Tag Archives: Theatre

Dance Theatre of Harlem History Exhibit at NYPL


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Shortly after the assassination of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Arthur Mitchell was inspired to start a ballet school that would offer African American and Latino children — especially those in Harlem, the community in which he was born — the opportunity to study dance and the allied arts. In 1969, a year later, Mitchell and Karel Shook, founded the Dance Theatre of Harlem (DTH) which the New York Times called “one of ballet’s most exciting undertakings”. Now in its fourth decade, DTH has grown into a multi-cultural dance institution and national treasure. Armed with an extraordinary legacy of training exceptional artists, DTH continues to set the standard for artistic excellence in the performing arts.

Through a rich and colorful mix of spectacular costumes, stage props, posters, programs, intimate photographs and video recordings, Dance Theatre of Harlem: 40 Years of Firsts traces the history of the company, its community outreach, renowned productions and cast of legendary dancers, fans and supporters. The free exhibition is on display in the Vincent Astor Gallery of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at 40 Lincoln Center Plaza, February 11 through May 9, 2009. The Library is also presenting related free public programs at the Library for the Performing Arts and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

In a time when black dancers were all but invisible in mainstream ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, founded in 1969 by Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook, brought ballet to the neighborhood and black dancers to the main stage. Since its inception the company has continued to cross social and geographic barriers by introducing the ballet world to a Creole Giselle, inviting audiences to a Caribbean wedding in Dougla, bringing black dancers to the international stage through programs such as Dancing Through Barriers® and bringing ballet to Harlem with education and community outreach.

Many of the stories behind the achievements of the company were artfully documented in photographs by Martha Swope, Marbeth and others. Those on display include photos of guests such as Hillary Clinton and Congressman Charles Rangel attending the company’s monthly open houses where performers of all arts and from other organizations showcase their talents to captivated audiences seated on folding chairs and sometimes on the floor.

One of the centerpieces of the show is an eight-foot-long three-dimensional puzzle that took artist Frank Bara two years to create. Completed in 1989, it was commissioned by Arthur Mitchell to celebrate the company’s 20th anniversary. Each layer of the puzzle, crafted entirely from wood, depicts a different aspect of the company’s first two decades in intricate detail, from ballet casts and music to floor plans and blueprints.

From the ceiling of the gallery hang original character costumes such as Firebird’s firebird and monster created by Geoffrey Holder and the wedding canopy from Dougla. Also on display are examples of tights and pointe shoes illustrating Mr. Mitchell’s ground-breaking insistence that they be dyed to match each dancer’s skin tones. Pictures from Footprints in Red document the stunning costumes designed by Salvatore Ferragamo, which needed to be such a specific blue that craftsmen were flown from Italy to Harlem to dye them just the right shade.

There are also many photographs that show rehearsals in churches and other borrowed spaces that were used before Dance Theatre of Harlem had a home of its own. Other pictures document the world-wide appeal of the company’s talent and show its famous fans like Nelson Mandela after a performance in South Africa and Princess Diana back stage in London.

Dance Theatre of Harlem’s dedication to dance and community has inspired support from a wide range of renowned figures from the world of dance. On view are pictures of candid moments in master classes being taught by such prominent dancers as Rosella Hightower and Carmen de Lavallade; William Dollar, who is coaching young ballerinas for Combat; Alexandra Danilova and Joseph Wyatt who are shown rehearsing Paquita; and Gregory Hines who is pictured tapping with children from the DTH school.

Throughout the gallery, cases exhibit show programs and tour materials including the Australian tour scrapbook that contains newspaper clips from the local press punctuated by negative stereotypes less commonly found in press coverage from the United States.

Also on view are a series of film clips including performances of Giselle and Streetcar Named Desire and a compilation of interviews with those close to the Dance Theatre of Harlem and press coverage the company has received over the years.

Free Public Programs Related to the Exhibition at the Library for the Performing Arts:

Thursday, February 12, 2009, 5:30 p.m.
Inspired by a Dream: The Dance Theatre of Harlem Story
Panel moderated by Anna Kisselgoff. With Robert Garland, Virginia Johnson and others.

Thursday, March 12, 2009, 3:00 p.m.
Dance Theatre of Harlem: Classically American
Panel moderated by Alastair Macaulay. With Frederic Franklin, Lorraine Graves, Suzanne Farrell, and others.

Thursday, March 12, 2009, 5:30 p.m.
The Stories I Could Tell: Arthur Mitchell at 75
The Founding Artistic Director of the Dance Theatre of Harlem in Conversation
with Robert Greskovic.

Thursday, May 7, 5:30 p.m.
African American Choreographers
Panel discussion on making work for Dance Theatre of Harlem

Free Public Programs Related to the Exhibition at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Thursday, April 16, 2009, 7:00 p.m.
Where are the Black Swans?
A panel discussion.

Theatre Production Explores Rise of Free Press in NY


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Theatre Askew’s production of William M. Hoffman (As Is; Ghosts of Versailles) and Anthony Holland’s Cornbury: The Queen’s Governor is more than an entertaining romp. In relating the story of Lord Cornbury, one of New York’s first governors and a rumored cross-dresser, Theatre Askew is leading an in-depth exploration of how the rise of a free press in colonial New York affected the cultural framework in the city and how the dynamic of that early press compares to the recent rise in new media. A panel entitled “The Buzz in Olde New York” will be hosted in collaboration with The New York Historical Society and will feature public historian Kathleen Hulser, Nicholas F. Benton, publisher and editor of the alternative newspaper The Falls Church News-Press, and new media scholar Chris Anderson.

The panel will discuss the role of a free press in establishing a cultural milieu of NY, while simultaneously perpetuating rumors and political viewpoints, particularly the myth of Edward Hyde, Lord Cornbury, the English governor of New York and New Jersey, from 1701-1708. A controversial figure, Cornbury was remembered for centuries for his rumored habit of dressing as his first cousin, Queen Anne. The rumor of Cornbury’s cross-dressing was perpetuated through the recently de-regulated press of the day and bears remarkable similarity to the way rumors are now spread about modern political candidates online.

The panel will take place on January 25 at 3:00 p.m., preceding the 5:00 p.m. performance of Cornbury: The Queen’s Governor. Two other panels will include a conversation with a group made up of multiple generations of Queer NY Writers and a discussion about questions of gender inspired by the play. For more information visit: www.cornburytheplay.com

Details of the gender panel and show:

Cornbury: The Queen’s Governor
At the Hudson Guild Theatre 441 West 26th St., New York, NY
January 24 – February 8, 2009 (no performances 1/27 & 2/3)
Mon., Wed – Sat.: 8:00 p.m.
Sat. Matinee: 2:00 p.m.
Sun. Matinee: 5:00 p.m.

Panel Description: The Buzz in Olde New York – January 25; 3:00 p.m.
The first take on history is defined by the press, which often focuses the lens through which future generations will interpret events and public figures. This panel discusses the impact of an early free press on shaping the myth of Lord Cornbury, the political and cultural evolution of the young city of New York, and how the rise of that early press parallels the advent of alternative media and online journalism practiced today.

About the panelists:

Kathleen Hulser: Kathleen Hulser’s background includes work as a public historian, college teacher, museum administrator, exhibitions curator, public programs director, writer, editor, and media producer. Recent museum projects include such programs & exhibits as: Grant and Lee in War and Peace; Legacies: Contemporary Artists Reflect on Slavery; The Rosenbergs Reconsidered: The Death Penalty in the Cold War Era; Up on the Roof: New York on the Rooftops and Reading Uncle Tom’s Image. Ms. Hulser recently produced New Captivity Narratives, a video installation that juxtaposes modern testimony from the enslaved with classic narratives of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Jacobs. In 2007, she produced “The French Revolution, Lafayette and the Guillotine” for the exhibition French Founding Father: Lafayette’s Return to Washington’s America. On iTunes University, you may view her latest production of an iPod tour, “Frederick Douglass and the Underground Railroad in New York.” Ms. Hulser maintains an active leadership role in the public history field by delivering many papers at professional meetings, organizing conferences, guest lecturing, and leading collection initiatives and community collaborations. Ms. Hulser can be seen making public history appearances on CBS, BBC, PBS, History Channel, NY1, Discovery Channel, Paxton Network, and NPR.

Nicholas F. Benton: Nicholas F. Benton is the founder, owner and editor-in-chief of, and national affairs columnist for, the Falls Church News-Press, a Northern Virginia weekly that since 1991 has gained a widespread reputation as the most progressive newspaper in the state. Circulated inside the “Washington D.C. beltway,” it was the only newspaper in Northern Virginia to endorse Barack Obama last year, and its core distribution area provided more than the total margin of victory for Obama statewide, as Virginia went Democratic in a presidential election for the first time since 1964. A native of California and graduate of Westmont College (A.B.) in his Santa Barbara hometown, and the Pacific School of Religion (M.Div.) in Berkeley, Benton was a leading San Francisco Bay-area activist in the earliest post-Stonewall days of the gay liberation movement. As an openly gay and politically active newspaper owner, Benton was named “Businessman of the Year” for 2007 by the Falls Church City Council, which also twice been named his newspaper “Business of the Year” (1991 and 2001). He’s served two terms as president of the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce, named the recipient of its “Pillar of the Community” award twice (1992 and 2003). Last year, the City Paper in Washington, D.C., named his paper the “Best Remnant of the Liberal Media” in its annual “Best of D.C.” edition.

Chris Anderson: A long-time reporter and editor with New York City Indymedia and The New York Indypendent, Chris Anderson is in his final year of a PhD in communications at Columbia University, where he is studying journalistic authority, media history, and the emergence of new media technologies. Anderson’s dissertation, “Networking the News: Work, Knowledge and Occupational Authority in the New Metropolitan Journalism,” focuses on the impact new technologies are having on the media by examining newsrooms practices used by traditional news organizations, bloggers, and citizen media projects in Philadelphia, Pa. Anderson is the co-author of “News Production and Organizations: Professionalism, Objectivity, and Truth Seeking,” published in the Handbook of Journalism Studies. He holds a B.A. in Political Science from Indiana University, a MA and MPhil from Columbia University. He lives in Brooklyn with his partner Jessica and two mischievous cats.

About the playwright and company: William M. Hoffman (playwright) is best known for his groundbreaking play about the AIDS epidemic, As Is, for which he was nominated for the Tony and Pulitzer Prize and received the OBIE and Drama Desk awards. New York Magazine recently named it one of the most significant New York cultural works of the past 40 years. He also wrote the libretto for the Metropolitan Opera’s The Ghosts of Versailles with music by John Corigliano. Commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera in honor of its centennial.

Theatre Askew’s inaugural production, Bald Diva! earned unanimous critical acclaim over its several runs, including a GLAAD Media Award nomination for Outstanding Off-Off Broadway Play and a “Best of 2004” nod from Theater Mania. Their follow-up show was the hit serial I, Claudius Live. Last year they received their second GLAAD Media Award nomination for the world-premiere production of Jason Schafer’s i google myself. For their work on that show, the company was named 2007 People of the Year by nytheatre.com.

NYPL Acquires Papers of Theatrical Legends


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The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center has acquired the papers of renowned performers and acting teachers Uta Hagen and Herbert Berghof. The collection consists of thousands of pages of unpublished correspondence, diaries, scripts and manuscripts, photographs, clippings and other documentation relating to the dynamic theatrical careers of both Hagen and Berghof. This collection of professional and personal papers, spanning nearly 100 years of theater history, is being made public for the first time. To celebrate the bequest, the Library is planning a series of eight free public programs featuring many close friends and colleagues of Ms. Hagen and Mr. Berghof’s including such figures as Harold Prince, Edward Albee, David Hyde Pierce and Eli Wallach.

The collection consists of 99 boxes of papers totaling 49 linear feet and provides in-depth insight about Ms. Hagen and Mr. Berghof’s personal life, their working processes in various theater productions, and their renowned acting school HB Studio, and includes correspondence from esteemed personalities such as Katharine Hepburn, Tennessee Williams, José Ferrer, David O. Selznik and Thornton Wilder.

Ms. Hagen’s papers include correspondence to and from her family, as well as other Hagen family papers. Her letters to her father Oskar Hagen – whom she playfully refers to many times as “papalop” – reveals new details of her personal and professional life. Of particular interest are various letters mentioning segregation during the Othello tour (1943-1945) with Paul Robeson and her then-husband, José Ferrer, and her diaries and notebooks which detail character studies for many of her roles. A notebook Hagen kept during rehearsals of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is overrun with a range of notes and observations regarding character motivation and psychology. In one section, she writes: “Attacking George for being a failure all the time. Motive; ashamed of his dependence on my father….aware of his subservience.”

Mr. Berghof’s papers document the many productions which he performed in, directed, adapted, translated, or developed. The productions and projects span his entire career from the late 1920s to his final project in 1990. Included are materials and correspondence with Samuel Beckett regarding Waiting for Godot.

The collection, entitled the “Uta Hagen/Herbert Berghof Papers” was bequeathed by Uta Hagen to the Billy Rose Theatre Division in 2007. It will be housed in the Billy Rose Theatre Division of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.

A tour de force in the theater world for over seven decades, Uta Hagen’s numerous leading roles included Martha in the original Broadway production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1962 (for which she won a Tony Award), Desdemona opposite Paul Robeson’s Othello, and Blanche DuBois opposite Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire. She taught at the tremendously influential acting school HB Studio, where her students included Matthew Broderick, Robert DeNiro, Liza Minnelli, Al Pacino, Amanda Peet, and Jason Robards. Ms. Hagen married its founder, the actor, director and writer Herbert Berghof in 1957.

Mr. Berghof, who died in 1990, remains one of the most revered acting coaches in theater history. During the years he presided over HB Studio, the roster of alumni included – in addition to the ones mentioned above – actors such as Anne Bancroft, Geraldine Page, and Fritz Weaver. Mr. Berghof also had immense success outside of the school, and garnered much praise for directing the American premiere on Broadway of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot in 1956 and the first all-Black cast version of the play in 1957.

Free Public Programs for Uta Hagen/Herbert Berghof Papers will take place in the Bruno Walter Auditorium in The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center located at 111 Amsterdam Avenue (between 64th and 65th streets). Admission to all programs is free and first come, first served. For information, please call (212) 642-0142 or visit www.nypl.org/lpaprograms. Programs are curated by Alan Pally, Manager of Public Programs at the Library for the Performing Arts.