Starting tonight, Dorchester and Roxbury performers and other theater artists will begin a three-show run of a community tribute to black culture, particularly as manifested in 1920s New York. The 11th annual â€œHarlem Renaissance Revisitedâ€ will be presented May 7 to 9 at 7:15 p.m. at the Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School, 260 Columbia Road, here in Dorchester.
The musical, cultural, and educational evening will be produced by the Oscar Micheaux Family Theater Program (OMTP), a group named for the pioneering African-American feature film maker. The show was written by Haywood Fennell, Sr., a Vietnam Era vet who spent much time in and out of jails and prisons, on and off drugs. Over a decade ago, while residing in a homeless shelter, Fennell wrote and produced there the original â€œHarlem Renaissance Revisited with a Boston Flavor.â€
Like his self-published childrenâ€™s books, â€œCoota and the Magic Quiltâ€ and â€œCoota and the Challengeâ€ about an African-American boy growing up in Roxbury, Fennellâ€™s play fosters pride in black heritage, perseverance and a positive attitude toward the future. But, the basic theme of all his works, says Fennell, is â€œBelieve in yourself and in your talents!â€
â€œHarlem Renaissance Revisitedâ€ uses a formula akin to the one used for the version of Langston Hughesâ€™ â€œBlack Nativityâ€ produced each Advent at Tremont Temple. In fact, the â€œwelcome home partyâ€ premise that informs the bulk of the play focuses on a soiree given for expatriate Hughes, whose artistic freedom and acceptance in Paris is contrasted with troubles of Americans like Billie Holiday, Ethel Waters, Paul Robeson, Meta Warrick, and Zora Neale Hurston.
Fennell tweaks his script a little each year; the 2009 version has a Gospel flavor, with more spiritual songs performed.
Music direction is by Dorchesterâ€™s Adonis Martin, a pianist who graduated from Boston Arts Academy. Co-Stage Director Ruby Hill lives in Dot, as do many of the dancers from the Talbot Avenue-based Stajez Center for the Arts that choreographs a big African traditional dance and a jitterbug sequence.
The 22 member cast includes the following Dorchesterites: Selena Smith, Fadil Handy, Joe Banks, David L. Bowden, Sidney M. Bowden, and Nia Francis.
Tickets available at the door or at these Dot businesses: World of Curls, 493A Blue Hill Ave. and Tape Connection, 2 Washington St.