SHE’S GOT HARLEM ON HER MIND, 3 One-Acts b y Eulalie Spence, FEB 16 - MAR 12 at the METROPOLITAN PLAYHOUSE
Posted by: Official_Press_Release 11:59 am EST 02/08/23


Evening of 3 One-Acts By Harlem Renaissance Writer Eulalie Spence Celebrate Life in 1920s Harlem

"Eulalie Spence Was The Most Influential Force In My Life." – Joseph Papp

The Obie Award-winning Metropolitan Playhouse, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary, is proud to present She's Got Harlem on Her Mind, an evening of three short plays by influential Harlem Renaissance writer Eulalie Spence (1894–1981). Directed by Timothy Johnson, the award-winning one-acts celebrate life in Harlem in the 1920s. This strictly limited engagement runs February 16 – March 12, 2023, at the Metropolitan Playhouse (220 East Fourth Street, Manhattan) with an opening set for Sunday, February 19. Tickets are now on sale at https://metropolitanplayhouse.org/.

Framed by original a cappella music by Johnson, She's Got Harlem on Her Mind gives audiences a window into everyday life in Harlem in the 1920s through the eyes of pioneering writer Eulalie Spence. The plays that comprise the evening include The Starter, in which hopeful and hard-working T.J. and Georgia may or may not negotiate their engagement; Hot Stuff, a night when jaded numbers runner Fanny King makes a series of bad bets and owes nearly more than she has to lose; and The Hunch, a sweet tale of a starry-eyed fiancée getting a dose of unwelcome but much-needed clarity from a devoted admirer. Each play earned prizes from leading magazines of African-American culture in 1927: The Starter and The Hunch from the National Urban League's journal Opportunity, and Hot Stuff from W.E.B. DuBois's The Crisis.

Distinguished by the authentic dialect and idiom of her characters, the majority of Eulalie Spence's work concerns the everyday life of African Americans. She celebrates their humanity, neither romanticizing nor politicizing their stories, nor viewing them in perspective of White mainstream culture.
Producer Joseph Papp, founder of The Public Theater, regarded Spence "as the most influential force in his life." (Joe Papp: An American Life, 1994).

"Through vibrant specificity, Eulalie Spence makes ordinary characters extraordinary," said director Timothy Johnson, director of Metropolitan Playhouse's hit revival of On Strivers Row. "Spence took to heart W.E.B. Dubois' belief that plays for a ‘Negro' audience should be written ‘For Us, About Us, By Us and Near Us.' Her Harlem characters and their life stories literally spring off the page with compelling variance and humanity, giving them relatability and relevance because they are rooted in truth. She proudly wrote what were called folk plays, which tended to focus on the everyday lives of African-American, particularly domestic life."

The cast for She's Got Harlem on Her Mind includes Eric Berger, Jazmyn D Boone, Dontonio Demarco, Déja Denise Green, SJ Hannah, Raven Jeannette, Monique Paige, and Terrell Wheeler.

The creative team includes Vincent Gunn (set design), Jevyn Nelms (costume design), Leslie Gray (lighting design), Katie Bradley (intimacy and fight direction), Mary Caitlyn Deffely (stage manager), and Julie Gottfried (assistant stage manager).

Sixteen performances of She's Got Harlem on Her Mind will take place February 16 – March 12, 2023, at the Metropolitan Playhouse, located at 220 East Fourth Street in Manhattan. The performance schedule is Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 PM and Sundays at 3 PM. Critics are welcome as of February 16 for an opening on Sunday, February 19. The anticipated running time is 80 with no intermission. General admission tickets are $30 ($25 seniors, $20 students, $10 children) and can be purchased at https://metropolitanplayhouse.org or by calling 212-995-8410.

About Eulalie Spence (1894–1981)
Eulalie Spence was a childhood immigrant to New York from the Caribbean island of Nevis who earned her BA from NYU and her MA from Teachers College. She was a New York public school teacher for most of her adult life. During her long tenure at Brooklyn's Eastern District High School, she included among her students Public Theater founder Joseph Papp, who regarded Spence "as the most influential force in his life." (Joe Papp: An American Life, 1994).
Through the 1920s and 1930s, Spence was also a well-respected playwright, actor, director, closely involved with the Krigwa Players, The Dunbar Garden Players, and Columbia University's Laboratory Players. Of her 14 known plays, 6 earned prizes from African-American literary magazines The Crisis and Opportunity and from the Krigwa Players. Her greatest mainstream commercial success was nonetheless a near miss: her only full-length play, The Whipping, adapted from a novel by Roy Flannagan, was slated for a commercial premiere in 1933 starring Queenie Smith, but was canceled before opening. Spence optioned the script to Paramount Pictures for a film that ultimately became the barely recognizable Ida Lupino comedy, Ready for Love.
The Whipping was her last play, though she remained an active director and drama teacher for her remaining years.

About Timothy Johnson
Timothy Johnson made his Off-Off-Broadway directorial debut with On Strivers Row by Abram Hill at Metropolitan Playhouse. The New York Times said that "Timothy Johnson has shaped 16 striking performances here." The production received four AUDELCO award nominations including Best Direction for Timothy and Best Revival. Additional directing credits: These Days for the FLASH ACTS festival, a co-production of Arena Stage, Georgetown University, and the Forum for Cultural Engagement; Metropolitan Playhouse Virtual productions of Aftermath and Compromise; Assistant Director, Cabin in the Sky for New York City Center Encores! Johnson is a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab. His performance highlights include Legends! starring Mary Martin and Carol Channing, REGINA at the Scottish Opera, A Chorus Line on Broadway and it's National Tour and The Temptation of St. Anthony directed by Robert Wilson at the Melbourne International Arts Festival. As a flutist, he was a First-Place winner of Baldwin-Wallace College Conservatory Annual Concerto Competition. His play Listening To The Trees achieved Semi-Finalist status for the Eugene O'Neill National Playwrights Conference. He is a former Associate Professor of Theatre Arts at Marymount Manhattan College, Assistant Professor of Acting/Movement at Ohio University and Artistic Associate of Rosie's Theatre Kids. He holds an MFA in Acting from the University of Washington and a Bachelor of Music Education from Baldwin-Wallace College Conservatory of Music. www.igniteyourcreativity.org

About Metropolitan Playhouse

Metropolitan Playhouse, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary, tells America's diverse and complicated story through lost plays of the past and new plays of American historical and cultural moment. The theater received a 2011 OBIE Grant from The Village Voice for its ongoing productions that illuminate who we are by revealing where we have come from. Called "invaluable" by the Voice and Backstage, Metropolitan has earned further accolades from The New York Times and The New Yorker. Other awards include a Victorian Society of New York Outstanding Performing Arts Group, 3 Aggie Awards from Gay City News, 21 nominations for NYIT Awards (3 winners), and 6 AUDELCO Viv Award nominations.

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Alex Roe since 2001, Metropolitan Playhouse has grown into an institution recognized for both artistic excellence and cultural significance. Guiding the company's growth has been a clear vision of the rich portrait that theater paints of the culture that creates it. Reflecting society's values, aspirations, and character, theater offers an especially rich perspective. On the one hand, it is a window into the character of the time of its creation. On the other, it is always contemporary, because every performance of a play is a new creation for its own time. Connecting us with our past in the light of our present, America's theater gives invaluable insight into our cultural identity.

Please visit https://metropolitanplayhouse.org for more information.

Funding Credits

She's Got Harlem on Her Mind is supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. Metropolitan Playhouse programs are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.
Link https://metropolitanplayhouse.org

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