"Looking for Leroy" World Premiere at The New Federal Theatre
What is Black theater? How is it defined and by whom? What is the relationship between the Black dramatist, their creation and the Black community at large? Looking for Leroy by Larry Muhammad explores these questions through the legacy of LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka, who was one of the most important dramatists the 20th century and who defined the role of the Black playwright for our age. This two-character play imagines five encounters between Baraka, a literary lion now in his 60s, and an intern in his 20s who idolizes him, challenges him and aims to be like him. Woodie King, Jr.'s New Federal Theatre will present the world premiere of the piece February 28 to March 31 at Castillo Theater, 543 West 42nd Street. Petronia Paley directs.
A poet, novelist, essayist and music critic probably best known for his plays, Baraka developed intellectually from beatnik to Black nationalist to Marxist and this was reflected in his art. In Larry Muhammad's two-character play, a young theater intern struggles to comprehend the artistic metamorphosis of the man who was a guiding light to so many Black playwrights. While the young man assists his mentor with play development, his casual observations infuriate him and the two heatedly debate theater fundamentals. They examine the nature of aesthetics, questioning whether artistic expression is ever non-ideological and weighing the added responsibility of artists of color. Tyler Fauntleroy plays the intern, named Taj, and Kim Sullivan plays Baraka.
Playwright Larry Muhammad's artistic and intellectual debt to Baraka was the inspiration for his play. Muhammad was the first in his family to attend high school and college and when he answered the literary calling, Baraka was his idol. Ironically, they wound up related by marriage (Muhammad married into the South Carolina branch of Baraka's family), but young Larry had very little first-hand contact with his hero. Their contact was limited to an awkward exchange once at a press conference and a timid occasional word at family gatherings. Muhammad began as a journalist, writing for alternative newspapers and later for mainstream media, then studied playwriting at Sarah Lawrence. Throughout his varied career, he sought to be like Baraka. Trouble was, Baraka's literary, aesthetic and philosophical directions were constantly shifting. Only one thing remained constant: Baraka regarded himself as the sole judge and arbiter of what it meant to be Black and he judged any Black play on whether it served the cause of Black Liberation.
Feb 28 - March 31, 2019
Castillo Theater, 543 West 42nd Street
Presented by New Federal Theatre, Woodie King, Jr. Producing Director, in association with Castillo Theatre.
Thur-Sat at 8:00 PM plus Sat and Sun Matinees at 2:30 PM
Tickets $40 gen. Adm., $30 seniors and students. Groups (10 or more) $25
http://www.castillo.org/ Ovation tix: 866-811-4111
**PLEASE NOTE: Amiri Baraka was born Everett Leroy Jones and in college and changed his name to LeRoi Jones in homage to Vincent Lushington "Roi" Ottley (1906-1960), the noted journalist and author of "New World A-Coming: Inside Black America" and "Lonely Warrior: The Life and Times of Robert S. Abbot," among others. He changed his name from LeRoi Jones to Amiri Baraka after the assassination of Malcolm X in 1965.