Josh, Roof-Top and Rome Neal

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(Photo L -Josh:The Black Babe Ruth cast, R - Rome Neal and Stamford Swimming team champion daughter, Lia Neal)

This writer had the opportunity to check out some off-Broadway productions last week. Often Off-Broadway and off-off-Broadway is just as stimulating as anything you would see on the Great White Way and such was the case with a production entitled “Josh: The Black Babe Ruth” a show that tells the story of baseball player Josh Gibson.

For those who may not be familiar with Gibson, he was a member of Negro League Baseball, who was considered a brilliant power hitter and catcher. He played for the Homestead Grays, Pittsburgh Crawfords and in 1937 played for Ciudad Trujilo in Trujilio's Dominican League for one year. He also played the Mexican League and served as a manger of the Santurce Crabbers, a franchise for the Puerto Rico Baseball League. He was known as the Black Babe Ruth, and in some circles Gibson fans called Babe Ruth the white Josh Gibson. Gibson's deepest desire was to play in the Major Leagues but despite his hopes once Jackie Robinson opened the door, Josh was ignored and never got to play due to a Major League ban on non-white players at the time.

Michael A Jones, the playwright also starred as Josh. Mr. Jones and director Betty Howard should be commended for scripting and staging a very tight and well thought out production that starred Percival James Prince as the Guitar Man, Daniel Danielson as Satchel Paige, another great baseball player of that era; the delightful and amusing Daphne Danielle who performed as Hattie and brought levity to the play and Mildred Victoria who played Grace, Josh's married girl friend. I also liked the 1940 era hairstyles, especially the one worn by Mildred Victoria as Grace, and the 1940 era clothing created by Katherine Roberson. Set design by Martin Campbell.

The production runs until May 7th at the Theater for the New City, located at 155 First Avenue (9th and 10th Streets) NYC. For tickets call 212-234-1109.

On the same day and at the same theater, I took advantage of being there and also attended a play entitled Roof-Top Joy that ends on April 30th. Written by Andrea J. Fulton and directed by Ward Nixon, the cast consists of Denise Fair Grant, Benjamin Rowe, Chaunice L. Chapman, Mark Solari and Roland Lane. The premise of the show concerns an African American concierge (Benjamin Rowe) with the appropriate name of Uncle Thomas.  Thomas works in a luxury building and due to watching his father's humiliation and sycophantic behavior, developed a hatred for African American men. Unwittingly, Thomas demonstrates his own obsequious behavior when fawning over white skin while harshly judging individuals of black skin. Box office number is 212-234-1109.

And last but hardly least I caught up with Rome Neal, 5-time Audelco Award winner and Artistic Director of the Nuyorican Poet's Cafe, located at 236 East 3rd Street (Near Ave C) in Manhattan, where interested and interesting folks can gather to recite their poetry, sing their songs and kick-up their feet while noshing on Rome's famed Banana Pudding. I had great fun there and will go again.  I encourage interested parties to make the Nuyorican Poet's cafe your second home. Also to find out more about Rome Neal, check out my show with him via—producer-rome-neal

Upcoming events Saturday, May 6 at 9:30pm: Musicians: Andre Chez Lewis (piano); Kim Clarke (bass); Nick Scheuble (drums) Patience Higgins (s). Followed by Open Mic/Jazz Jam, Complimentary Banana Puddin, $15 advance tix at [email protected], $20 at the door. For further information call 718-255-5048.




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