Have Bed, Will Travel: Harlem-Set Fourposter May Tour With Chicago Star

News   Have Bed, Will Travel: Harlem-Set Fourposter May Tour With Chicago Star Contemporary Stage Company, the Equity troupe that presents summer engagements of plays in Wilmington, Delaware, will see its 2005 Harlem-set production of The Fourposter picked up by Coconut Grove Playhouse for a fall 2006 run.
Jasmine Guy
Jasmine Guy

Keith Powell, the young artistic director who devised and directed the July 6-17, 2005, production, which starred Keith David and Jasmine Guy, will also helm the Miami production. Guy and David will again star in the two-character, one-set Jan de Hartog play about a marriage.

Powell told Playbill.com that he and associate producer Ken Wesler are in talks with investors to bring the play — and its two stars — to a wider audience via a national tour that would start at Coconut Grove.

The play won the 1952 Tony Award for Best Play and was the basis for the musical I Do! I Do!

"The Fourposter was an enormous success for us last summer," Powell said. "It was a beautiful sight to see audiences from all social and cultural backgrounds fall in love with these characters. I think it hit a nerve with a wide range of people and I'm proud to share it with a larger audience."

Powell set the work in the early 20th century during the Harlem Renaissance. Piqued investors traveled to Wilmington to check it out. "They see the potential this play has to affect audiences all over the country," Powell said. "We're in final talks about taking the play on the road and having the Coconut Grove be the launch pad for the tour."

The Coconut Grove Playhouse has a connection with the Jan de Hartog work. Jose Ferrer, the theatre's former artistic director, won a 1952 Tony Award for Best Director working on the original production of The Fourposter starring Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy.

Coconut Grove announced the title, the director and the stars on Jan. 27, but no dates have been made public.

Contemporary Stage Company is a not-for-profit organization.

For more information, contact Keith Powell at keith@contemporarystage.org or at (302) 658-7897 ext. 3855. Or visit www.contemporarystage.org.

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In Contemporary Stage Company's second season, Powell took the Tony Award-winning play The Fourposter and place it into the world of the Harlem Renaissance without changing a line of de Hartog's script.

The warm play about a loving and bumpy marriage between Agnes and Michael is set circa 1890-1925. The director got approval from the estate of Jan de Hartog. The design of the staging suggested Harlem, but the text was not altered.

The title refers to the couple's bed, which is central to the scenic design.

"I was interested in making this rooted in the real world," Powell said. "The play is set basically 1890-1925 and that's right around the time of the Harlem Renaissance. The couple live in a brownstone. So why not a brownstone in Harlem?"

Powell admitted that it helps that Michael is indicated in the script as a writer: It links the character to the creative community of the Harlem Renaissance (think Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston). A different occupation — an accountant or a fish monger, say — might prevent Powell's directorial take.

The Fourposter ran July 6-17 at The Baby Grand Theater at The Grand Opera House in downtown Wilmington, DE.

In summer 2005, the Barrymore Award-winning CSC graduated from Equity guest artist contract to SPT status.

Jasmine Guy appeared in the musical revival of Chicago and is known for her work on the TV sitcom "A Different World." On the stage, Keith David made a Tony-nominated turn opposite Gregory Hines in Jelly's Last Jam. He also starred on Broadway as the lead in August Wilson's Seven Guitars, and Off-Broadway as the title role in Othello at the New York Shakespeare Festival.

In 2004, young director Powell, then 24, lured Lynn Redgrave to his tiny theatre for Collected Stories. She and her co-star Karina Mackenzie won Barrymore Awards for their work, making CSC's spot on the map more indelible.

"Last summer watching Lynn Redgrave in rehearsal was like four years of graduate school," Powell told Playbill.com in 2005.

The two-play 2005 season began with Tony Award winner Richard Easton (The Invention of Love) in the East Coast premiere of Joe Sutton's Restoring the Sun (June 1-12). Kent Paul directed.

The brainchild of Powell, the now 25-year-old African-American actor-producer, Contemporary Stage Company is a multicultural summer theatre company located in The Baby Grand Theater at The Grand Opera House in downtown Wilmington, DE. CSC's mission is "to produce and promote plays representing the full spectrum of many cultures," offering colorblind casting where appropriate.

Keith Powell attended St. Mark's High School in Wilmington before getting his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. Producing credits include New York productions of The Mouse That Roared, Enter Pissarro, Indra & Agni Collide and a workshop of Kidding Jane with Ellen McLaughlin and William Charles Mitchell. Powell is the resident director for Equalogy, a professional touring company promoting social change, for which he directed two plays by August Schulenberg, Four Hearts Changing and One Night. His other directing credits include Dutchman, Quality of Silence, The Visit and Enter Pissarro. As an actor, Powell has appeared in numerous national network commercials. His theatre credits include Romeo & Juliet (The Shakespeare Theatre, Washington, D.C.), Kidding Jane (Portland Stage Company), Macbeth (Pittsburgh Public Theater), As Bees in Honey Drown (Hangar Theater, Ithaca, NY), and The French (HB Playwrights Foundation, NYC) among others. He splits his time between New York City and New Castle.

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