John Legend and Mike Jackson, in association with Get Lifted Film Company, have announced that they will present Turn Me Loose Off-Broadway, a new comedic drama by Gretchen Law about the life of comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory.
Gregory is considered to be the first successful black comedian to make jokes about bigotry, and at age 83, he continues to make an impact today. In a recent interview President Obama called him one of his two favorite comics ever. Emmy winner and Scandal star Joe Morton is tapped to play the comedian in the production, which will play the Westside Theatre beginning May 3. It will officially open May 19.
Turn Me Loose is the second show this year that singer Legend is helping produce. He was behind the recent production of 3 Mics, Neal Brennan’s solo show at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre. When asked what attracted him to this new project, Legend said in a statement: “People like Dick Gregory, Paul Robeson, Harry Belafonte and Nina Simone show me what the definition of an artist is – it isn’t just to make art but to speak truth to what’s happening, speak beauty into the world, speak love into the world and also… get involved.”
“It’s a beautiful piece of work,” added Morton. “The conflict, basically, is watching this man who broke the color line on television in terms of being a comedian, morph into becoming the activist he eventually became.”
According to production notes, Turn Me Loose explores “how the overwhelming power of activism enticed Gregory from one of the most successful show business careers of the postwar era into a life of sacrifice and danger alongside Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers and other Civil Rights leaders. Wielding razor-sharp wit Gregory hacked away at myths about race, poverty, war, and politics.”
Turn Me Loose features scenic design by Chris Barreca (Rocky), costume design by Susan Hilferty (Wicked), lighting design by Stephen Strawbridge and sound design by Tony Award winner Leon Rothenberg (The Nance).
Jackie Judd, The Private Theatre, Eric Falkenstein, Ron Simons, Beth Hubbard/Elliot Osagie and Eagle Rock Productions produce along with Legend, Jackson and Get Lifted Film Company. Co-producers include Mary Ellen Lorenzo, Czekaj Artistic Productions, Peter Askin, Mike Fine and Jamie deRoy.