As February, Black History Month, continues, more and more theatres across the country are lining up shows that celebrate the African American experience.
Here's just a sampling:
* Spunk - George C. Wolfe's adaptation of Zora Neale Hurston's racy, earthy and compassionate stories about Harlem and the deep South just after World War II. Beverly Smith Dawson directs Spunk for Portland Stage Company in Maine, Feb. 8-March 8, opening Feb. 12.
* The Colored Museum - More George C. Wolfe -- the show that put him on the map was a satirical look at black-American cultural stereotypes. Atlanta's Alliance Theatre Company stages the piece Jan. 8 Feb. 8, with artistic director Kenny Leon directing.
* I Could Stop on a Dime and Get Ten Cents Change -- A Ballroom Dance - Diane McIntyre's play is based on her father's life in Cleveland from the 1920s-40s. Segments of this theatre-dance piece delve into blacks in the segregated military during WWII and their placement in the most dangerous factory jobs. At the Cleveland Playhouse, Jan. 27-March 7.
* Some of My Best Friends: A Collection of Characters - A one woman show by a star of TV's "In Living Color" and "Cosby," T'Keyah Crystal Keymah. She plays characters ranging from a corporate superwoman to a liberal peace activist who doesn't get the "black" thing. The show runs Jan. 3-March 8 at NYC's Producers Club. * Madam Queen - The true story of Hannah Elias, as told by diannetucker [sic], at the Jubilee Theatre in Fort Worth, TX, Feb. 6-March 8.
* My One Good Nerve - Back in November 1996, Drama Desk and Obie Award-winning actress Ruby Dee came to downtown Seattle's A Contemporary Theatre (ACT) with a solo adaptation of her 1987 published anthology, "My One Good Nerve." The show, a mix of anecdotes, poetry and short stories, now arrives at NYC's Sylvia & Danny Kaye Playhouse, with an expanded title: "My One Good Nerve: A Visit With Ruby Dee." The show opens Feb. 5 and runs to March 8. Charles Nelson Reilly, who recently staged The Gin Game with Charles Durning and Julie Harris on Broadway, directs.
* Harriet's Return - Featuring Debbie Allen as Harriet Tubman, running Feb. 4-March 7 at CA's Geffen Playhouse. Karen Jones Meadows' drama, directed by Kent Gash, chronicles the life of a black woman whose courage in running the Underground Railroad forever changed a nation.
* Seven Guitars - Nominated for eight Tony Awards, Seven Guitars is the story of Floyd, a Pittsburgh jazz musician struggling to get his band, his sweetheart and himself to Chicago, where he is convinced wealth and fame await him. It's the most recent in August Wilson's cycle of plays about the lives of African-Americans (mainly in Pittsburgh - crossroads of the great South/North migration of American blacks), during the 20th century. The play closed on Broadway, Sept. 8, 1996, and now gets a staging at Washington DC's Studio Theatre Jan. 7-Feb. 15.
-- By David Lefkowitz