THE NEGRO ENSEMBLE COMPANY WILL FEATURE PLAYWRIGHT NTOZAKE SHANGE’S WORK IN FEBRUARY

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[The Negro Ensemble Company\Ntozake Shange]
Negro Ensemble Company, Inc: 'We are honored to include "a photograph / lovers in motion" in a long list of amazing productions that celebrate African American culture. The production is also meant to honor the legacy of Ntozake Shange, whose "for colored girls who considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf" is recognized as an important, revolutionary and transformative work in American theater."
Photo: Ifa Bayeza

In keeping with the mission and vision of The Negro Ensemble Company, Inc, the company will present "a photograph / lovers in motion," written by Ntozake Shange (shown at right in above picture) and adapted and directed by Ifa Bayeza (also shown in picture) from February 5 to 29 at Theatre 80 St. Marks, 80 St. Marks Place.

The play was first produced at The Public Theater as "a photograph / a study in cruelty" in 1977 then revised and produced at the Houston Ensemble Theater in 1982 under its current title, "a photograph / lovers in motion." It was presented as a feature in NEC’s annual reading series in 2015, Year of the Woman.

The mission of Negro Ensemble Company, Inc. (NEC) is the development of superior quality works by and about African American, African and Caribbean people. Artistic Director Karen Brown explains, "The vision of NEC is to merge the gifts of experienced artists with emerging talent to discover and develop works of superior quality and enduring relevance. We are honored to include "a photograph / lovers in motion" in a long list of amazing productions that celebrate African American culture." The production is also meant to honor the legacy of Ntozake Shange, whose "for colored girls who considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf" is recognized as an important, revolutionary and transformative work in American theater.

Adapter and director Bayeza, while functioning as Shange’s dramaturg on "a photograph / lovers in motion" since the 80’s, always considered the piece an unfinished gem. Shange and Bayeza, sisters, collaborated over the years in theater and literature. This production is their third collaboration. In 1975, Bayeza was dramaturg and set designer for the original "for colored girls …" production at New Federal Theatre. In 2010, the sisters co-authored the celebrated novel, "Some Sing, Some Cry." In October 2018, Shange passed away. Bayeza writes, "My great regret is that my sister is not here to see this revised production. She would have relished in the dynamic progression of the work and its timeliness."

This production is Bayeza’s directing debut.

Shange's work "a photograph / lovers in motion" is set in San Francisco during the waning years of the Black Arts Movement. It centers around the blossoming relationship between two young Black artists, a female poet/dancer named Michael and a photographer named Sean David, and their interaction with three of Sean David’s friends, the lawyers Nevada and Earl and a model named Claire.

Bayeza writes that the play "explores the world of creative artists who learned themselves through the trauma of racism. They struggle to communicate, to create their own image, to create their world and to love." Bayeza explains that the relationship between Sean David and Michael is both a duet and a duel, a "study in cruelty" and of "lovers in motion." These two main characters being artists, Bayeza aims to transmit their artistic psyches through living breathing characters who are struggling through their everyday lives.

While its relationships are realistic, aspects of the poetic style of "for colored girls …" persist in the piece, which will be staged with music and movement.

The play's title and dialogue are written in lower case because Shange considered capitalization an inequality and wrote without big and small letters.

This play is suited for adults and not recommended for youth under 17.

The actors are Imana Breaux as Michael, Adrain Washington as Sean David, Mystie Galloway as Claire, Marc Deliz as Earl and Nya Bowman as Nevada.

Adaptor/Director Ifa Bayeza is an award-winning theater artist and novelist. Her drama, "The Ballad of Emmett Till," winner of over ten awards, was expanded into an epic Civil Rights saga, "The Till Trilogy," with the addition of two more plays, "That Summer in Summer" and "Benevolence." "The Till Trilogy" is slated to debut at Mosaic Theatre Company of DC in April, 2020. Bayeza's other works for the stage include the plays "Homer G & the Rhapsodies in The Fall of Detroit" (Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays Award), "String Theory," "Welcome to Wandaland" and the musicals "Charleston Olio," "Kid Zero" and "Bunk Johnson—LIVE—at The Shadows." She is a graduate of Harvard University and earned an MFA in Directing and Dramaturgy from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She was recently named inaugural Humanist-in-Residence at the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Executive Producer is Karen Brown. Associate Producer is Chandler Alcoque. Associate Producer is Cynthia Kitt. Dramaturge is Gaven Trinidad. Choreographer is Leslie Dockery. Set Designer is Chris Cumberbatch. Sound and projection design are by Technical Director Bill Toles. Lighting design is by Melody A. Beal. Costume design is by Katherine Roberson. Props manager is Karimah.

This production is made possible in part by a grant from The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment, Women’s Film, TV and Theatre Project, New York City Council, and New York Department of Cultural Affairs. Also licensed through The Ntozake Shange Revocable Trust.

Performances are February 5 to 29 at Theatre 80 St. Marks, 80 St. Marks Place. Previews are February 5 & 6 at 7:00. The production opens February 7 at 7:00 PM and runs through February 29 on the following schedule: Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:00 PM and Sundays at 3:00 PM (16 performances). Tickets are $25 gen. adm., $20 seniors, students and groups of ten and more. Purchase tickets at https://web.ovationtix.com/trs/pr/1023521 or call 866-811-4111. For group sales call 212-580-9624.

On February 7, there is a free opening night talkback, followed by reception at 10:00 PM at Theatre 80. Reception requires separate $20 tickets.

For more information on The Negro Ensemble Company visit there website at: https://necinc.org/

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