TLab Shares hosts RPR Productions for the World Premiere of BETHUNE: Our Black Velvet Rose, written by, starring and co-produced by four-time Audelco award winner Richarda Abrams at Theaterlab in New York City. Preview performances began on Friday, October 7 and the show opened on October 9. Set to close on October 23, BETHUNE: Our Black Velvet Rose is pausing for the weekend. Remaining performances are Wednesday, October 26, Friday, October 27, and Saturday, October 28 at 7pm. Click here for tickets.
Check out our new production photos below.
Abrams is an award-winning actor/playwright who previously performed her solo show First By Faith: The Life of Mary McLeod Bethune which won numerous awards and had a sold-out run at the National Black Theatre Festival. Kathleen Brant, who is a member of the Playwright and Director Workshop at The Actors Studio, directs. Music direction by Amina Claudine Myers. Also joined by Co-Producer Peggy Abrams.
The life of civil rights activist Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune is brought to life in Richarda Abrams’ new play BETHUNE: Our Black Velvet Rose. Born in 1875 to former slaves, Bethune was denied the right to read as a young girl in the segregated Jim Crow South but she persevered and became a world-renowned educator, and a champion of civil rights and racial and gender equality. During her life she was an advisor to several American Presidents including Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR), and Harry S. Truman, a successful businesswoman, and founded one of the first Historically Black Universities, Bethune-Cookman College in Florida. Recently, Bethune’s statue was unveiled in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall, replacing a Confederate statue.
In addition to Ms. Abrams, the cast also features Stephanie Anuwe (“Between the Pages”/Amazon), Charles Black (Vieux Carré directed by Austin Pendleton), Bryan Hickey (Joseph Jefferson Award Nominee), Judy Jerome (27 Wagons Full of Cotton/St. Luke’s Theatre), Samuel James Pygatt (Graduate Actors Studio/Pace University).
Ms. Abrams shared why she wanted to continue her journey playing Bethune by creating a full-length play, “I have been performing my solo show First By Faith: The Life of Mary McLeod Bethune since 2015. In 2020, I was inspired to write a full-length play BETHUNE: Our Black Velvet Rose with multi racial cast of 6 actors to continue honoring her legacy. Bethune’s life journey tells the story of American history. Everything she achieved was because of her strong faith. I too am on this journey by stepping out on faith. My objective is to illuminate her life’s journey filled with life lessons about how to continue on your path in the face of adversity. Not only will we honor the work she did for the United States, but the example of her life may help someone along on their personal journeys.”
What begins as a school class visit to Washington D.C. to the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall to see the famous statue of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune turns into a college student getting more than she bargained for as Bethune’s statue comes to life and transports them both back through time to 1884 and beyond.
The creative team includes lighting design by Duncan Davies, projection design by Anna Kiraly, costume design by Sally Lesser (3 Emmy Awards/One Life to Live), scenic/properties design by Harlan Penn (Netflix, Disney, Warner Bros), sound design by Jeanne Travis (New York Innovative Theatre Award Winner), stage combat coordinator Dan Renkin (Metropolitan Opera), and graphic design by M. Drue Williams. Production assistant Chamallie Singh.
Performances take place at Theaterlab, 357 West 36th Street (between 8th and 9th avenues), 3rd Floor (elevator accessible), New York, NY 10018. Subways: 1, 2, 3, A, C, E to 34th Street. Tickets are $20 students/seniors, $30 general admission. Running time 105 minutes with intermission. COVID 19: Boosters and KN95 masks are required to enter the venue. Masks will be available at the door.
www.instagram.com/firstbyfaith – #BethuneOurBlackVelvetRose
Richarda Abrams (Playwright, Bethune: Our Black Velvet Rose, Co-producer) is a 4-time AUDELCO award-winning actress/singer/playwright/producer of First By Faith: The Life of Mary McLeod Bethune. The solo show won a 2019 AUDELCO VIV Award for Solo Performance of the Year and was named the Best of Solo Theatre in the Last 10 Years United Solo Theatre Festival (USTF). Other awards include USTF 2018 Best Educational Show Award and sold-out the National Black Theatre Festival. Memberships: AEA, SAG-AFTRA, Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), Actors Studio, Dramatists Guild, Episcopal Actors Guild, A.R.T./New York, New York Women in Film & Television, and League of Professional Theatre Women. Richarda is fiscally sponsored by NYFA, received a NYSCA Theater Artist Commission and LMCC grants. She has performed all over the world and recorded Song for All (Black Saint Records) with her father Dr. Muhal Richard Abrams co-founder of the AACM, Member of Amina Claudine Myers’ Generation IV and Voice Choir. NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts’ BFA in Acting, and MA in Educational Theatre, NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education, drama/theatre in education at University of Leeds, England. www.richardaabrams.com – www.firstbyfaith.com
Kathleen Brant (Director) Kathleen Brant’s NYC directing credits include Parish Dunkeld (WorkShop Theater Co.), Requiem for Sherlock Holmes (WorkShop Theater Co.), The World of Expression Awards (Danny Kaye Playhouse), Miss Lulu Bett (WorkShop Theater Co.), The Madwoman of Chaillot (West End Theatre), The Sixth Commandment (NYFringe Best of the Fest Award), King John (Judith Shakespeare), Don Juan at the Stake (Nat Horne Theatre). Regional credits include Henry V (SW Shakespeare), Son of Drakula w/David Drake (Croatia, Alaska & San Francisco), Poe, Spirits of the Dead (Orlando Shakespeare), Merry Wives of Windsor (Academy Rep.), ART and Last Night of Ballyhoo (The Arts Center of Coastal Carolina). Kathleen is the founding director of JB Theatrical, a member of the Playwright/Directors Workshop at Actors Studio, and a proud member of the SDC. www.kathleenbrant.com
Amina Claudine Myers (Music Director) has a B.A. Degree in music education, Philander Smith College. She moved to Chicago, Illinois where she taught music in the public school system for six years. Myers began playing jazz in and around Chicago and was brought into the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. There she began composing for large and small ensembles, instrumental and choral music. Myers moved to New York in 1976. She was the Assistant Musical Director for the Off-Broadway production of Ain’t Misbehavin. She taught choral music at Sony Westbury. Amina continues to perform in Europe and all over the world with her Trio, Voice Choir, Generation IV, and solo performances. Her composing and music directing in theater includes Off-Broadway The Ladder, Occasional Grace, and Myers I Dream. Myers co-starred with Joseph Jarman in Dr. Muhal Richard Abrams theater work The Dream and she co-starred with David Murray in Primitive World by Amiri Baraka. She continues to tour on piano, voice, organ, and pipe organ while teaching privately in NYC. www.aminaclaudinemyers.com
Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer, activist and an Award winning filmmaker and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Lia is also the host and Executive Producer of BACKSTAGE PASS WITH LIA CHANG, a new Arts and Entertainment program that airs on Sundays at 6:30pm on FIOS 34, RCN 83, Spectrum 56/1996 and MNN2.
Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. Her short film, When the World Was Young recently garnered a 2021 DisOrient Film Audience Choice Award for Best Short Narrative. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World was Young. She is also the Executive Producer for The Cactus, The Language Lesson, The Writer and Cream and 2 Shugahs. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations.
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