Black History Month Celebrated in Plays, Performances, Tours

Sarah Q. Shah (foreground) and the cast of “Subway Story (A Shooting),” Feb. 22–March 18 at Theater for the New City. | Photo by Jonathan Slaff

BY SCOTT STIFFLER | On Sun., Feb. 18, Save Chelsea board members Cher Carden and Laurence Frommer lead “Retracing Black History Through Chelsea and The Tenderloin.” The two-hour walking tour, which begins at 1pm, brings attention to an often-overlooked period. “Chelsea played a significant role in New York’s African American community and its history, particularly in the second half of the 19th century. Churches, schools, and music served a vibrant community,” said the organizers of the event, which will retrace how African Americans shaped northern Chelsea, the district once known as The Tenderloin, and New York City. The cost is $30, $20 for members of Save Chelsea. To register, visit savechelseany.org.

Several notable productions are currently on the boards or upcoming at Theater for the New City (aka TNC; 155 First Ave., btw. E. Ninth & 10th Sts.). Through Feb. 25, Brandi Varnell directs Joan Bigwood’s “Or Current Resident.” This production from TNC resident theater group Squeaky Bicycle Productions chronicling the multi-generational, Silicon Valley-based Finch family “throws the covers off an eccentric little universe that has survived on fortitude and self-deception and now lies shivering in the cold glare of unexpected, untenable revelations.” Also through Feb. 25, Bette Howard directs Michael A. Jones’ “Josh: The Black Babe Ruth.” This production, returning after an acclaimed run last year, dramatizes the life of Josh Gibson, a standout home run hitter in the Negro Leagues whose Major League ambitions are complicated by family matters, personal vices, and institutional racism.

L to R: Perci Percival and Dave Roberts in “Josh: The Black Babe Ruth,” playing through Feb. 25 at Theater for the New City. | Photo by Jonathan Slaff

In the final installment of playwright/director William Electric Black’s powerful and provocative “Gunplay” series (dedicated to addressing the epidemic of gun violence), “Subway Story (A Shooting)” centers around the character of Chevonn, an African American teenage girl who turns her nonfiction writing assignment into a highly stylized composition experienced by the audience as “a fantastical mashup of literary images that are part Lewis Carroll and part queasy reality, revealing issues affecting our children including alienation, discrimination, bullying and the easy availability of firearms.” The play runs Feb. 22 through March 18. For tickets and info on other productions, visit theaterforthenewcity.net.

Inspired by the success of last year’s “Black Herstory Night,” iconic experimental theater and artistic incubator Dixon Place is teaming up with the International Human Rights Art Festival for “Black Queer Night” — a celebration of experiences meant to “move hearts and remove obstacles.” Featured artists include Nia & Ness (the dance/poetry tales of two women in a committed relationship). Oxana Chi and Layla Zami’s “Feeling Jazz” is a “dance-music-dialogue between a body and a saxophone.” Additionally, there will be excerpts from Layla Zami’s spoken word piece “Homesong,” Oxana Chi’s “Through Gardens” (a blurring of her own biography with that of Tatjana Barbakoff, a famous dancer, muse and political resistant from 1920s/30s Europe), and “(re)SOURCE,” Maria Bauman’s solo dance exploration of lineage and resilience performed to a Haitian electronica-percussion soundscape created live by Val-In. It all takes place Wed., Feb. 21, starting at 7:30pm.

Also at Dixon Place: Mon., Feb. 19, 7:30pm in the front lounge (free admission!), it’s this month’s installment of “The Mosquito” — a regular series hosted and curated by the very funny, always acerbic but rarely acidic Nancy Giles, who’s always the best thing about “CBS Sunday Morning” on the all-too-rare times she appears as a commentator (and has been known to sling more than one cutting zinger as a news channel pundit). Among the rotating cast of storytellers, stand-up comedians and musicians, frequent guests include Pat Candaras, Cynthia Kaplan, Peri Gaffney, Kathryn Rossetter, Sheila Head, Susan Burns, Sue Giles, and Nancy Shayne. Dixon Place is located at 161 Chrystie St. (btw. Rivington & Delancey Sts.). For info, visit dixonplace.org.

Nancy Giles, host of “The Mosquito” at Dixon Place. The next installment of this free monthly series happens Feb. 19. | Photo via facebook.com/nancygilesofficial

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