The reading, which will benefit the Venus Project Worldwide, features the talents of Andre De Shields and current Wicked star Jayne Houdyshell as well as Bridgit Antoinette Evans and Nioka Workman. Cynthia Croot directs.
Venus, according to press notes, tells the real-life story of "a young South African woman named Sarah Baartman who was trafficked to London in 1810 and exhibited in a Piccadilly freak show as the legendary 'Venus Hottentot.' When her appeal begins to wane, she is sold to a lonely French scientist who studies her as a medica curiosity, falls in love, and after her death, gains fame for performing an autopsy of his lover's corpse. He then sells her body parts to a French museum, where they sit on public display for nearly 200 years." Venus received the 1996 Obie Award for Best Play and was hailed by Time Magazine as Best Play of 1996.
The event also features the world premiere of original music for solo cello by Nioka Workman and video footage from South African filmmaker Zola Maseko's award-winning documentary, "The Return of Sara Baartman."
Nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in the Broadway production of The Full Monty, Andre De Shields re-created his role as Noah "Horse" T. Simmons for the London production. He received another Tony nomination for his performance in Play On! and also starred on Broadway in The Wiz, Ain't Misbehavin' and Haarlem Nocturne.
Jayne Houdyshell received a Tony nomination for her performance in the Broadway production of Well and an Obie Award as well as Drama Desk, Outer Critic Circle and Lucille Lortel Award nominations for her work in that show's Off-Broadway mounting at the Public Theater. Her numerous theatrical credits also include Much Ado About Nothing, Fighting Words, True Love, Attempts on Her Life, The Pain and the Itch (Jefferson Award) and The Clean House. On screen Houdyshell has been seen in "Garden State," "Changing Lanes," "Maid in Manhattan," "Conviction" and "Law & Order." Tickets, priced $50-$250, are available by calling (646) 408-3428 or by visiting www.venusgiving.org. Harlem Stage at the Gatehouse is located in Manhattan at 150 Convent Avenue at 135th Street.
The Venus Project Worldwide "convenes acclaimed artists and humanitarians in cities around the world to create theatre and other works of art that increase compassion (diminish brutality) in individuals and communities."