Uggams Is Matriarch in Signature's First Breeze of Summer, Honoring NEC

News   Uggams Is Matriarch in Signature's First Breeze of Summer, Honoring NEC
Tony and Emmy Award winner Leslie Uggams will star in Signature Theatre Company's new production of The First Breeze of Summer by Leslie Lee, Aug. 5-Sept. 28, as part of the Off-Broadway company's season celebrating the historic Negro Ensemble Company (NEC).
Leslie Uggams
Leslie Uggams

This is the first title in Signature's 2008-09 NEC season. Ruben Santiago-Hudson will direct the play, opening Aug. 21 at Peter Norton Space on West 42nd Street.

The original production of The First Breeze of Summer, directed by NEC founder Douglas Turner Ward, received a Tony Award nomination for Best Play during its 1975 run at Broadway's Palace Theatre.

The play "takes place over the course of one sweltering weekend in June, as the struggles of three generations of the Edwards family collide," according to Signature. "Gremmar (Leslie Uggams), the family matriarch, looks back on her past and considers its legacy for her children and grandchildren as they confront the choices that will define their futures. Leslie Lee's Obie Award-winning play is a timeless portrait of family bonds and coming of age."

Additional casting and a design team for will be announced soon.

Signature's 2008-09 season will be an examination of a body of work from the historic Negro Ensemble Company's collective of writers, whose contributions have helped shape America's theatrical heritage. Ruben Santiago-Hudson will serve as associate artist for the season, which will also include Samm-Art Williams' Home, Charles Fuller's Zooman and the Sign, and a staged reading of Douglas Turner Ward's Day of Absence. NEC, which has an extensive theatre training program and in its 40 year history has produced more than 200 new plays, has an alumni roster that include writers such as Stephen Carter, Lonne Elder, Charles Fuller, Leslie Lee and Samm-Art Williams, and actors Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne, Samuel L. Jackson, Phylicia Rashad, Esther Rolle and Denzel Washington.

Uggams recently played Ethel Thayer opposite James Earl Jones in the Broadway revival of Ernest Thompson's On Golden Pond. She played Muzzy in the Tony-award winning musical Thoroughly Modern Millie. She won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance in Hallelujah, Baby! Other Broadway appearances include Blues in the Night, Jerry's Girls, and Anything Goes.

Through The Signature Ticket Initiative, all regularly-priced single tickets ($65) are underwritten and are available for $20 every performance for the entire season, during a show’s initial run. The Signature Ticket Initiative continues through Signature's 20th anniversary season (2010-2011).

For more information or to purchase tickets, please visit or call (212) 244-PLAY (7529).


Signature's current attraction (now in previews) is Mercedes Ruehl and Larry Bryggman in Edward Albee's Occupant, directed by Pam MacKinnon. Opening night is June 5. It continues to July 6.

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