February 11, 2010
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History will continue this season’s Collegiate Series with West Virginia State University’s (WVSU) department of fine arts production of the play The African Company Presents Richard III by playwright Carlyle Brown on Wednesday, Feb. 24. The program, a collaborative project by the department of communications, and the WVSU and Kanawha Valley Community & Technical College’s Cultural Events Committee, will take place in the Norman L. Fagan West Virginia State Theater at the Culture Center, State Capitol Complex in Charleston at 7 p.m. The evening’s production is timed to coincide with WVSU Day at the Legislature which takes place earlier in the day and the Black History Month celebration. All activities are free and open to the public.
The African Company Presents Richard III focuses on America’s first African-American theater company and chronicles a little-known but very significant incident in the history of the company. In the 1820s, The African Company of New York was putting on plays in a downtown Manhattan theater which attracted both black and white audiences. The company produced satires of white high society and came to be known for debunking the sacred status of the English classics.
The Park Theatre and its manager, Stephen Price, manipulated the law to close down their rival, fearing its popularity. The African Company rebounds and finds a new space right next door to The Park Theatre.
The playwright, Brown, is a writer/performer and artistic director of Carlyle Brown & Company, based in Minneapolis. The company has produced plays such as the Masks of Othello: A Theatrical Essay; The Fula From America: An African Journey and Talking Masks. His plays include The Little Tommy Parker Celebrated Colored Minstrel Show, Buffalo Hair, The Beggars’ Strike, The Negro of Peter the Great, Pure Confidence, and A Big Blue Nail, among others. Brown is a recipient of playwriting fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, McKnight Foundation, the Minnesota State Arts Board, Jerome Foundation and more. In 2006, he received the Black Theatre Network’s Winona Lee Fletcher Award for outstanding achievement and artistic excellence, and in 2008 he was a Guggenheim Fellow.
The African Company Presents Richard III is directed by Susan Marrash-Minnerly, theater professor and chair of the WVSU department of communications. The lead designer is Dick Wolfe, WVSU’s technical director and cultural events coordinator. The play is the first student-produced project in more than 30 years at WVSU. Students from several classes participated.
For more information, contact Jacqueline Proctor, deputy commissioner for the Division, at (304) 558-0220.
The Collegiate Series consists of performances and lectures by students and faculty from West Virginia’s colleges and universities. First Lady Gayle Manchin is the host of the program.
The series also will present programs on Monday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m., featuring a concert by the “State” Singers and Concert Choir as well as a performance by the Wind Ensemble, all from WVSU; and on Tuesday, Feb. 23, the series will present the WVU Steel Drum Ensemble at 7 p.m.
The West Virginia Division of Culture and History, an agency of the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, brings together the state’s past, present and future through programs and services in the areas of archives and history, the arts, historic preservation and museums. Its administrative offices are located at the Culture Center in the State Capitol Complex in Charleston, which also houses the state archives and state museum. The Culture Center is West Virginia’s official showcase for the arts. The agency also operates a network of museums and historic sites across the state. For more information about the Division’s programs, visit www.wvculture.org. The Division of Culture and History is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Employer.