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SHIFT Will Present Orpheus Chamber Orchestra And The Classical Theatre Of Harlem In A HARLEM DREAM


SHIFT Will Present Orpheus Chamber Orchestra And The Classical Theatre Of Harlem In A HARLEM DREAM

On Saturday, March 28, 2020 at 8:00pm, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and The Classical Theatre of Harlem perform the world premiere of A Harlem Dream as part of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Washington Performing Arts' SHIFT: A Festival Of American Orchestras. The festival is a weeklong celebration of the vitality, identity, and extraordinary artistry of North American orchestras through an immersive festival experience in the nation's capital, taking place in Washington, D.C. from March 23-29, 2020.

A Harlem Dream is a stirring rendition of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream with vivid allusions to New York City and the centennial of the Harlem Renaissance. A torchbearer of diversity and inclusion in the classical orchestra field in the U.S. and a long-time resident of Harlem, Orpheus invited The Classical Theatre of Harlem to join this groundbreaking new production. In Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy's beloved score performed in an adaptation for chamber orchestra by Andreas Tarkmann, the 22 Orpheus musicians and eight actors play varied and imaginative roles during the 90-minute performance directed by Peter Francis James. Now, the four young lovers of Shakespeare's beloved tale spin drama alongside Duke Ellington, the Father, and the forest spirits of Central Park.

"Since its inception in 1972, Orpheus has been known for being innovative and exploring new territory. Inviting The Classical Theater of Harlem to celebrate the Harlem Renaissance together with us, and the beautiful music of Mendelssohn was a dream come true," says Orpheus's Executive Director Alexander Scheirle. "For decades our home has been Harlem, and it was important to us to find the right collaborator to highlight Harlem's history, and the wonderful story of our community."

Of the impetus behind the production, Peter Francis James says, "Some time ago, Ty Jones, Producing Artistic Director of The Classical Theatre of Harlem, asked me for advice. He'd been approached by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, proposing that they collaborate on a project together, perhaps using A Midsummer Night's Dream. Having once participated in a concert on this theme, I suggested reading interspersed excerpts of the play, along with Mendelssohn's score. Ty thought they could take on something more adventurous, and, as the centenary was approaching, ideally, could it be something specifically referencing the Harlem Renaissance. That suggestion set off a brushfire in my mind. A remarkable nexus in history, the Harlem Renaissance brought together the Great Migration, The Jazz Age, Women's Suffrage, The Roaring Twenties, the concept of the New Negro, a flowering in art, an explosion in the worlds of letters and music, and vaulting aspirations in the African-American community. Condensing the storyline of the 'Dream' to the four young lovers, the Duke, the Father, and the Forest Spirits (Oberon, Puck and Fairy), and moving the setting, from 'Athens and a nearby Wood,' to Harlem and Central Park...and an enchanted, magical orchestra, conjuring this world, calling forth the mortals to fulfill their destiny, through the immortal music of Mendelssohn and Duke Ellington (oh, definitely Ellington!), it seemed that this remarkable play might, yet again, open itself to yield something relevant and enlightening - for any era, but especially this one."

As part of its involvement with SHIFT, Orpheus will present an Orpheus Process workshop with the DC Youth Orchestra on Saturday, March 28, 2020 from 11:30am-1:30pm at Takoma Education Campus, sharing with students how to work together to create an artistic interpretation. On Sunday, March 29, 2020 at The Hill Center at Capitol Hill, Orpheus performs a family-focused chamber concert featuring works based on Shakespeare.

Program Information

SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras | A Harlem Dream
Saturday, March 28, 2020, at 8:00pm
Kennedy Center Concert Hall | 2700 F St NW | Washington, DC
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
The Classical Theater of Harlem
Tickets: $25


Mendelssohn (arr. Tarkmann) - A Midsummer Night's Dream, incidental music, Op. 21 and 61

Charles Bernard Murray* - Theseus
Sharlee Taylor* - Helena
Alisha Espinosa* - Hermia
Matthew J. Harris* - Demetrius
Kambi Gathesha* - Lysander
Michael Early* - Egeus/Cop/Fairy
Ro Boddie* - Oberon
Reynaldo Piniella* - Puck

Creative Team:
Peter Francis James - Director
Ty Jones - Producing Artistic Director
Ryan Patrick Ervin - General Manager
Sarah Lurie - Lighting Designer
Aharon Simone - Costume Designer
Katherine Freer - Projection Designer
Labhaoise Magee* - Production Stage Manager
Kat Norton* - Assistant Stage Manager

*denotes member of Actors' Equity Association

Orpheus Artistic Directors:
Miho Saegusa
Christof Huebner
James Wilson

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