To celebrate Women’s History Month, The Classical Theatre of Harlem (CTH) and Playbill are teaming up for ICONS: Harlem Renaissance in Motion, a series of audio plays produced by CTH and Venus Radio Theater. Launching on March 8, International Women’s Day, an audio play will release each day until March 12, highlighting five Black women whose artistic work was central to the vibrant Harlem Renaissance. For the collection of plays, CTH commissioned Harlem-based playwrights to create monologues performed by Harlem-based actors, honoring the largely unsung voices of fascinating figures, especially women, who were integral to the cultural movement.
First up is May Miller, written by Chima Chikazunga and performed by Maechi Aharanwa. Listen to the full audio play above. Miller was a prolific playwright, writing over 20 plays in the 1920s and 1930s, including The Bog Guide, Sojourner Truth, and Harriet Tubman. As a poet, she published nine books of poetry and read at the 1977 inauguration of President Jimmy Carter.
In Chikazunga’s play, listeners meet Miller in the afterlife, as she reflects on “her life as a Black woman and recalls a highlight of her career during the Harlem Renaissance—knowing W.E.B. Dubois. She speaks about her Black life and the tragedies of ‘fallen soldiers’ that transpired, and haunts us with the tragedies of ‘fallen soldiers’ that persist.”
ICONS was curated by CTH's Director of Literary Programs & Dramaturg Shawn René Graham and Mellon Foundation Playwright-in-Residence Betty Shamieh.
“The Harlem Renaissance was one of the most extraordinary and prolific periods in U.S. history,” says Graham. “Having these writers, who are living in the midst of a new Black art renaissance in theatre, film, and television, revisit these less well-known figures is a testament to the contributions Black artists have made and how they have shaped our culture in the past, present, and future.”
Shamieh adds, “It has been wonderful to witness these writers pour their passion into giving voice to the incredible artists, activists, and intellectuals who shaped the Harlem Renaissance. These imaginative stories brought to life in ICONS illuminate their impact on our culture and our world.”
CTH provides theatrical productions and theatre-based educational and literary programs at little or no cost to underserved communities in Harlem and beyond. Since its founding in 1999, CTH has prioritized opportunity and access in the theatrical arts: onstage, backstage, in its administration, board, and audience. By leading with diversity, equity and inclusion as its core values, CTH attracts one of the most racially, generationally, and socio-economically diverse theatre audiences in New York City. Follow CTH on its website, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Follow Venus Radio Theatre on its Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.