Community Works launches a special exhibit opening of harlem is… THEATER, which honors the historic legacy keepers and current theater stakeholders in Harlem today. Held at Harlem’s Dwyer Cultural Center on Tuesday, March 30 at 6:30 pm, the opening will premiere the harlem is… THEATER documentary, written and directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Professor Jamal Joseph.
Many are calling the current re-emergence of cultural and artistic growth in Harlem its Second Renaissance. Fittingly, harlem is… THEATER (on view through September 3, 2010 at the Dwyer), timely celebrates the rich legacy of Harlem’s theater movement from the founding of the African Grove Theatre in 1821 to Harlem’s Black Arts Movement to the present. With stunning portraits, rare video clips, video montages and reflections on the power of theater in Harlem, the exhibit tells the story of early black theaters, highlights theaters from the Harlem Renaissance, and identifies the current theatrical stakeholders who are preserving and building on this powerful legacy.
“Theater in Harlem has always been an important cultural expression and activity in this community,” says Voza Rivers, Executive Producer, of the New Heritage Theatre Group, the oldest black non-profit theater in New York City.
At the center of the exhibit is the groundbreaking documentary harlem is… THEATER. Filmmaker Jamal Joseph weaves rare archival footage with personal narratives from a stunning roster of theater notables such as Roscoe Orman, Esther Armah, Karen Allen Baxter, Gertrude Jeannette, Ruby Dee, George Miles, Sonia Sanchez, A. Peter Bailey, Kim Weston Moran, Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, Debra Ann Byrd, Nabi Faison, and Andre Robinson.
Through personal anecdotes, these featured artists, scholars, and theater historians chronicle and bring to life the triumphs and challenges of Harlem’s theater heritage; their poignant stories frame provocative conversations between generations of past and contemporary theater legends. “My father was in theater, my mother was in theater. I always knew we had stories to tell and they could be told on the stage,” says Karen Allen Baxter, Professor of Africana Studies at Brown University and Managing Director of Rites and Reason Theatre. For a sneak peak at the documentary, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zI7ToSnPS0
On Tuesday, March 30th, the opening and film premiere welcomes living legends of Harlem theatre, key figures central to the artistic and cultural landscape of Harlem, and notable voices featured in the film—all of whom have been forces within the theatre scene in Harlem.
“The legacy of Harlem theatre is surfacing even as change is happening, “says Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, actress and producer, who is featured in the film.