Vineyard and Queens Theatre to Stage Poetic History of the Word; Morton Directs

News   Vineyard and Queens Theatre to Stage Poetic History of the Word; Morton Directs The Vineyard Theatre and Queens Theatre in the Park are co-producing the New York premiere of History of the Word, Ben Snyder's spoken word poetry play about the urban high school experience, directed by the stage and screen actor Joe Morton.

The show runs Feb. 27-March 3 at Washington Irving High School in Manhattan and March 7-10 at the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center in Queens.

The cast includes Utkarsh Ambudkar, Lauren Birriel, David Deblinger, Britton Jones, and Cedric Sanders.

History of the Word "follows four students over a single day in an urban high school as they struggle with identity, and through writing and expressing themselves, move toward empowerment and acceptance," according to press notes. The play draws on the words of historical figures such as Martin Luther King, Jr.; Mahatma Gandhi; Walt Whitman; Sojourner Truth; Muhammad Ali; and William Shakespeare, and spoken word poetry by New York City high school students."

History of the Word will be presented in tandem with poetry workshops in city high schools. Some of the students' own poetry will be incorporated into the script during performances they attend.

History of the Word is co-conceived by Orin Wolf and Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj. It features original poetry by Felice Belle and additional poetry by the spoken word artists Akil Dasan, Marisa Vural, Kayo Charles and Yolanda Kae Wilkinson. Maya Workman is the choreographer. Ali Turns design the costumes, which are donated by the music and fashion mogul Russell Simmons, from his Phat Farm Collection. The rest of the design team includes Neil Patel (sets), Josh Bradford (lights) and Brett Jarvis (sound).

Morton appeared at the Vineyard Theatre in Brutal Imagination in 2003. His other stage credits include the Broadway productions of Art, Raisin (Tony nomination) and Two Gentlemen of Verona and the National Theatre's production of Stuff Happens. His film credits include "The Brother From Another Planet," "Speed," "Paycheck," "Ali," "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," "Malcolm X" and "The Night Listener."

Snyder's work has been produced by New York Stage and Film, LAByrinth Theater Company and P.S. 122, among other companies.

The show previously went up in Oct. 2004 at Crossroads Theatre Co. in New Jersey.

Tickets are available to both students and the general public for all performances. For reservations call (718) 482-5151 or visit www.lagcc.cuny.edu/lpac. Washington Irving High School is at 40 Irving Place at East 17th Street in Manhattan. LaGuardia Performing Arts Center is part of LaGuardia Community College and is at 31-10 Thompson Avenue in Long Island City, Queens.