Read about NYC's best theatre and dance productions and watch video interviews with innovative artists
With in-person theatre out of commission for the foreseeable future, many companies and performers from Broadway and beyond have been showcasing their work online. This week, in support of the protests calling for an end to police brutality and systemic racism, many arts organizations are using their platforms to elevate people of color. Below are plays, performances and conversations you can watch this weekend, June 6 to 7, that place Black artists and issues center stage.
Lincoln Center Dance Week: Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater
Lincoln Center presents four works by Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Wayne McGregor's Chroma set to songs by The White Stripes; Ronald K. Brown's Grace with music by Duke Ellington, Roy Davis and Fela Kuti; Robert Battle's acrobatic Takademe; and Ailey's iconic Revelations, his beloved exploration of the African-American experience danced to spirituals, gospel songs and blues. Watch for free on Lincoln Center's website.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: Ode
More Alvin Ailey! The invaluable dance company shares the timely Ode, resident choreographer Jamar Roberts' breathtaking tribute to victims of gun violence. Watch for free on Alvin Ailey's website.
Live with Carnegie Hall: Seven Last Words of the Unarmed
In 2016, Atlanta-based composer Joel Thompson premiered Seven Last Words of the Unarmed, a choral work with seven movements featuring the last words of seven unarmed Black men killed by police or wannabe law enforcers: Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Eric Garner. Kenneth Chamberlain, Amadou Diallo and John Crawford. It's a short but anguished and indelible work, performed by the Sphinx Symphony Orchestra and the University of Michigan Men's Glee Club. Watch for free on Carnegie Hall's website.
MCC Theater: School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play
Jocelyn Bioh's shrewd comedy about colorism, School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play, enjoyed two hit runs Off Broadway produced by MCC Theater. Helmed by Tony-winning director Rebecca Taichman, the play explores the pecking order at an elite Ghanaian boarding school, as popular girl Paulina sees her status threatened by Ericka, a new American transfer student. Watch for free on PBS' website.
The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park: Much Ado About Nothing
There may be no Shakespeare in the Park this season, but you can enjoy one of the series' best productions in recent years online: last summer's Much Ado About Nothing. Directed by Tony winner Kenny Leon and featuring an all-Black cast led by the fabulous Danielle Brooks (The Color Purple, Orange Is the New Black) and Grantham Coleman, this is one of my favorite mountings of the Bard's romantic comedy, a production that is often hilarious but also highlights the ongoing battle for equality. Watch for free anytime through Sunday on PBS' website.
Apollo Theater Benefit: Let's Stay (In This) Together
Harlem's legendary Apollo Theater has launched the careers of countless Black performers over its nine decades. On Thursday night, a starry list of artists showed their love for the landmark venue by participating in a virtual benefit, and the concert is available to watch online. The lineup includes Dionne Warwick, Gary Clark Jr., Doug E. Fresh, Teddy Riley, Kool & the Gang, "Captain" Kirk Douglas of The Roots, Roy Wood Jr., Keb' Mo', Ziggy Marley, Vernon Reid from Living Colour. Watch for free on the Apollo's website though donations are encouraged.
Amazon Prime subscribers can stream Antoinette Nwandu's Pass Over, an ingenious riff on Waiting for Godot about a pair of Black men rapping on a street corner who are doomed never to leave—at least not alive. This devastating play ran at Lincoln Center Theater in 2018, but this film, directed by Spike Lee, was recorded a year prior at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater and stars Jon Michael Hill (Elementary) and Julian Parker. It's a biting exploration of systemic racism and police brutality that continues to be painfully relevant. Amazon Prime subscribers can watch for free anytime online. If you don't have Amazon Prime, you can get a free seven-day trial.
Antigone in Ferguson
A Black Lives Matter-infused take on Sophocles' tragedy, Theater of War's Antigone in Ferguson was created in response to the fatal shooting of Black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer. The performance explores social justice and trauma by fusing dramatic readings of passages from Antigone with original gospel music sung by a diverse choir. TV stars Chris Noth and Tamara Tunie headline this production, which was recorded in 2018 at Harlem Stage. Watch for free on PBS.org.
Notes From the Field
HBO subscribers can stream Notes From the Field, playwright-performer Anna Deavere Smith's searing examination of how racism, poverty, lack of opportunity and inadequate education have created a school-to-prison pipeline for so many young Black and brown people. Like her one-woman, multi-character play Fires in the Mirror, this solo show is comprised of verbatim interviews as Smith gives voice to real-life students, parents, teachers and administrators grappling with these issues. HBO subscribers can watch for free anytime online. If you don't have HBO, you can get a free seven-day trial.
Lincoln Center Theater: Pipeline
BroadwayHD subscribers can stream the drama Pipeline, Dominique Morisseau's thought-provoking play about a Black inner-city public school teacher (Karen Pittman) fighting to ensure her rage-filled son doesn't become a statistic of the school-to-prison pipeline. BroadwayHD subscribers can watch for free anytime online. If you don't have BroadwayHD, you can get a free seven-day trial.
Lorraine Hansberry - Playwright at Work
Although Lorraine Hansberry is best known for Raisin in the Sun, the late dramatist was working on a number of other plays when she died. Earlier this week, The New York Times wrote about her unfinished play about the Wilmington massacre of 1898. The next day, PBS released a 1961 interview with Hansberry discussing a different play about Haitian revolutionary Toussaint Louverture, and there's even a scene from the never-completed show directed by longtime August Wilson collaborator Lloyd Richards. It's a fascinating glimpse into the history of Black American theatre. Watch for free on PBS' website.
Stars in the House
In support of the Black Lives Matter movement and calls for justice and equality, Stars in the House hosts Seth Rudetsky and James Wesley have been using their show as a platform for artists of color all week. All of the episodes are available to watch for free on YouTube though donations to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund are encouraged. Highlights include:
Stars in the House Presents Blithe Spirit
On Saturday at 2 p.m. ET, Stars in the House re-airs its reading of Noël Coward's effervescent comedy Blithe Spirit, which was recorded last month. Directed by Schele Williams, the performance features Memphis Tony nominee Montego Glover, Hamilton's Renée Elise Goldsberry, William Jackson Harper, Kiss Me, Kate Tony winner Brian Stokes Mitchell and the incomparable Leslie Uggams as the marvelous medium Madame Arcati. Watch for free on YouTube.
Metropolitan Museum of Art: Silas Farley: Songs from the
On Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET, last year, New York City Ballet dancer Silas Farley premiered a site-specific work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Songs from the Spirit, which explored bondage and freedom, set to spirituals alongside new songs written by San Quentin State Prison inmates. Tonight, the Met shares a recording of that powerful piece, which you can watch for free on the museum's YouTube channel. This performance won't be available after-the-fact.
Jomama Jones in Black Light
On Saturday at 8 p.m. ET, Joe's Pub shares a recording of Black Light starring Jomama Jones, the theatrical alter ego of writer-performer Daniel Alexander Jones. A breathtaking Black diva who's not afraid to let her pain show, Jomama shares her original songs and her struggles in a performance that ultimately champions love and connection. Watch for free on Joe's Pub's website.
Dance Theatre of Harlem: Creole Giselle
On Saturday at 8 p.m. ET, the half-century-old Dance Theatre of Harlem shares Creole Giselle, Frederic Franklin's 1984 reimagining of the classic ballet, still danced Adolphe Charles Adam's music but reset in 1840s Louisiana. This mounting was filmed in 1987 for Danish TV, and you can watch for free on the dance company's YouTube channel.
Top image: Grantham Coleman and Danielle Brooks (center) and the cast of Much Ado About Nothing in 2019 at The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park. Photo by Joan Marcus.