Cambria/Douglass — two portraits of the life and 19th-century times of the ex-slave and abolitionist — will play a limited engagement through Oct. 25. Opening is Sept. 23 (with Frederick Douglass Now) at 8 PM.
The Cambria launches the rep on Sept. 16; Frederick Douglass Now's first preview is Sept. 17. Both plays are seen on Saturdays and Sundays. Visit the website (www.irishartscenter.org) for the exact rep schedule.
According to Cambria production notes, "In 1845, as a relatively unknown escaped slave, Frederick Douglass was forced to flee the United States after publishing his life story, 'A Narrative of the Life of an American Slave.' With false papers — and a bounty on his head from enraged slaveholders — he boarded the Cunard Line paddle steamer The Cambria out of Boston bound for Ireland. He was greeted like a hero by the Irish people and spoke to mass meetings on platforms with Daniel O'Connell, the leading Irish politician of the day. The Cambria is the thrilling tale of this historic voyage…"
The production features writer Donal O'Kelly and Sorcha Fox and is directed by Raymond Keane. Roger Guenveur Smith is Frederick Douglass Now, "illuminating our present American moment with Douglass' ever-brilliant 19th century texts," according to production notes. "The speeches, letters and editorials of the pioneering abolitionist and feminist are bookended by Smith with original narratives, fusing Douglass' era with our own."
Smith's nationally acclaimed solo performance, most recently presented at the Kennedy Center, returns to New York after sold-out engagements at Aaron Davis Hall and La Mama, where it was originally commissioned. At the core of Smith's Douglass "is the fugitive slave turned statesman, whose quest for an America free of racism, sexism, and economic deprivation is still, tragically, relevant," according to production notes.
The performance schedule is Tuesday-Friday at 8 PM, Saturday at 2 PM and 8 PM and Sunday at 3 PM and 7 PM. On Oct. 11, the performance times are 1 PM and 5 PM. Tickets to a single performance are $50 ($42 for IAC and Classical Theatre of Harlem members). Tickets to a double performance (Saturday and Sunday only) are $75 ($65 for IAC and CTH members).
Performances play the Irish Arts Center, 553 W. 51st Street, between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues.
For tickets, call SmartTix at (212) 868-4444 or at www.smarttix.com.
Roger Guenveur Smith adapted his Obie Award-winning A Huey P. Newton Story into a Peabody Award-winning telefilm, directed by his longtime colleague, Spike Lee. For Lee's "Do the Right Thing," he created the stuttering hero, Smiley. His many screen credits also include "American Gangster," for which he was nominated for the Screen Actors' Guild Award, Fighting for director Dito Montiel and Steven Soderbergh's innovative HBO series "K. Street." He directed Culture Clash in their Bessie Award-winning Radio Mambo and was recently featured in Classical Theatre of Harlem's Three Sisters at Harlem Stage Gatehouse. Smith's studies at Occidental College and Yale University (where he served as research assistant at the Frederick Douglass Papers) provoked an early interest in Douglass, which has been continuously refined and reimagined, on both sides of the Atlantic.
Donal O'Kelly is a writer and actor. His much-traveled solo plays include the award-winning Catalpa (Edinburgh Fringe First, London Time Out Critics' Choice, Best Event Melbourne International Festival), Bat The Father Rabbit The Son (Best Writer and Best Actor nominations Irish Theatre Awards), and Jimmy Joyced! (Best Actor nomination Irish Theatre Awards). The Cambria, performed with Sorcha Fox, toured Ireland and played the U.K. and Los Angeles. Vive La, a 1798 spy story mummer play, toured Ireland in 2007, and was revived in the Project in 2008. Running Beast, his music-theatre piece with music by Michael Holohan, has toured Europe since its premiere in September 2007.