A celebration of Ira Aldridge
Tuesday 19 September 2017, 7.00pm
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
|£15 | £12 FoSG & Students||2 hours|
Please note: this event has now passed
Join us for a celebration of Ira Aldridge, with a panel discussion and staged reading of Against Prejudice: Ira Aldridge, Theatre Manager – 1828.
Arriving in England in the early 1820’s, Ira Aldridge became Britain’s first black Shakespearean actor and Theatre Manager. Brutally attacked for daring to act in Shakespeare’s plays in America, he rose to fame in the UK and became sensationally successful, though he was never accepted by the major London theatres and critics.
He died in Poland, just as he was about to return and challenge America after the Civil War and the abolition of slavery. Ever since, his memory has been kept alive by actors from Paul Robeson to Adrian Lester, and by writers like Lolita Chakrabarti who have pieced together the scattered fragments.
Against Prejudice: Ira Aldridge, Theatre Manager – 1828
Written by Professor Tony Howard (University of Warwick)
Astonishingly, while Britain’s colonies still depended on slavery, Aldridge at the age of only 20 became manager of the Coventry Theatre in the West Midlands. His short but successful season used melodrama, music and Shakespeare to challenge racist stereotypes. Using contemporary documents and the words and music of Shakespeare’s plays, this script in hand performance will ask: how did it happen?
Cast: Ray Fearon and Justin Avoth.
Opening with a series of speeches and songs by members of the Coventry Belgrade Youth Theatre, Tony Howard leads a panel of performers and scholars in considering the importance of Ira Aldridge’s achievements for his time and ours.
Panellists include: David Olusoga (BBC Historian), Joseph Mydell (Actor), Martin Hoyles (Biographer) and Joseph Marcell (Actor).
Further speakers to be announced
The project is hugely indebted to the superb four-volume biography by Bernth Lindfors, Ira Aldridge (2011-2015). Lindfors was the first to draw attention to the Coventry season.