Mahaiwe Announces Rhapsody in Black – Virtual Play and Community Conversation

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass.—The Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center is presenting the virtual play Rhapsody in Black at mahaiwe.org from Monday, March 8 through Sunday, March 14, followed by a community conversation on Zoom, Sunday, March 14 at 7pm. Both programs are free, presented in partnership with Clinton Church Restoration, and sponsored by Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation’s Bridging Divides, Healing Communities Grant.

Written and performed by LeLand Gantt and developed at NYC’s Actors Studio with Estelle Parsons, Rhapsody in Black is a one-man show that explores LeLand’s personal journey to understanding and confronting racism in America. The play follows his spellbinding life story—from an underprivileged childhood in the ghettos of McKeesport, Pennsylvania, to teenage experiments with crime and drugs to scholastic achievement and an acting career that lands adult LeLand in situations where he is virtually the only African-American in the room. How he manages to cope with the various psychological effects of consistently being marked The Other is recounted in remarkable and moving detail, sure to leave lasting impressions.

The March 14 post-show conversation will be moderated by Frances Jones-Sneed, professor emeritus at MCLA and chair of Clinton Church Restoration’s Council of Scholars. She will be joined by Gantt, Howard University junior Olivia Nda, and African American Studies teacher Jamal Ahamad. Building on the themes of Rhapsody in Black, this online discussion will explore different points of view regarding the arts as a vehicle for approaching issues of race relations in the 21st century and across generations. To register see mahaiwe.org.

“Through their Bridging Divides, Healing Communities grants, Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation is making it possible for the Mahaiwe to offer this program free to our entire community. LeLand Gantt has an important story to tell, and I hope that those who watch the play will also join the discussion,” says Mahaiwe Executive Director Janis Martinson.

“LeLand Gantt’s exploration of racism, identity and self-image exemplifies the power of art as a catalyst for personal transformation and community dialogue. Whether the experience of being perceived as ‘The Other’ is familiar or eye-opening, understanding its impact is essential for all,” says Clinton Church Restoration Interim Executive Director Eugenie Sills.

About Clinton Church Restoration

Clinton Church Restoration is creating an African American heritage site and cultural center at the historic Clinton A.M.E. Zion Church in downtown Great Barrington. Dedicated to educating the public about the life and legacy of civil rights pioneer W.E.B. Du Bois and the Berkshires’ rich African American history, including that of the county’s most enduring Black church, this vital center will uplift Black heritage, social and racial justice work, and innovative ways to build and sustain community, democracy, inclusion and equity. CCR’s programs center African American perspectives: a 14-week online community read of Du Bois’ classic text, The Soul of Black Folk, features more than a dozen Black scholars; a film weekend screened four documentaries on African American resistance to racial injustice; a concert held at Hevreh offered an exploration of the common ground between Jazz and Jewish music by two musicians representing these overlapping traditions.

About the Mahaiwe

Located in downtown Great Barrington, Mass., the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center is the year-round presenter of world-class music, dance, theater, classic films, Live in HD broadcasts, and arts education programs for the southern Berkshires and neighboring regions. The intimate jewel box of a theater opened in 1905. Since 2005, the performing arts center has hosted over 1,500 events and welcomed over half a million people through its doors. More than 22,000 students from 73 different schools have benefited from the Mahaiwe’s school-time performances and residencies. For more information, see mahaiwe.org.

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