Dec. 14:The Harlem Shakespeare Festival in partnership with The National Arts Club Will Present Virtual Performance of the World Premiere: BECOMING OTHELLO: A Black Girl’s Journey Starring Debra Ann Byrd

The Harlem Shakespeare Festival in partnership with The National Arts Club is pleased to announce the World Premiere of BECOMING OTHELLO: A Black Girl’s Journey, a solo, multimedia theatrical performance recorded live at The Center at West Park and streamed on Zoom, Monday, December 14th at 7:00pm. Registration is required. Click here to RSVP.
This filmed theatrical performance is created and performed by Debra Ann Byrd, the internationally recognized Artistic Director of Harlem Shakespeare Festival and directed by Tina Packer, the acclaimed Shakespearean and Founding Artistic Director of Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA.  Smart, thoughtful and transformative, BECOMING OTHELLO: A Black Girl’s Journey is a living memoir of Byrd’s trials and triumphs with race and the opportunity to perform classical work.  There will be a post-performance conversation about the show and the issues of love, loss, race, gender and equity.
BECOMING OTHELLO commemorates the 8th Anniversary of the Harlem Shakespeare Festival, a subsidiary of Voza Rivers/New Heritage Theatre Group.
Described as a living memoir, BECOMING OTHELLO: A Black Girl’s Journey is a multimedia theatrical production with lyrical language, soulful songs and the music that shaped the life of a resilient little girl growing up in Spanish Harlem. This choreo-poem chronicles the life of classical actress, Debra Ann Byrd. The solo show flows from Debra Ann’s recounting of her ancestral lineage to her arrival at a crossroad in life, while taking us through her joy-filled and tumultuous youth; a fateful encounter with a company of Shakespearean actors and her remarkable, gender-flipped journey on the road to becoming Othello.  We share in Debra Ann’s struggle with self-esteem and how, against all odds, she manages to make it through foster care, teenage pregnancy and single parenting, to become the person she always dreamed she could be.  It is a deeply personal, poignant and powerful story of perseverance, tragedy, triumph and ultimately, unconditional love.
BECOMING OTHELLO: A Black Girl’s Journey was created in a writing workshop with Tanya Taylor Rubinstein and developed at the Harlem Shakespeare Festival (Harlem, NY), the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (Stratford-upon-Avon, UK), the Folger Shakespeare Library (Washington, DC), Columbia University (New York, NY), Southwest Shakespeare Company (Mesa, AZ) and Shakespeare & Company (Lenox, MA).
BECOMING OTHELLO’s creative and media production teams include Dyane Harvey-Salaam Director of Movement, David D. Wright Sound Design, Melody Beal Light Design, Gail Cooper-Hecht Costume Design, Norman Anthony Small Associate Producer/ Director Production, Jacqueline Jeffries Associate Producer, LaZette McCants COVID-19 Safety Officer/Craft Services, Lia Chang Production Photographer, and Dathan B. Williams, Natalie Clarke, and Tom Martin Production Assistants.  Filmmakers Craig T. Williams, Roderick Giles and their teams filmed BECOMING OTHELLO: A Black Girl’s Journey at The Center at West Park in New York.  Executive Producers of BECOMING OTHELLO are New Heritage Films and Machicote Glennbrooke Productions, with editing and post-production by Red Wall Productions.
DEBRA ANN BYRD is an award winning classically trained actress and producer who recently was named Writer-in-Residence at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and the University of Warwick, Artist-in-Residence Fellow at the Folger Institute, an A’Lelia Bundles Community Scholar at Columbia University, a Virtual Artist in Residence at The Center at West Park, and Artist-in-Residence at Southwest Shakespeare Company (where she recently reprised the role of Othello, winning her the 2019 Broadway World Phoenix Award for Best Lead Actress). She is the Founding Artistic Director of the Harlem Shakespeare Festival and an emerging playwright, who is currently represented by her new solo show BECOMING OTHELLO: A Black Girl’s Journey. As the Founder and Producing Artistic Director of Take Wing And Soar Productions and the Harlem Shakespeare Festival, she guided the company’s growth from its birth as the passionate dream of one determined woman, into a viable support organization serving classical artists of color and theater arts groups throughout New York. Debra Ann trained at Marymount Manhattan College, The Public Theater’s Shakespeare Lab, Shakespeare & Company, and The Broadway League’s Commercial Theatre Institute. Previous Shakespeare roles include Queen Elizabeth (Richard III), Volumnia (Coriolanus), Winter (Love’s Labors Lost), Hippolyta (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Cleopatra (Antony & Cleopatra), Othello (The Tragedy of Othello: The Moor of Venice), Marc Antony (Julius Caesar).
“Once in a great while a piece of theatre resonates so profoundly, it changes lives forever.  This is one of those works.”  Mary Way, Executive Director, Southwest Shakespeare Company
“Becoming Othello was astonishing, brilliant, funny, heartbreaking and ultimately inspiring.”
Mark Nixon Patron of the Arts, The Shakespeare Center, Stratford-on Avon UK
“… a truly singular dramatic talent.”
Sara Westh, Reporter, Stratford-upon-Avon HERALD
The world premiere will also feature the following events:
December 9 @ 7:00pm:  Panel discussion 2 — 5 Female Othellos. 5 Monologues. 5 Questions.  Moderated by AZ Humanities Executive Director Brenda Thomson. Panelists from across the nation include: Fran Bennet (1994); Marishka S. Phillips (2004); Debra Ann Byrd (2013); Jennifer Lanier (2018); & Jessika Williams (2020), who will share their thoughts, feelings and varied experiences of playing Shakespeare’s OTHELLO.
ABOUT THE NATIONAL ARTS CLUB | The mission of The National Arts Club is to stimulate, foster and promote public interest in the arts and educate the American people in the fine arts. The National Arts Club was founded in 1898 by Charles de Kay, a literary and art critic for The New York Times. The Tilden Mansion at 15 Gramercy Park South, a National Historic Landmark, has been home of The National Arts Club since 1906. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Annually, we offer more than 150 free programs to the public, including exhibitions, theatrical and musical performances, lectures, and readings, attracting an audience of over 25,000 New Yorkers and visitors alike. Feature programs focus on all disciplines of the arts. For a full list of programs or to learn more, please visit nationalartsclub.org.
ABOUT HARLEM SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL | With the plays of William Shakespeare as its foundation, Debra Ann Byrd/Take Wing And Soar Productions and Voza Rivers/New Heritage Theatre Group have teamed up to produce the Harlem Shakespeare Festival™, a theatre festival spanning across Harlem with ongoing programming from late summer through early spring. The festival, now celebrating its 8th season was formed with a social justice mission to foster understanding and unity in the arts by producing special events and plays with multicultural casts, with a special emphasis in giving center stage opportunities to women, youth and especially classically trained actors of color. The Festival, inaugurated in summer 2013, brings Shakespeare scripts alive featuring 3-5 Shakespeare and modern plays, Master Classes, Panel Discussions, International Symposiums, Artist Talk-backs, Workshops, Shakespeare4Kids, ShakespeareInMusic, ShakespeareOnFilm and Shakespeare-In-The-Open-Air. For more information about the producers and the production, visit newheritagetheatregroup.org and BecomingOthello.global.
This production of Becoming Othello: A Black Girl’s Journey is made possible with the support of a Virtual Performance Residency at The Center at West Park; and with support from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, Con Edison and the NYC Women’s Fund for Media, Music and Theatre by the City of New York Mayor’s office of Media and Entertainment in association with the New York Foundation for the Arts.
Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness andWhen the World was Young. She is also the Executive Producer for The CactusThe Language LessonThe Writer and Cream and 2 Shugahs.

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