Keith Powell, artistic director Contemporary Stage Company, a summer venture now in its second season in downtown Wilmington, dips the Tony Award-winning play (which was the basis for the musical I Do! I Do!) into the world of the Harlem Renaissance without changing a line of de Hartog's script.
The warm two-actor play about a loving and bumpy marriage is set circa 1890-1925. The director has been in discussions with the estate of Jan de Hartog and has worked with his designers about the visual world of The Fourposter, which will indicate Harlem without changing the text. One can imagine a gramophone and a stack of brittle Fats Waller and Scott Joplin discs on stage. 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 runs July 6-17 at The Baby Grand Theater at The Grand Opera House in downtown Wilmington, DE. The Fourposter received 1952's Tony Award for Best Play. *
This year, the Barrymore Award-winning CSC graduates from Equity guest artist contract to SPT status.
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.
Young director Powell, then 24, lured Lynn Redgrave to his tiny theatre in 2004 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.
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.
Performances are Wednesdays at 7 PM, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8 PM, and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 PM.
For ticket information, call (800) 37-GRAND or by visiting www.contemporarystage.org.