Theater and Harlem luminaries converged on the Apollo Theater Soundstage Monday to mark the 15th anniversary of the Classical Theatre of Harlem with Ty Jones, producing artistic director, and David Roberts, managing director. Hosted by actor Leslie Odom Jr. (“Hamilton,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Person of Interest,” “Smash”), CTH’s 15th anniversary celebration and benefit concert featured the New York premiere of songs from the eagerly anticipated off-Broadway musical “Witness Uganda” by Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews. The event raised more than $70,000 for the Harlem arts organization.
Gould and Matthews were introduced by Matthew’s fellow Carnegie Mellon alumnus Patina Miller (Tony Award winner, Best Actress in a Musical, “Pippin”). Gould and Matthews then led a chorus of performers in several rousing numbers from their musical.
Others coming out to fete CTH included Erich Bergen (“Madam Secretary,” “Jersey Boys”), Dyllon Burnside (“Holler If Ya Hear Me”), David Harbour (“State of Affairs,” “Newsroom,” “The Equalizer”), Jasmine Cephas Jones (“Hamilton”), Andrew Keenan-Bolger (“Newsies”), Nicolette Robinson (“The Affair,” “Brooklynite”) and Anthony Wayne (“Mighty Real: A Fabulous Sylvester Musical”). City Council Member Inez Dickens also addressed the crowd in support of CTH.
“Last night’s benefit will go down in history as the night the Classical Theatre of Harlem secured its future as a cultural icon in New York’s most famous neighborhood: Harlem,” said Jones.
CTH celebrates 15 years of creating comprehensive access for theater artists of diverse backgrounds. These artists include not only actors but also directors, designers, playwrights, technicians and arts administrators. Since its founding in 1999, CTH has presented a repertory ranging from works by classical playwrights (Chekhov, Euripides and Shakespeare) and established 20th century playwrights (August Wilson, Langston Hughes and Derek Walcott) to new plays by emerging playwrights. CTH’s 2015 season includes two anchor productions, the first being Shakespeare’s classic “The Tempest,” directed by Carl Cofield, and the second the world premiere of “The First Noel,” a holiday musical directed by Kamilah Forbes and created by Jason Michael Webb and Lelund Durond Thompson.
The family friendly, free production of “The Tempest” will run July 3 through 26 at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater at Marcus Garvey Park and is presented in association with City Parks Foundation’s SummerStage festival. The CTH-commissioned musical “The First Noel,” by composer and lyricist Webb (Brooklyn Tabernacle, Broadway’s “Motown the Musical,” “Violet”) and writer-lyricist Thompson (founder, YellaFella Entertainment and CTH artistic associate) will premiere in December. In development for two years, the Harlem-based holiday show is destined to become an evergreen classic for years to come.
The host committee for the CTH 15th anniversary celebration and benefit concert included Rodrick Covington; David and Monica Csatari; Frederick Davie and Michael Adams; Laurent Delly; Kwaku Driskell; Matt Gould and Griffin Matthews; Richard Habersham; Greg Mays; Joe Johnson; Ty and Jill Jones; Peggy and Ulrich Jorde; Jason and Yvonne Lee; Alex and Brad Linard; Greg Mays; Estela Ogiste, M.D., Ph.D., and Jason Ogiste, M.D.; Billy Porter; David Roberts and Paul Di Donato; Zead Ramadan; Juan Ignacio Rosa; Ken and Kate Ruck; Donavin and Emilie Scott; Meredith Simmons; and Sue Suh.
The Classical Theatre of Harlem can be found on Twitter at @classicalharlem and Facebook at www.facebook.com/theclassicaltheatreofharlem.