Classical Theater of Harlem's Hit The Blacks May Reopen in Fall

News   Classical Theater of Harlem's Hit The Blacks May Reopen in Fall
This past spring, The Classical Theater of Harlem (CTH) had its first transfer when its hit production of Jean Genet's The Blacks traveled from uptown to the East Village's CSC space for a four-week run beginning March 11. Now, the growing company may win its second transfer—with the very same show.

Ty Jones and J. Kyle Manzay, actors from the production who won Obie Awards on May 19, said from the stage at Webster Hall that the show would reopen in the fall. No specifics were mentioned and an official announcement has not been released.

The production also won two Obies for its designers, Kimberly Glennon and Anne Lommel, making for a total of four awards for the show.

The Blacks ran at the CTH in Harlem, Jan. 31-Feb. 23. It opened to enthusiastic and respectful reviews and soon transferred to the more accessible CSC space. Recently, Margo Jefferson of the New York Time wrote an appreciation of the piece, sparking additional interest in the production.

The 1961 production of The Blacks is remembered for a number of powerful reasons. It was one of the first big successes of the then nascent Off-Off-Broadway movement. It was also one of the longest running New York productions not on Broadway, playing 1,408 performances. Most importantly, however, it was a landmark in African American theatre, as the cast was entirely made of black men and women, many of whom went on to greater fame. Among the actors to pass through the staging at St. Mark's Playhouse were James Earl Jones, Roscoe Lee Browne, Louis Gossett, Jr. and Cicely Tyson.

The play, subtitled "A Clown Show," deals in Genet's usual concerns of power, social perversity, illusion and role-playing. It shows a group of blacks who enact a ritual rape and murder of a white woman, while being watched by another group of black wearing white masks. The CTH, which uses many local actors and mounts serious but seldom seen dramas, has won acclaim since starting up in 1999, with lauded productions of Native Son and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.

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