK EAGLES
Black Eagles in flight on mission to escort White flyers on bombing run. Photo by: Joseph Giammarco

Photo Flash: African-American Shakespeare Company Presents BLACK EAGLES
Pia (Margherita Ventura) and Buddy (Donald Antoine) become a special oasis for each other during the war. Photo by: Joseph Giammarco

Photo Flash: African-American Shakespeare Company Presents BLACK EAGLES
Black Eagles on high alert as they fly escort during bombing run. Photo by: Joseph Giammarco

Photo Flash: African-American Shakespeare Company Presents BLACK EAGLES
Buddy (Donald Ray Antoine) describes his first kill as an American fighter pilot. Photo by: Joseph Giammarco

Photo Flash: African-American Shakespeare Company Presents BLACK EAGLES
Pia (Margherita Ventura) and Buddy (Donald Ray Antoine) dance to Jimmy Lunceford in celebration of his success. Photo by: Joseph Giammarco

Photo Flash: African-American Shakespeare Company Presents BLACK EAGLES
Othel (Joseph Pendleton) and Nolan (Brandon Callender) talk about being regaled as heroes when they return home. Photo by: Joseph Giammarco

Photo Flash: African-American Shakespeare Company Presents BLACK EAGLES
Roy Truman (Kyle Goldman) and Dave Whitson (William Robert Caldwell) visit the Black Eagles. Photo by Joseph Giammarco



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