From the Aisle
By Linda Armstrong
Radio Golf Needs Your Attendance
When I went to the Tony Awards in June, I witnessed that only one African-American won a Tony Award for the evening and that was Bill T. Jones. He won the Tony Award for Choreography for a new Broadway show Spring Awakening. Jones was very up front about hoping that his winning the award would lead to more opportunities for African-Americans to get to choreograph Broadway shows. Jones, of course, has known success for years in another way, having his own dance company, which bares his name. Jones shared that he was surprised to find out that African-Americans have such a difficult time in the theater world.
Although August Wilson’s final play in his ten-play series Radio Golf was nominated for five Tony Awards including Best Play, it did not get to walk away with even one. But one thing that came from that evening, which I feel is very important, is that I had the opportunity to talk to Tonya Pinkins, one of the five cast members of this Broadway play and Pinkins confided that the show needs our people to come out and support it. She candidly shared her concern about the show’s future.
Radio Golf is a very serious play that examines one man’s journey to put his political aspirations and monetary ambitions aside and reconnect with the people of his neighborhood. It’s a journey that the audience goes along with every step of the way. It also shows the many sides of African-Americans through the varied characters. There is one man who has the features of a Black man and to all looking at him, looks like a Black man, but inwardly despises his own people. He doesn’t trust Blacks and he has no loyalty to them. He is very willing to sell out his own people, even a man whom he is a business partner with. Then there’s a character who is a poor Black man that is facing eviction. He is a man who quotes scriptures and has a lot of common sense. Another Black man is someone who does things his way, even if it gets him into trouble. And one thing he feels strongly about is looking out for other Blacks. The only female character in the play is played by Pinkins and is the lead character’s wife. She is interested in her husband keeping his focus with his political aspirations and when he decides to look out for the people of the neighborhood, she wonders what is wrong with him. This play is very serious in terms of its messages. One message is this Black man realizing that he is connected to his old neighborhood and taking up their struggle. Another message is that when it comes to corporate America, the faint of a poor Black man and the people of a dying neighborhood don’t mean anything.
This is definitely a production worth supporting and as with other Black productions, this one may be having problems filling the seats. Our community needs to come out in support of August Wilson’s last play, which he completed not too long before his untimely death. And support this all-Black cast on Broadway.
National Black Theatre Festival Nears
The National Black Theatre Festival is getting closer and closer. It will be held as always in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and it will definitely be the opportunity for all those who love and support Black theater to get an abundance of it. The festival will run from July 30-August 5 and will include theatre ranging from solo performance to cast productions and collegiate theatre, along with hip-hop-themed shows and poetry. There will be areas where new plays will be read, through the Midnight Reading Series always done by the New York-based Frank Silvera Writers Workshop, and led by Garland Thompson, Sr.
There will also be many Black theater companies represented at the festival-New Federal Theatre in Manhattan, the Billie Holiday Theatre in Brooklyn, Black Spectrum Theatre in Queens, Crossroad Theatre in New Brunswick, and the Faison Firehouse Theatre.
This year’s festival will definitely have a sad note as the festival’s founder, Larry Leon Hamlin, recently passed away at the age of 58. Hamlin envisioned the festival as a place where Black theatre, actors, technicians, playwrights, directors and the like could have a place to showcase their work. This festival is not just a place to experience marvelous Black theater, but it’s a place to rejuvenate one’s soul. There is such a feeling of family that is vividly part of the atmosphere of the National Black Theatre Festival.