To celebrate Black History Month, The Classical Theatre of Harlem (CTH), Broadway Podcast Network, and Playbill are partnering to release ICONS: Harlem Renaissance in Motion, a series of half-hour radio dramas written by playwrights of color, each focusing on a figure from the Harlem Renaissance. The podcasts are produced by CTH and Venus Radio Theater.
The Harlem Renaissance was a period of great artistic and cultural flourish for Black artists in the New York City community in the 1920s and 1930s. From writers, painters, and musicians to activists and philosophers, well-known pioneers from the Harlem Renaissance include Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, James Van Der Zee, Duke Ellington, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Marcus Garvey. For the collection of plays, CTH commissioned Harlem-based playwrights to create monologues performed by Harlem-based actors, honoring the largely unsung voices of fascinating figures, especially women, who were integral to the movement.
Curated by CTH's Director of Literary Programs & Dramaturg Shawn René Graham and Mellon Foundation Playwright-in-Residence Betty Shamieh, the series was originally created in 2021 for Women's History Month, and highlighted actress Nina Mae McKinney, blues singer Gladys Bentley, writers May Miller and Angelina Weld Grimké, and the fictional Mattie Mae, an amalgam of Black women who fled the south during the Great Migration for new economic and cultural futures. Those episodes will be released throughout the month on BPN, or click through the links to listen on Playbill.
Two new podcasts have been included for this year's Back History Month release: Marcus Scott's profile of Archibald Motley (available February 7 on Broadway Podcast Network), and Michael Bradford's piece about Jacob Lawrence (available February 21). Motley and Lawrence were both painters who captured contemporary Harlem life on canvas.
Listen to the latest episode of the podcast below, as Lawrence—undergoing treatment for depression at a mental hospital—recalls the trials of his life and the injustices he faced in the art world. The monologue is performed by Andy Lucien, who is currently appearing Off-Broadway in the Vineyard Theatre and WP Theater production of Charly Evon Simpson's sandblasted.
Under the helm of Producing Artistic Director Ty Jones, The Classical Theatre of Harlem provides theatrical productions and theatre-based educational and literary programs at little or no cost to underserved communities in Harlem and beyond, directly benefit over 18,000 people each year.