Carlyle Brown's THE AFRICAN COMPANY Presents Richard III Opens at NYU's African Grove Theatre

Monday, Jan 8, 2024

The African Company Presents Richard III

The African Company Presents Richard III

NYU's African Grove Theatre hosted its inaugural production, The African Company Presents Richard III, Carlyle Brown’s play about the country's first Black theater that performed on the same block where its namesake theater now stands. Scroll down for  photos and video from the opening night party held on November 15, 2023.

NYU announced last year that strategic investor and philanthropist Ceci Chan donated $1 million to name the theater after the historic Black company that performed in Greenwich Village two centuries ago. William Alexander Brown, a former ship steward, founded the African Grove in 1816, hosting poetry readings, musical performances, and plays. The company opened a 300-seat theater in 1821, where it performed Shakespeare and other classics, including a play penned by Brown. The theater served as a place for Black creative expression for just two years before it was destroyed by a White mob.

Despite its short history, the company had an outsize influence on Black theater, especially in New York.

The African Company Presents Richard III featured Tisch School of the Arts students from Grad Acting and Design for Stage & Film directed by Carl Cofield, chair of grad acting and was performed in November in the new state-of-the-art theater on the fourth floor of the John A. Paulson Center.

Carlyle Brown's play tells the story of the African Grove Theatre, the ambitious Black theater troupe that performed Shakespeare and other classics in 19th Century New York City.

The cast includes Cole Taylor as James Hewlett, Jaylen D. Eashmond as Billy Brown, Marcus Fitzpatrick as Papa Shakespeare, Orlando Grant as the Constable-man, Regina Monique as Ann, Xavier Markey-Smith as Stephen Price and Victoria Villier as Sarah.

The set design is by Vinita Gatne, costume design by Roger Teng, lighting design by Adrienne Miikelle, and sound design by Ryan Marsh.

Carlyle Brown is a playwright/performer, curator and artistic director of Carlyle Brown & Company based in Minneapolis. His plays have been produced at theatres across the country and internationally. He is an alumnus of New Dramatists and a Life Time Core Writer at the Playwrights' Center. He has received numerous commissions, fellowships and awards including 2006 Black Theatre Network's Winona Lee Fletcher Award for outstanding achievement and artistic excellence, a 2009 Guggenheim Fellowship, a 2010 Otto Rene Castillo Award for Political Theatre, a 2010 United States Artist Fellowship a 2018 William Inge Award for Distinguished Achievement in the American Theater and a 2019 Hellen Merrill Award recipient. A scholar and historian, Brown has been an artist in residence or visiting professor at several colleges and universities, and has worked as a museum exhibit writer and story consultant. He is curator of the Cultural Diaspora Playwrights Residency at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France and The Afro-Atlantic Playwrights' Festival presented in partnership with The Playwrights' Center in July 2019. His solo shows include The Fula from America: An African Journey, Therapy and Resistance, The History of Religion and Acting Black: Demystifying Racism, created to inspire open and honest conversations about race and diversity. He is a trustee of The Camargo Foundation and is currently an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Playwright-in-Residence at Illusion Theater in Minneapolis.