This summer, New Haarlem Arts Theatre (NHAT), the professional theater company of City College of New York (CCNY), has expanded its programming and will present mainstage productions of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" and "Sweet Charity," as well as a show for young audiences and a readings series. The theater, led by Eugene Nesmith, is entering its second season and will again be in residence at Aaron Davis Hall, located at W. 135th Street and Convent Avenue, Manhattan (Hamilton Heights).
"Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" by August Wilson, directed by Eugene Nesmith and starring Johnnie Mae as Ma, will be presented June 14 to July 8. "Sweet Charity," with music by Cy Coleman, lyrics by Dorothy Fields and book by Neil Simon; originally conceived, staged and choreographed by Bob Fosse, has been re-conceived as a Latina's story by Julio Agustin, who will direct it July 26 to August 19 with choreography by Lainie Munro. The play for young audiences, "Flying Fables," is conceived and adapted to the stage by Obie-winner Stephanie Berry and will be presented July 14 to 27. A readings series, "Unheard Voices for the American Theater," curated by Rob Barron, will be held June 18, June 25 and July 2.
NHAT aims to become a professional theater uptown that ranks among the best in the country and to produce bold theatrical works that express the true history, culture, and diversity of America. Under Eugene Nesmith, founding Artistic Director, a management team was formed last year to build and sustain a vibrant cultural institution in partnership with CCNY to offer a home for a professional theater company in which emerging professional actors from the CCNY community work alongside veteran artists of distinction. NHAT works to unite students and local residents in a range of programming that addresses the professional and educational aspirations of the unique and culturally essential neighborhood that is Harlem. Productions encourage artistic freedom, risk taking and bold experimentation with theatrical forms. NHAT also strives to attract audiences from around the City to Harlem again.
Last summer, In its inaugural season, New Haarlem Arts Theatre produced "Blues for Mister Charlie" by James Baldwin, directed by Eugene Nesmith, and the musical, "Ain't Nothin' But The Blues," directed by Alfred Preisser. Both productions had casts that mixed New York professionals with recent graduates of the CCNY theatre department and student actors. The shows were roundly praised by critics and audiences alike and the company was recognized as an important contributor to the culture of our city and an excellent platform to launch careers for students in the CCNY theater department. Its production of "It Ain't Nothin' but the Blues" was honored with three AUDELCO Awards for Excellence in Black Theatre: Musical Production of the Year, Best Director (Alfred Preisser) and Best Choreographer (Tracy Jack). The production was extended one week in order to share it with a wider audience, but regrettably, the added performances had to be canceled due to Hurricane Irene.
Tickets to all NHAT events are available through SMARTTIX, (212) 868-4444, www.smarttix.com. The theater's website is www.newhaarlemartstheatre.org. Free parking is available in the South Campus Parking Lot (enter at 133rd Street and Convent Ave.). Subways are #1 to 137th Street; A, C or D trains to 135th Street or 145th Street. Tickets to "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" and "Sweet Charity" are $30 general admission, $25 seniors, $10 with CUNY ID. Group sales are 10+ tix @ $25 each. Season tickets, good for all three events ($65 value!) are $40. Opening night tickets ("Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" June 16 at 7:00 PM; "Sweet Charity" July 28 at 7:00 PM) are $100 (includes performance and reception; evening dress suggested).