Register for Rhapsody in Black
In honor of Black History Month, Playhouse Square is offering free streaming performances presented by University Hospitals: Stono by Step Afrika! and Rhapsody in Black by LeLand Gantt. Registration for the free performances is required.
“I always have my eyes open for great work to share with the young audiences of Playhouse Square, and when I saw these two shows, I thought they presented an opportunity to expand the reach of our digital offerings even beyond the classroom. We are proudly presenting an inspiring and timely new work by Step Afrika! and for the first time in our region, the full-length version of Rhapsody in Black,” shared Playhouse Square Vice President of Community Engagement & Education Daniel Hahn. “It gives me great pleasure to be able to expand the reach of these tremendous artists and their deeply moving performances to teens and adults.
“Stono was created as a streaming performance, and I tuned in for the world premiere online on September 9, 2020 – the anniversary of the historic Stono Rebellion. Step Afrika! takes this important but too-little-known moment of history and retells it as only this world class company of energizing dancers can.
“I also vividly remember sitting in the theater watching Rhapsody in Black, several years ago. LeLand Gantt gives a tour-de-force performance that profoundly and personally explores the issues of contemporary racial issues in America, through the lens of his own experiences. There is no doubt this work is as timely as it is enthralling.”
Stono, available for streaming on demand February 1-14, honors the spirit of resistance and activism that remains a critical part of American freedom. On September 9, 1739, the largest insurrection of enslaved Africans in North America began in South Carolina on the banks of the Stono River. Twenty Africans marched south toward a promised freedom in Spanish Florida, waving flags, beating drums, and shouting “Liberty!” Although the Stono Rebellion was suppressed, this little-known event in American history forever changed African American life and culture. When Africans lost the right to use their drums through The Negro Act of 1740, they began to use their bodies as percussive instruments in response. This act of survival and activism earned them the name of “Drumfolk,” coined by famed folklorist Bessie Jones. Their percussive movement gave rise to some of the country’s most distinctive art forms, including the ring shout, tap, hambone, and stepping.
Available for streaming on demand February 22-28, Rhapsody in Black, is a one-man show that explores LeLand’s personal journey to understanding and eventually transcending racism in America. We follow his spellbinding life story—from an underprivileged childhood in the ghettos of McKeesport, Pennsylvania to teenage experiments with crime and drugs to scholastic achievement and an acting career that lands adult LeLand in situations where he is virtually the only African American in the room. How he manages to cope with the various psychological effects of consistently being marked "The Other" is recounted in remarkable and exquisitely moving detail, guaranteed to leave lasting impressions. Written and performed by LeLand Gantt and developed at NYC’s Actors Studio with Estelle Parsons. Recommended for ages 15 and up for adult situations and language. A live Q&A with LeLand will be held on Sunday, February 28 at 7 p.m.
In addition to these two public performances, Playhouse Square also offers Streaming Performances for Schools, including our Social Justice Series. This past June, Playhouse Square, along with many local organizations, released a public statement committing to fight systemic racism in our community. As part of our commitment, we introduced this series as part of our digital lineup: five plays, all of which explore the issues we continue to face as a community and a nation, through the perspectives of a range of outstanding artists of color. Titles were intentionally selected to provide age-appropriate offerings spanning Kindergarten through high school, so educators can select the best fit for their classrooms. The Social Justice Series includes Five Days with Step Afrika!; Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom; Black Violin; Rhapsody in Black (the abridged version); and Jabari Dreams of Freedom. Nearly 3,000 classrooms from across Northeast Ohio have registered for these streaming performances.
Stono and Rhapsody in Black are presented by University Hospitals, the official healthcare partner of Playhouse Square.
Advancing arts education is part of Playhouse Square’s not-for-profit mission.