The Classical Theatre of Harlem (CTH) (Ty Jones, producing artistic director; David Roberts, managing director) proudly announces plans for its landmark 2015 season. The Harlem-based American theatre company will present its 15th Anniversary Celebration and Benefit Concert this spring, featuring songs from the musical “Witness Uganda,” winner of the American Academy of Arts and Letters 2014 Richard Rodgers Production Award for Musical Theater; a free summer production of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest; and the winter holiday world premiere of a new CTH-commissioned musical, “The First Noel.”
15th Anniversary Celebration and Benefit Concert
On Monday, April 13, CTH is set to celebrate its 15th anniversary with a very special event: the New York City premiere of Witness Uganda in Concert at Harlem’s world famous Apollo Theater Soundstage. “Witness Uganda,” a documentary musical by two extraordinary new Harlem artists, Griffin Matthews and Matt Gould, chronicles one man’s battle to find his place in a world full of injustice and inhumanity. The work asks, “Is changing the world even possible?” “Witness Uganda” will open Off-Broadway this fall and CTH is thrilled to bring its joyous and wrenching music to Harlem first. Proceeds will benefit CTH.
The host committee includes Rodrick Covington, David and Monica Csatari, Frederick Davie and Michael Adams, Laurent Delly, Kwaku Driskell, Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews, Richard Habersham, Greg Mays, Joe Johnson, Ty and Jill Jones, Peggy and Ulrich Jorde, Jason and Yvonne Lee, Alex and Brad Linard, Greg Mays, Estela Ogiste, M.D., Ph.D., and Jason Ogiste, M.D., Billy Porter, David Roberts and Paul Di Donato, Zead Ramadan, Juan Ignacio Rosa, Ken and Kate Ruck, Donavin and Emilie Scott, Meredith Simmons, and Sue Suh.
CTH Under the Stars
For its annual free summer production, CTH proudly presents the classic “The Tempest,” directed by Carl Cofield. The production will run from July 3 through July 26 at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park. Cofield helmed the critically-acclaimed production of Amiri Baraka/LeRoi Jones’s Dutchman for CTH last spring. He brings back many artists from that creative team to work on The Tempest, including: Christopher and Justin Swader (scenic design), Rachel Dozier-Ezell (costume design), Alan C. Edwards (lighting design), Eric Sluyter (sound design) and Ralph Stan Lee (stage management).
“What fascinates me about the play—and its iconic characters of Prospero, Caliban, and Ariel—is that it’s a theatrical gumbo, with an intricate blend of usurping villains, youthful romance, music, humor, and conspiracy,” said Cofield. “I am also intrigued by how the protagonist Prospero’s quest for justice leads him to become unjust himself.”
Sharing his concept for the CTH production, Cofield continues, “Prospero’s magical island could be anywhere. Our production references the enchanting island of Hispaniola, the island that is home to both the Dominican Republic and Haiti. The history of Haiti is nothing short of magical. This tiny Caribbean country won its independence by defeating three European superpowers: France, Britain and Spain, demonstrating the same fighting spirit found in Caliban, and the same longing for freedom as Ariel. The Tempest highlights the dynamics of freedom and captivity, imprisonment and rebellion, authority and tyranny. My hope is that after spending time with these characters, we learn something about ourselves.”
The Richard Rodgers Amphitheater is located in Marcus Garvey Park (enter at 124th Street and Fifth Avenue and walk south to the venue). Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 8:00 p.m. Friday’s curtain is at 8:15 p.m., following Jazzmobile’s free concerts at 7:00 p.m. The venue opens for seating at 7:00 p.m. each night and 6:30 p.m. on Fridays.
“The Tempest” is presented by The Classical Theatre of Harlem and City Parks Foundation’s SummerStage festival. All performances are free and no tickets are required.
The World Premiere of The First Noel
December 2015 will see the CTH-commissioned world premiere of “The First Noel” from composer/lyricist Jason Michael Webb (Brooklyn Tabernacle, Broadway’s Motown the Musical, Violet) and writer/lyricist Lelund Durond Thompson (founder, YellaFella Entertainment and CTH Artistic Associate). The new Harlem-based holiday musical, which has been in development for two years, is designed to become an evergreen classic for years to come.
“Using their unparalleled skill and talent, Webb and Thompson have approached the work in two ways: first, by reimagining beloved existing Christmas songs to invoke new life and meaning; and second, by creating dynamic new songs designed to become holiday favorites for a new generation,” said Jones. “‘The First Noel’ will use music that crosses genres—from disco to rock to gospel—to tell a universal story of love and belonging.”
“The First Noel” follows three generations of a Harlem family affected by the tragic loss of a loved one. Time is slow to heal this family’s wounds until an unexpected visit from Grandma reveals some long-absent Christmas joy. This story is about how a community is healed, one family at a time, as everyday people do extraordinary things to help one another receive the gift of love at Christmas time.
December 2015 performance dates and location will be announced at a later date.