Antaeus Theater to Present Wedding Band: A Love/Hate Story in Black and White
In the summer of 1918, as the Great War rages in Europe, two individuals wage their own battle against injustice in America, risking their lives for the right to marry. Winding up the 2014 Antaeus season of modern classics, Gregg T. Daniel directs a fully partner-cast revival of Wedding Band: A Love/Hate Story in Black and White by Alice Childress. Wedding Band runs Oct. 18 through Dec. 7 at the Antaeus Theater in NoHo, with low-priced previews beginning Oct. 9.
Set in 1918 on South Carolina's Gullah Coast, Wedding Band is the profoundly poignant and affecting story of Julia and Herman, two people in love who yearn to be together as husband and wife, but are held apart by society's mores and laws prohibiting interracial marriage. When Wedding Band was written in 1962, the subject matter was so controversial, and the language so frank, that no theater in New York was willing to produce it. It finally received its premiere in 1966 at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor starring Ruby Dee, followed by a production in 1971 at the Virginian Theatre in Chicago. It wasn't until 1972 that Wedding Band made it to New York, directed by Joseph Papp and the playwright for the New York Shakespeare Festival. The NYSF production was subsequently broadcast by ABC in 1973 - but eight ABC-TV affiliates refused to carry it. Utterly unflinching and filled with stark realism, Wedding Band continues to shock as well as resonate in 2014. "This play is uniquely American and eerily timely, as we continue to legislate who people have and don't have the right to love and marry," notes Daniel. "It spotlights injustice, but, more importantly, it's about resistance and endurance. How do people live under unjust laws? What does it do to them?" Alice Childress (1916-1994) wrote plays, short stories and novels that showed a heretofore unseen side of African-American life. Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Childress grew up in Harlem. She acted with the American Negro Theatre, earning a Tony Award nomination, before turning to writing. In 1952, her play Gold Through the Trees became the first play written by an African-American woman to be professionally produced in New York. Other noted works include the 1955 Obie Award-winning play Trouble in Mind and the young adult novel "A Hero Ain't Nothin' But A Sandwich." In the Antaeus tradition best known as "partner casting," two actors share every role, working together throughout the rehearsal process to enrich the creative experience for both cast and audience. Sharing roles in Wedding Band: A Love/Hate Story in Black and White are Karole Foreman and Veralyn Jones as Julia Augustine; Leo Marks and John Prosky as Herman; Anne Gee Byrd and Lynn Milgrim as Herman's mother; Karianne Flaathen and Belen Greene as Herman's sister, Annabelle; Karen Bankhead and Karen Malina White as Julia's landlady, Fanny Johnson; Peggy Ann Blow and Saundra McClain as neighbor Lula Green; Amad Jackson and Jason Turner as Lula's son, Nelson; Cheryl Francis Harrington and Nadege August as neighbor Mattie; and Brian Abraham and Buck Zachary as the "Bell Man." The neighborhood children, Teeta and Princess, are played by Mma-Syrai Alek., Ranya Jaber, Jasmine Saint-Clair and Olivia Sparks. Scenic design for Wedding Band: A Love/Hate Story in Black and White is by François-Pierre Couture; lighting design is by Michael Gend; costume design is by A. Jeffrey Schoenberg; sound design is by Jeff Gardner; properties design is by Adam Meyer; choreography is by Ameenah Kaplan; dialect coach is Andrea Odinov Fuller; dramaturg is Amandla Jahava; and the production stage manager is Kristin Weber. Antaeus is a cooperative theater ensemble founded to empower the actor and to bring classical theater to Los Angeles. The company exists to create a family of artists and audiences and is dedicated to exploring stories with enduring themes. Taking their company name from the Titan who gained strength by touching the Earth, Antaeus members - many of whom are familiar to film and television audiences - regain their creative strength by returning to the wellspring of their craft: live theater. Members of the company span a wide range of age, ethnicity and experience; they have performed on Broadway, at major regional theaters across the country, in film, television and on local stages, and are the recipients of numerous accolades including Tony, Los Angeles and New York Drama Critics Circle, Ovation, LA Weekly, and Back Stage Garland nominations and awards. Audiences, who rarely see an understudy due to Antaeus' trademark "partner casting," frequently return to see the same play in the hands of an equally excellent but very different set of actors. Gregg T. Daniel most recently directed the New Jersey premiere of playwright Katori Hall's The Mountaintop at Cape May Stage. In 2013, he received a NAACP Theatre Award nomination for Best Director for his work on the West Coast premiere of Kwame Kwei-Armah's Elmina's Kitchen. (The production won in the category of Best Ensemble.) For Group Repertory Theatre, he directed Lee Blessing's Cobb, Tom Stoppard's Heroes and Frank McGuinness' Someone Who'll Watch Over Me. Gregg is the artistic director and a founding member of Lower Depth Theatre Ensemble for which he directed the West Coast premiere of Mustapha Matura's Three Sisters After Chekhov. Performances of Wedding Band: A Love/Hate Story in Black and White take place Oct. 18 through Dec. 7 on Thursdays and Fridays at 8 pm; Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sundays at 2 p.m. (no matinee performance on Saturday, Oct. 18). Talk back Thursdays begin on Oct. 23: stay after the performance and discuss the play with the cast. There will be eight previews, Oct. 9 through Oct. 17: Thursdays, Fridays, Saturday, Tuesday and Wednesday, all at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $30 on Thursdays and Fridays and $34 on Saturdays and Sundays. Previews are $15. There will be three "Pay-What-You-Can Fridays" on Oct. 24, Oct. 31 and Nov.7. The Antaeus Company is located at 5112 Lankershim Blvd in North Hollywood, CA 91601. Parking is available for $7 in the lot at 5125 Lankershim Blvd. (west side of the street), just south of Magnolia. The theater is air-conditioned and wheelchair accessible. For reservations and information, call 818-506-1983 or go to www.antaeus.org.