Belgrade Theatre Celebrates Black History Month

Posted on 9 October 2015

The Belgrade Theatre in Coventry has today announced full details of its Black History Month a special season of events celebrating the rich contribution of black culture to Coventry and Warwickshire’s cultural and artistic communities.

From Mon 19 – Wed 21 Oct, Theatre Centre with Rise Up from Mon 19 – Wed 21 Oct in B2, a powerful and provocative new play by Lisa Evans telling the story of America’s ‘Freedom Riders’ who set about peacefully challenging the inherent racism of America’s deep south during the 1960s.

The tide was turning – though local governments disagreed, it would soon be illegal to segregate black Americans from white Americans on public buses, in waiting rooms or in restaurants.

And yet – in the early 1960s, many states across the south of America kept discriminating against African-Americans…

In modern day Britain, four actor-storytellers explore the untold story of the Freedom Riders – principled citizens riding buses across Alabama and Mississippi, drawing attention to this illegal discrimination, and facing up to terrifying violence with peaceful resistance.

The story of the Freedom Riders is one of ordinary people becoming a civil rights movement, taking on the establishment and changing the world. In a time of Michael Brown, and Trayvon Martin, and Mark Duggan, what does it mean for people to come together and rise up?

Written by up-and-coming playwright Lisa Evans – Winner of the Writers Guild of Great Britain Award for Best New Play for Young Audiences 2011 – this powerful and provocative new play offers the perfect introduction to a vital era in the struggle for civil rights and features Coventry actress and former Belgrade Youth Theatre performer Kimisha Lewis in the role of Dayz.

This will be followed by a one-off visit by Professor Tony Howard, Chief Lecturer at The University of Warwick and Co-ordinator of The Multicultural Shakespeare Project with a celebration of the crucial but undervalued contribution made by Black performers’ to our understanding of Shakespeare – an enduring cultural symbol of Britishness throughout the ages.

The Multicultural Shakespeare Project aims to map the history of non-white actors’ and directors’ growing role in British cultural life over several generations – by examining their involvement in the performance and re-interpretation of Shakespeare’s plays.

In this special exhibition and talk, Professor Howard will be showcasing the work of pioneering African American actor, Ira Aldridge who spend a unique period as a manager of Coventry Theatre in 1828. As part of the visit, Professor Howard will be showcasing the acclaimed touring exhibition Shakespeare and Black History – Rediscovering the Stars highlighting the work of Paul Robeson, Cleo Laine, Adrian Lester, Hugh Quarshie, Josette Simon, Akala and many, many others.

Completing the programme, I Wish I Had A Moustache will visit B2 from Fri 30 & Sat 31 Oct. Written and performed by Young Identity’s Keisha Thompson, this comedic and, at times disturbing exploration of beauty, gender anxieties and the taboo of body hair asks some important questions of how we define and value ourselves and is suitable for ages 12+

Looking ahead to November, BAFTA and Golden Globe nominated actress Cathy Tyson, best known for her work with the RSC, the Liverpool Everyman and in Mona Lisa (1986) alongside Bob Hoskins, stars in She Called Me Mother – a new co-production between Pitch Lake Productions and Tara Arts for Black Theatre Live exploring ageing, relationships and loss as seen through the eyes of a Trinidadian woman.

Tickets for all of these shows are now on sale. For tickets, call the Belgrade Theatre Box Office on 024 7655 3055 or via the website where cheaper tickets are available.