Wilmington's Contemporary Stage Lures Richard Easton and Keith David, for Restoring the Sun and Harlem-Set Fourposter

By Kenneth Jones
29 Mar 2005

Richard Easton
Richard Easton

In only its second season, Contemporary Stage Company (CSC) of Wilmington, Delaware, has snagged Tony and Emmy nominee Keith David ("Platoon," Jelly's Last Jam ), and Tony Award winner Richard Easton (The Invention of Love) for productions in summer 2005.

Easton will star in the East Coast premiere of Joe Sutton's Restoring the Sun. David takes on the husband role in Jan de Hartog's The Fourposter, which producing artistic director Keith Powell is re-setting in the Harlem Renaissance.

Last year, CSC's inaugural production of Collected Stories featured Oscar, Emmy, and Tony nominee Lynn Redgrave, and received two prestigious Barrymore Awards: Best Actress in a Play for Redgrave, and Best Supporting Actress for Karina Mackenzie.

"Last summer, right out the gate, Lynn Redgrave set our standards extremely high" said producing artistic director Keith Powell, in a statement. "I am overjoyed and relieved that we are able to meet those standards this summer with the caliber of artists involved in our 2005 season."

The brainchild of Powell, the 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.



This summer, Contemporary Stage's season will see two mainstage productions and a season bonus production. The mainstage season begins with Restoring the Sun. The production will be directed by Collected Stories director Kent Paul. The season concludes with a re-imagining of the classic Tony Award winning comedy The Fourposter by Jan de Hartog. Film and theatre actor Keith David plays a role previously played by such legends as Rex Harrison, Hume Cronyn and Robert Preston. Keith Powell directs.

In addition, CSC will present 30 Plays in 60 Minutes by the Neo-Futurists, an audience-interactive bonus production.

The East Coast premiere of Restoring the Sun (June 1-12) "is a heart-pounding science thriller about following one's dreams at all costs" and The Fourposter (July 6-17), which originally starred Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy is the study of a marriage, and "is now being re-set during the Harlem renaissance." The latter play inspired the musical, I Do! I Do!

For Restoring the Sun, director Kent Paul will bring together the same production team that worked on Collected Stories last year: Michael Schweikardt for sets, Nanzi Adzima for costumes, Matthew McCarthy for lights, and Robert Rees for original music. Playwright Sutton was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his play Voir Dire. His work has been seen around the country at such theatres as New York Theatre Workshop, Seattle Rep, the Old Globe, Arena Stage, and more.

The Fourposter received 1952's Tony Award for Best Play. It was director Powell's idea to relocate the play to Harlem during the black culture renaissance there.

On the stage, Keith David is best known for his 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.

30 Plays in 60 Minutes is better known as Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind, and is the creation of The Neo-Futurists, a comedy troupe based out of Chicago who performs the 30 plays in New York and in their home city.

"I had the pleasure of performing this amazing production myself while an apprentice in college. said Powell. "Never have I had more fun onstage or seen audiences have more fun watching. I'm so excited to present this production to Wilmington. I know it'll be a big hit."

Additional casting for the season will be announced in coming weeks.

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. 30 Plays in 60 Minutes will perform June 17-26, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 PM and 9 PM and Sundays at 2 PM.

Season subscriptions are on sale now, and can be purchased by calling (800) 37-GRAND or by visiting www.contemporarystage.org.