By Ama Brown,
Special to the AFRO
The cast of “The Lion in Winter” held their opening night on Oct. 20.
The intriguing story of the succession of kings will show at Everyman Theater from Oct. 18 to Nov. 13.
The play is focused on King Henry, who is coming into the ‘winter season’ of his life.
The pressure to declare an heir mounts, as the king’s first son unexpectedly dies leaving a potential power vacuum. King Henry is joined by his wife, a formerly imprisoned woman. They each have a son whom they would prefer to take the crown.
The AFRO had the opportunity to sit with two African-American cast members of the show, Jefferson
A. Russell and Grant Emerson Harvey, a graduate of Morgan State University’s Theatre Department.
The audience is in the perfect position to observe this particular game of thrones with what some refer to as a ‘non-traditional cast’- a phrase with a definite shelf life in 2022. In a country that is home to so many backgrounds and cultures, equal representation is quickly becoming the norm. As the landscape of entertainment has changed over that last decade, there are more faces of color and stories that include their experiences in the world.
The AFRO had the opportunity to sit with two African American cast members of the show, Jefferson A. Russell and Grant Emerson Harvey. Both were eager to chat about the importance of the African American presence in the theater world.
“It is a revolutionary act simply to step into certain spaces,” said Russell. “In this post Geogre Floyd era, the call to action for our art spaces is to make room for and support the “non-traditional.”
Harvey said he thinks that when it comes to stories about Black culture, oftentimes “it’s lost that we were Kings and Queens too.”
Professional theater has become much more diverse in recent years at every level.
In Baltimore alone we have seen African Americans in seats of great influence within the professional theater scene. This has offered access to those who would never have thought of the stage as a career.
“There are Black folks in the office, there are Black folks backstage, there are Black folks in the box office,” said Harvey. “The United States is unique among countries in the world. We are a melting pot. Our theater and the stories that are told must reflect that in every area possible.”
Though Broadway is the final destination for many thespians, it is not, however, the beginning nor the end of the theater story here.
Broadway is lofty, on many levels.
The cost of a ticket, the grandiose of untouchable performers. Having access to high quality professional theater in the local area is needed.
“I remember going to see shows at Arena Players and sitting with the cast post show for hours just talking. As an artist those are the moments I crave,” said Harvey.
So, how can you be part of the story?
Russell said there are a plethora of way to support your local actors and theater houses.
“Come out to support,” he said. “Come and see the show. Come and connect with others. We know post 2020, there are those who will never return to this art form. So, there’s room for you– the new audience member. Be part of the magic of the stage!”
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