The amalgamation between the communities took its most exuberant form with raucous dance contests on the floors of the neighborhood bars and dance halls. It is here in the Five Points where tap dancing was born, as Irish step dancing joyously competed with Black American Juba. But this racial equilibrium would come to a sharp and brutal end when President Lincoln’s need to institute the first Federal Draft to support the Union Army would incite the deadly NY Draft Riots of July 1863.
Within this galvanizing story of racial harmony undone by a country at war with itself, we meet the denizens of a local saloon called Paradise Square: Nelly Freeman (Joaquina Kalukango), the indomitable Black woman who owns it; Annie O’Brien (Chilina Kennedy), her Irish-Catholic sister-in-law and her Black minister husband, Rev. Samuel Jacob Lewis (Nathaniel Stampley); Owen Duignan (A.J. Shively), a conflicted newly arrived Irish immigrant; Washington Henry (Sidney DuPont), a fearless freedom seeker; Frederic Tiggens (John Dossett), an anti-abolitionist political boss, and Milton Moore (Jacob Fishel), a penniless songwriter trying to capture it all. They have conflicting notions of what it means to be an American while living through one of the most tumultuous eras in our country’s history.
The world premiere of Paradise Square was produced in January 2019 by Berkeley Repertory Theatre (Artistic Director, Tony Taccone; Managing Director, Susan Medak). The musical is based on Hard Times, conceived by Mr. Kirwan, which was originally presented at the intimate Off-Broadway theatre, Nancy Manocherian’s the cell, in 2012.
With visceral and nuanced staging and choreography that captures the pulsating energy when Black and Irish cultures meet, Paradise Square depicts an overlooked true-life moment when hope and possibility shone bright.
COVID Safety Information:
Masks required through June 30. As of July 1, masks are optional but encouraged. While we are doing our best to keep each show's COVID-19 protocols up to date, rules vary and change. Before purchasing tickets, please double-check the COVID-19 rules on the show's official website.
Age Guidance: 12
TUESDAYS-THURSDAYS @ 7 PM
FRIDAYS @ 8 PM
SATURDAYS @ 2 PM & 8 PM
SUNDAYS @ 3 PM
Jason Howland, Nathan Tysen, Masi Asare, Larry Kirwan and Stephen Foster
Christina Anderson, Marcus Gardley, Craig Lucas and Larry Kirwan
Bill T. Jones