Coming to Darkhorse Theater: The African Company Presents Richard III

This play, written by Carlyle Brown, is about an actual historic event: In 1821, forty years before Lincoln ended slavery, and fifty years before black Americans earned the right to vote, the first black theatrical group in the country, the African Company of New York, was putting on plays in a downtown Manhattan theater to which both black and white audiences flocked. Yet the drama reached further than their stage: while putting on a production of Shakespeare’s Richard III, a rival white company at the Park Theatre put on their own production of the same play right next door. 

As Director Dr. Lawrenace James says in his interview (The African Company Presents Richard III: Interview with Director Lawrence James – The Music City Review), “…[the play] really focuses in on their lives as actors, as African Americans in 1821 America, and the dissonance and the happy times too: the positives of being free African Americans, but having to try to put on a show and to compete, of course, with a much more established white company and some of the famous actors that they’re bringing in from Europe and whatnot. So it is history, but it’s also character study…there are a few scenes and monologues from Shakespeare’s play, but the story is really the company’s story: who they see themselves as, and where they came from, and what they do with their jobs and their relationship with the majority-white world, how they play that. And then, coming to try to be an artist and perform a great piece of art, but how is the character in Richard III different from the character in real life?”

Performances are February 22-24, 7pm, at the Darkhorse Theater. For tickets and more information, see The African Company Presents Richard III Staged Reading — The Nashville Shakespeare Festival

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