Apollo Theater Reveals Expanded 2017-2018 Lineup

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Soundtrack '63

The Apollo Theater has announced expanded details for the Fall/Winter programming of its 2017 – 2018 season, the Theater’s first full season under the creative direction of its new Executive Producer, Kamilah Forbes.

The season will encompass more than 100 performances and events to include commissions, premieres, and collaborations with local, national, and international artists working across a range of disciplines and genres—from dance and theater to jazz, soul, and opera.

Arts and activism is the prevailing theme of the new season, with a significant roster of artistic programs tackling and exploring social issues prevalent in society today.

The Theater’s season opens with the New York premiere of the genre-defying opera We Shall Not Be Moved from composer Daniel Bernard Roumain, librettist Marc Bamuthi Joseph, and director/choreographer Bill T. Jones.

Inspired by the 1985 MOVE crisis in Philadelphia, where a standoff between police and a Black liberation group resulted in the deadly bombing and destruction of homes in a residential neighborhood, the opera will explore the legacy of those experiences through a contemporary lens.

The opera, which combines spoken word; contemporary movement; video projection; and classical, R&B, and jazz singing, reflects the Apollo’s engagement with today’s most innovative approaches to stage performance while also emphasizing the Theater’s respect for the preservation and vital remembrance of history.

The opera’s world premiere will occur in September at Opera Philadelphia’s O17 festival, with its New York premiere at the Apollo in October 2017 before it goes on to Hackney Empire in London.

Preceding the opera’s run at the Apollo, the Theater presents Apollo Uptown Hall: Movement Required on September 30 at 4:00 p.m., a special iteration of its Apollo Uptown Hall Series: an interactive forum that gives the community a platform to discuss issues directly facing them.

Inspired by the themes of the production, Apollo Uptown Hall: Movement Required will include an excerpt from the award-winning documentary Let The Fire Burn, chronicling the MOVE bombing as well as a panel discuss ion focusing on some of today’s most prevalent issues in America, including police brutality and community relations.

Movement Required will complement the issues raised in We Shall Not Be Moved, extending the conversation before the curtain rises.

The first half of the season will also include the return of London’s Sadler’s Wells’ critically acclaimed international hip-hop dance theatre festival—Breakin’ Convention, one of the world’s greatest celebrations of hip-hop culture. The festival, a collaboration with London’s Sadler’s Wells and now in its third year at the Apollo, provides a platform for the Theater to celebrate its hip-hop legacy and to highlight the global impact of contemporary hip-hop culture through both mainstream and experimental dance.

This year’s festival will directly address several pressing issues that are part of America’s current sociopolitical landscape through performances and accompanying events, with highlights including the presentation of Protocol Dance Company’s powerful I Can’t Breathe piece on race and power as well as an artist talk with dancers Jon Boogz and Lil Buck centered on dance as a tool for social justice and prison reform.

Curated and hosted by nationally recognized U.K. hip-hop emcee and theater pioneer Jonzi D, Breakin’ Convention will take over the entire Apollo building and will include performances by world renowned dance companies and local crews. In addition to the mainstage performances, this year’s Festival is expanding to a week-long series of events and activities consisting of artist talks, master classes, dance workshops, freestyle sessions, an art exhibition by Carlos “Mare139” Rodriguez, and special Breakin’ Convention-themed editions of the Theater’s signature Apollo Music Café and Family Workshop.

The Theater has also newly added Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower: The Concert Version on October 16, created by Toshi Reagon and Bernice Johnson Reagon, a work-in-progress performance that features a powerhouse ensemble of 20 singers and musicians. The piece brings together powerful songs drawn from two centuries of Black music to give musical life to Butler’s acclaimed science fiction novel of the same name. Parable chronicles the spiritual awakening of young Lauren Olamina amidst a dystopian America wracked by the violence brought on by climate change, unrelenting greed, and systemic injustice. The work blends science fiction with African American spiritualism and deep insights on gender, race, and the future of human civilization. This work-in-progress is co-commissioned by The Arts Center, Abu Dhabi, and is based on the novels Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents, courtesy of the Octavia E. Butler Estate.

"In my first season as Executive Producer of the Apollo Theater, we are presenting an engaging series of new works from a number of the strongest and most innovative voices in performance today,” Kamilah Forbes said. “We wanted to kick off the season with strong presentations that shed light on the challenging moments in our country’s history, including the MOVE bombing in Philadelphia, as well as recent events across the country to frame and foster meaningful engagement with the issues of our time. From the days when the Apollo was one of the only places where Billie Holiday could perform ‘Strange Fruit,’ the Apollo has always been a place for artists to express themselves and a platform for artist activism. It is important as part of our contemporary programming that we look to this legacy as we support artists in the creation of new works that speak to our present moment.”

These new programs will be complemented by the Apollo’s signature series: Amateur Night at the Apollo, the Theater’s original talent competition; Apollo Music Café, which showcases boundary-pushing, new musical artists; and Apollo Comedy Club, an initiative which features up-and-coming comedic artists. A cornerstone of the Harlem community, the Apollo will also present public conversations, education programs for students and families, and other community events throughout the season.

For details about the many other upcoming new shows please visit the website.


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