A celebration of Ira Aldridge
Tuesday 19 September 2017, 7.00pm
Sam Wanamaker Playhouse
|£15 | £12 FoSG & Students||2 hours|
Join us for a celebration of Ira Aldridge, with a panel discussion and staged reading of Against Prejudice: Ira Aldridge, Theatre Manager – 1828.
A staged reading of Against Prejudice: Ira Aldridge, Theatre Manager – 1828, a drama-documentary 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 the plays, we ask: How did it happen?
Tony Howard leads a panel of performers and scholars, including BBC historian David Olusoga and actor Joseph Mydell, in considering the importance of Ira Aldridge’s achievements for his time and ours.
Ira Aldridge came to Britain to escape racism in New York – where he was physically attacked for daring to act in Shakespeare - and became the first black performer to play Othello. Never accepted by the major London theatres and critics, in the 1850s he began to tour the Continent and became sensationally successful. 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.
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.