Irvington Town Hall Theater (ITHT)’s Stage Door series will present a reading of The Burning of New York by award-winning playwright Samuel Harps on Thursday, April 13 at 7 p.m. Now in its third season, the series produces staged readings of original works followed by a Q & A with the playwright and actors. Without the technical aspects of a fully-staged show, the series offers a compelling way to hear new voices in theater and closely observe the thought process that goes into writing a play.
The Burning of New York is based on actual events from 1741: Lower Manhattan, Broadway, Maiden Lane and Wall Street were set ablaze in an alleged slave revolt that gripped New Yorkers in fear. After an unprecedented trial, 35 people were ultimately hanged or burned at the stake, while nearly 100 others were banished from the Province of New York. At the center of the controversy was John Hughson’s Bar, which is the only establishment in NYC where blacks, whites, slaves and free men were allowed to mingle.
Playwright Samuel Harps interned at New York’s New Dramatists, studying with noted playwrights August Wilson and Charles Oyamo Gordon. He was later accepted into the prestigious Negro Ensemble Company playwright’s program. Harps’ first major production, Don’t Explain was staged at New York’s famed Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe. The explosive drama about the death of trumpeter Lee Morgan went on to receive seven AUDELCO Awards, including Best Play and Playwright. Harps also received The Arts Council of Rockland County Executive Award for Literary Artist.
“Over the last few years of my career, I have grown a keen interest in African-American history,” Harps said. “American history, really. And, the wealth of history in The Hudson Valley has inspired me to seek out these stories, and write about them.”
Harps’ productions have been staged at NYC venues including the Paul Robeson Theater, National Black Theater, Billie Holiday Theater, Theater for the New City, Theater Four, American Theater for Actors, Duality Playhouse, HERE Theater, and at Rutgers University, Riverspace Arts in Nyack, and venues in San Francisco, L.A. and Philadelphia.
ITHT Commissioner Marjorie Rosenfield explained that in pursuing outstanding, dramatic programming, the commission “followed a path that led us across the river to Rockland County where Samuel Harps has been cultivating and nurturing not only his own artistic skills, but those of his community. We are so pleased to present his work and look forward to a lasting relationship of mutual growth and support.”
Tickets are $10. For more information, visit: www.irvingtontheater.com.