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Arlington Actor and Judge William T. Newman Jr. to Headline New Production of Legendary Black Musical

Avant Bard theatre proudly presents the legendary African American musical The Gospel at Colonus, starring esteemed stage and film actor (and Arlington Circuit Court Chief Judge) William T. Newman Jr. as Oedipus. The production runs February 23 through March 26, 2017, at Gunston Arts Center in Arlington, VA.

The Gospel at Colonus transforms Sophocles' timeless tale of the last days of Oedipus into a parable for our times. Its message of redemption is sorely needed right now. With its epic poetry and magnificent score, The Gospel at Colonus reminds us that out of the deepest sorrows, the highest and most uplifting hope can emerge.

William Thomas Newman Jr. is a busy and familiar stage, screen, TV, and voiceover performer. He most recently played the title roles in Sophocles' Oedipus the King and Shakespeare's Othello with Lean & Hungry Theatre. He won critical acclaim as Jack Johnson in the Ohio Valley Summer Theatre production of The Great White Hope. Washington audiences will remember his appearances at Arena Stage in Julius Caesar and The Winter's Tale. His theatre credits also include starring roles in Plaza Suite, Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, and Let's Get Sanctified. On network TV he played the role of Hal Johnson on the daytime serial Somerset, and his motion picture credits include Suspect and Lee Daniels's The Butler.

In addition to his acting credits, William T. Newman Jr. is Founder and President Emeritus of the Arlington Community Foundation. He has served as a judge on the Arlington Circuit Court of the 17th Judicial Circuit of Virginia since 1993 and as its Chief Judge since 2003. In 1987, he became the first African American elected to the Arlington County Board and served as its chairman in 1991.

A soaring celebration of transcendence and the fragility of life, The Gospel at Colonus was a global sensation when it premiered in 1983. The story combines Greek tragedy and African American heritage. The score is an inspiring fusion of Black church gospel with elements of blues and Motown. Written by Lee Breuer and composer Bob Telson, The Gospel at Colonus was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for Best Drama in 1985 and won the Obie for Best Musical in 1984.

Avant Bard now gives The Gospel at Colonus new life in an up-close and intimate production directed by Jennifer L. Nelson (Resident Director, Mosaic Theater Company of DC; Founding Artistic Director, African Continuum Theatre Company) with musical direction by e'Marcus Harper-Short (Musical Director of Theater Alliance's acclaimed Black Nativity). Unlike previous productions of The Gospel at Colonus, which had a megachurch setting, the Avant Bard production will evoke a sacred site that draws from and honors the Greek and African roots of the source material.

"This is The Gospel at Colonus as you have never seen it before," says Artistic Director Prewitt. "So many lines and songs have taken on fresh relevance-

How can I see you though my tears?
Where shall I find sanctuary?
Now let the weeping cease/Let no one mourn again

-and at this moment in our nation's history it could not be more timely or more welcome."

Tickets are available online at avantbard.org/tickets or by calling 703-418-4808


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