In the early 1800s, a retired steamboat steward, William Henry Brown, set up a tea garden called the African Grove in the back of his Lower Manhattan house. He served refreshments and at night presented entertainment. One of the artists, James Hewlett, gradually introduced dramatic events to the Grove. From this, the first African- American theatre company developed.
On September 21, 1821, that company (the African Company) announced a performance of Shakespeare's Richard III, which would take place at African Grove. 179 years and one week later, California's North Coast Repertory Theatre announced its performance of The African Company Presents Richard III Sept. 28-Nov. 5. It officially opens Sept. 30.
The African Company Presents Richard III chronicles the true story of the battle of two Richard III productions. The African Company, which had been selling out to mixed crowds, is faced with some foul play by a rival uptown theatre, headed by manager Stephen Price, whose company is putting up its own Richard III.
Joe Powers directs the San Diego premiere of the Carlyle Brown's play with sets by Marty Burnett, costumes by Nancy Tedokon, lights by Chris Rynne, and sound by Todd Reischman. The cast includes Antonio "TJ" Johnson, James Webb, Walter Murray, Gerry Maxwell, Monique Gaffney, Rhys Green, and Janet Mescus.
For tickets to The African Company Presents Richard III at the NCRT, 987D Lomas Santa Fe Drive, Solana Beach, CA, call (858) 481-1055 or toll-free at (888)776 NCRT. You can also visit the NCRT website at www.northcoastrep.org -- by Ernio Hernandez