THOUGHTS: Disgraced at Berkeley Rep

Dinner party - Disgraced

(l to r) Bernard White (Amir), Nisi Sturgis (Emily), Zakiya Young (Jory), and J. Anthony Crane (Isaac) in Ayad Akhtar’s Disgraced, an engrossing and combustible drama that probes the complexity of identity, at Berkeley Rep.
Photo credit: Liz Lauren

It seems Pakistani-American Amir Kapoor (Bernard White) is living the American Dream. He has an Upper East Side apartment complete with a balcony; a beautiful, blonde, artist wife Emily (Nisi Sturgis); and he is poised to make partner at his corporate law firm. But one New York Times story, and an explosive dinner party with his co-worker Jory (Zakiya Young) and her husband Isaac (J. Anthony Crane) threatens to shatter everything that he has worked for.

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THOUGHTS: Monstress at A.C.T.

Checkers Rosario (Sean San Jose), a horror film screenwriter, and his leading lady and girlfriend, Reva Gogo (Melody Butiu), plan their next film in Presenting...the Monstress!, a one-act play by Sean San Jose adapted from Monstress, Lysley Tenorio's collection of short stories. Monstress is performing at A.C.T.'s Strand Theater through November 22, 2015. Photo by Kevin Berne.

Checkers Rosario (Sean San Jose) and his leading lady and girlfriend, Reva Gogo (Melody Butiu) in Presenting…Monstress. Photo by Kevin Berne.

San Francisco’s A.C.T. (American Conservatory Theater) has inaugurated its new Strand Theater on Market Street with a pair of one-act plays based on the short stories of Bay Area author Lysley Tenorio. The first play, Remember the I-Hotel, begins in 1977 during the historically infamous evictions of long-time elderly residents from Manilatown’s I-Hotel. In a flashback to the 1930s the play reveals the backstory of two of these long-time residents, Vincente (played with believable magnetism by Philip Estrera) and Fortunado (played by the versatile Jomar Tagatac). The flashback introduces the pair as recent immigrants from the Philippines who meet for the first time in a San Francisco dance hall. Vicente and ‘Nado bond quickly and become the closest of companions at work, out on the town, and at home at the I-Hotel. They are inseparable until Vincente falls for the fresh from Wisconsin 18-year -old aspiring journalist Althea (Danielle Frimer), and embarks on an illegal interracial relationship with disastrous consequences.

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THOUGHTS: Othello The Moor of Venice

Debrah Ann Byrd as Othello Photo Credit: © Hubert Williams 2015

Debra Ann Byrd as Othello Photo Credit: © Hubert Williams 2015

Audacity [ôˈdasədē] NOUN: the willingness to take bold risks. Take Wings and Soar (TWAS) and New Heritage Theatre Group (NHTG) has audacity! These two theatre groups collaborated to produce an all women version of William Shakespeare’s Othello. The play was first performed in 1604 in England with the title, “The Moor of Venice.” This time the basement of the St. James church at 141st street and St. Nicholas Avenue (The Dorothy Maynor Theatre) is 17th century Venice and Cyprus. TWAS and NHTG’S 2015 version, most of the time, hits the mark that any successful production might hope for. In addition, #DiversityOnStage is apparent in this production, which is what we love to see here on Arts In Color!


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Playbill used by permission. All rights reserved, Playbill Inc.

Today for Throwback Thursday, Arts in Color looks back at the 1958 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Flower Drum Song.  In reviews of the original 1958  production, Flower Drum Song was fairly criticized for perpetuating inaccurate stereotypes. Indeed, even the central conceit of the play, the picture bride, was wildly anachronistic for the 1950s. However, the production was also arguably groundbreaking for late 1950s Broadway. It was based on source material by a writer of Chinese origin (C.Y. Lee), it focused on a story-line about Asian American characters with no mediating white point-of-view character, and it featured actors of color in all except one principal role (that of nightclub owner and rival love interest Sammy Fong, played in yellow-face by Larry Blyden). Continue reading

THOUGHTS: Barbecue at The Public Theater

Playbill for Barbecue at The Public TheaterThis weekend I made my way downtown to check out the new play at The Public Theater that everyone is buzzing about, Barbecue by Robert O’ Hara. I am happy to give this unique evening of theatre the Arts in Color seal of approval.

TALKS: Actress Heather Alicia Simms on Barbecue at The Public

Heather Alicia SimmsBarbecue is the highly anticipated new Robert O’Hara play now in previews downtown at The Public Theater. The show boasts a bevy of distinguished performers and is set to open October 8th. Arts in Color had the privilege of interviewing a Public regular, actress Heather Alicia Simms.  Continue reading

TALKS: Laiona Michelle is Nanna in Amazing Grace on Broadway

Laiona Michelle Headshot

Laiona Michelle

Amazing Grace, the new Broadway musical currently playing at the Nederlander Theater is a biomusical about John Newton and the story behind the famous Christian hymn published in 1779. The tale also features fictitious characters who add to the historical drama, such as Nanna. Talented Broadway newcomer Laiona Michelle plays Nanna, a vital character who…. well, let’s just have Laiona Michelle tell you. AIC writer Halle Morse caught up with Laiona to learn all about Nanna and her journey to Broadway.

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Choir Boy Ensemble

Pharus (Jelani Alladin), Junior (Rotimi Agbabiaka), David (Forest Van Dyke), Bobby (Dimitri Woods) and AJ (Jaysen Wright) performing. Photo credit: Kevin Berne

It seems fitting to see a play that deals homosexuality on the day the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage. Like Loving v. Virginia almost a half-century ago, Obergefell v. Hodge is poised to change history.

Tarell Alvin McCraney originally debuted Choir Boy in September 2012, but with the Supreme Court decision and the recent attacks on African-American congregations in the South, it feels like it was written specifically for the audience of June 2015.

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News: Playing Jewish at the National Asian American Theatre Company

Stephen Brown-Fried, Lisa Silberman Brenner, Mia Katigbak, and William Finn (left to right)/ photo credit: Peter Kim

Stephen Brown-Fried, Lisa Silberman Brenner, Mia Katigbak, and William Finn (left to right)/ photo credit: Peter Kim

Theatre scholar Lisa Silberman Brenner began the Public Theater’s June 8th panel discussion Playing Jewish at the National Asian American Theatre Company with the following provocations:

  • According to an Asian American Performers Action Coalition analysis, from 2006 onwards the percentage of Asian American actors performing in Broadway or major non-profit off-Broadway productions has ranged from 1% to 4% (an all time high, never repeated).
  • Of all ethnic minorities, actors of Asian descent are least likely to play roles not defined by race
  • Twenty percent of approximately 6 million Jewish Americans are non-Caucasian.

These statistics informed a lively discussion about issues of ethnicity and representation in the theatre as they intersect with and inform the National Asian American Theatre Company’s upcoming all Asian-American production of Clifford Odets’ Awake and Sing!, a play about a three-generation Jewish American family set during the Great Depression. Continue reading

TALKS: Dael Orlandersmith of NYTW’s FOREVER

Dael Orlandersmith in FOREVER  (Photo Credit: Joan Marcus)

Dael Orlandersmith in FOREVER
(Photo Credit: Joan Marcus)

New York Theatre Workshop is closing their 2014-2015 season with the one-woman show Forever written and starring Obie award-winning actress, poet, playwright, and teacher Dael Orlandersmith. Directed by Neel Keller, the Associate Artistic Director of Center Theatre Group and recent director of The NetherForever a memoire that reflects upon family as Dael journeys to the famous Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris where countless artistic icons in history are buried. While exploring  the graves of such greats like as Morrison and Oscar Wild, Dael takes a look back at her past – from the New York City up bringing to the strained and abusive relationship with her mother, from her passion for music and art to her to her conviction to success where her mother couldn’t.

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THOUGHTS: Isfahan Blues

Vida Ghahremani and L. Peter Callender Photo Credit: Pak Han

Vida Ghahremani and L. Peter Callender
Photo Credit: Pak Han

Isfahan Blues is set up in flashbacks. Aging Iranian film star Bella (Vida Ghahremani) has conjured up musician Ray Hamilton (L. Peter Callender), to regale her with tales of the 24 hours they spent together in Iran in 1963.

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