Theater J in Washington D.C. has released its schedule for the 2012-2013 season and several of the productions sound very intriguing. One is The Hampton Years, by Jacqueline E. Lawton, which will have its world premiere on May 29th at Theater J and run until June 30th. Lawton’s play, based on a true story, is set between 1939 and 1946 at Hampton University and deals with two young artists named John Biggers and Samella Lewis who are taught by an Austrian Jewish immigrant named Viktor Lowenfeld. The small cast includes two more artists, Rosenwald Fund grantees Elizabeth Catlett and Charles White, who, according to an interview with Lawton, play the part of “mentors and instigators” to the young artists. It’s a fascinating story and it resonates with the Rosenwald Fund in two ways. It’s another example of a remarkable pre-Civil Rights partnership between Jews and African Americans, but it also shows how Rosenwald fellows often went on to mentor other artists.
Coming this November to Theater J is a play about another Rosenwald fellow, Woody Guthrie. Woody Sez: The Life & Music of Woody Guthrie tells the story of Guthrie’s life through music. The cast consists of four “actor/musicians” who will play a variety of parts and instruments. This production is one of many tributes taking place this year, marking what would have been the late Guthrie’s 100th birthday. Woody Sez plays from November 8th to December 2nd at Theater J.
By Michael Rose