NEW YORK — A new movement is taking center stage on and off Broadway — just in time for Pride Month.
Black and gay storytelling stage productions are no longer the understudy of the New York theater scene.
These include Tony-nominated hit musical A Strange Loop and baseball play Take Me Out, 2022 Pulitzer Prize-winning Fat Ham, insightful Off-Broadway dramas Soft and What the End Will”. be” and the theater row adaptation of “B-Boy Blues”.
“A Strange Loop” is nominated for 11 awards including Best Musical, Original Score, Book of a Musical and Orchestrations, while “Take Me Out” has been nominated four times including Best Revival of a Play.
Cultural critic Emil Wilbekin, founder of Native Son, a New York City-based nonprofit created to inspire and empower black gay and queer men, calls the spate of shows “a new revolution.”
“What’s so powerful about this black queer movement on and off Broadway is that the stories are diverse, thoughtful and authentic,” he told the Daily News. “These pieces tell the stories of black men struggling to live at the intersection of their blackness and queerness. The characters search for their souls and struggle with the complexities of their multi-faceted identities – shame, stigma and lack of acceptance by society.”
“The beauty of this black queer theater revolution is that it portrays black gay and queer men as people with fulfilling lives, emotional depth, and stories that touch your soul,” Wilbekin said. “These characters are no longer fringe figures, buddies or pranksters. They are leaders with transformative experiences.”
The sea change has caught the attention of non-governmental media watchdog organization GLAAD.
“The stellar success of Broadway shows like ‘A Strange Loop’ shows that audiences are responding strongly to storytelling that focuses on the queer experience of Black people and that Black LGBTQ theater makers are on Broadway, off Broadway and beyond Deserve space and agency,” Anthony Allen Ramos, GLAAD’s vice president of communications & talent, told The News.
“Now that the trend of championing Black LGBTQ excellence is on the rise, the only work left is to keep it going so that it becomes a staple.”
“Take Me Out”, Helen Hayes Theater
The revival of Richard Greenberg’s baseball drama, delayed by the pandemic, already had a lot going for it when it was revealed that three popular TV actors – Grey’s Anatomy heartthrob Jesse Williams, Suits star Patrick J. Adams and Jesse Tyler Ferguson of “Modern Family” – would star. Add in full frontal nudity scenes and the show became a hit. The thought-provoking story follows the fallout after an interracial sports superstar comes out as gay. Until June 11th
“Fat Ham”, the public theater
The 2022 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama winner is a gritty and irreverent take on Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Hamlet, co-produced by the National Black Theatre. Marcel Spears of CBS’s “The Neighborhood” plays Juicy, a plus-sized, queer University of Phoenix grad who dies in this James Ijames-written vendetta that also stars Billy Eugene Jones, Adrianna Mitchell, Nikki Crawford, Benja Kay Thomas, Calvin Leon Smith and Chris Herbie Holland. Until July 3rd
“soft”, MCC Theater
Donja R. Love’s latest play explores the passion and pain of a newly hired teacher at an all-male disciplinary boarding school program for at-risk inner-city youth. In the Whitney White-directed stunner, Biko Eisen-Martin battles his own demons after one of his most promising students unexpectedly commits suicide. Newcomers Essence Lotus, Shakur Tolliver, Dharon Jones, Travis Raeburn, Dario Vazquez and Ed Ventura star. During the show’s limited run, the theater hosted nights for black and queer theater fans. Until June 26th
“… what the end will be”, roundabout in the Laura Pels Theater
In Mansa Ra’s touching new comedy, the family dynamics of three generations of gay black men come to a head as the teenager (Gerald Caesar) confronts his withdrawn father (Emerson Brooks) and recently widowed grandfather (Keith Randolph Smith) – stricken with stage bone cancer 4 – moves in with them and decides to take his mortality into his own hands. Until July 10th
“B-Boy Blues”, Theater Row
Bestselling 1990s author James Earl Hardy’s story about a 27-year-old music journalist and the Banjee Boy bike messenger he falls in love with takes on new life for a new generation. The flimsy production is directed by Christopher Burris and stars Ashton Harris, Bry’Nt, Damone Williams, Jermaine Montell, Kenè Chelo Ortiz, Reginald L. Barnes, Stephfon Guidry and Tieisha Thomas. Until June 25th
“A Strange Loop”, Lyceum Theatre
Marketed as “a major black queer American musical,” Michael R. Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning musical comedy focuses on a black gay writer who works as an usher on Broadway while dealing with the highs and lows of dating and working in New passes through York. Featuring L Morgan Lee, the first openly transgender actress to be nominated for a Tony Award for her supporting role, and newcomer Jaquel Spivey, who received a Tony nod for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in the Musical A Strange Loop ‘ is the most nominated show this season with 11 Tony nods. Also starring Antwayn Hopper, John-Michael Lyles, James Jackson, Jr., John-Andrew Morrison and Jason Veasey. is playing now