This April, Stoneham Theatre audiences will discover a piece of American history with the World Premiere of Michael Aman’s play The Unbleached American.
Directed by Producing Artistic Director Weylin Symes, The Unbleached American tells the story of Ernest Hogan, the “father of ragtime” and the first African American to perform on Broadway. Beloved by his fans and wealthy beyond his wildest dreams, Hogan was also an infamous writer of “coon songs” that many considered offensive to his own race. The Unbleached American imagines the relationship between Ernest and the woman sent to care for him at the end of his life.
“This remarkable play explores a part of our country’s history that I knew absolutely nothing about,” Symes shared. “I was immediately captivated by the tremendous success and talent of Ernest Hogan as well as the infamy that came to surround him.” “For me, Michael’s play asks us to think about how future generations may judge our present actions,” Symes added, “and how profoundly perceptions can shift in the course of a generation.” Symes is thrilled to have Elliot Norton Award-winning actor Johnny Lee Davenport as Hogan.
Davenport has a history with The Unbleached American, as he did a reading of the play in 2008. “I was intrigued by this play because here was a man who was the first Black man to perform on Broadway, the author of a song (All Coons Look Alike to Me) that, in the early 1900’s sold over a million copies, and who affected the perception of Black people all over the world, and I had never heard of him,” Davenport stated.
Although The Unbleached American is considered a historical piece, Davenport feels there is relevance today. “I think too often we, as a country, justify prejudices that function only to preserve the image that we have created of ourselves,” Davenport shared. “There is a truth in the Ernest Hogan story that warrants deeper contemplation. Anything that stimulates thought is timeless and always relevant.”
The Unbleached American makes its World Premiere on April 10, 2014 and runs through April 27, 2014. Performances are Thursdays at 7:30pm; Fridays at 8:00pm; Saturdays at 3:00pm and 8:00pm; and Sundays at 2:00pm. There is a post-show talkback on Sunday, April 13, 2014. Tickets are $45 - $50. Senior tickets are $40 - $45.
For more information, or to become a Stoneham Theatre Member, please call the Box Office at (781) 279-2200, or visit www.stonehamtheatre.org. Following The Unbleached American, Stoneham Theatre presents the Broadway musical The Secret Garden from May 15, 2014 – June 8, 2014 and a special event, Menopause the Musical starring Kathy St. George from June 12 – June 29, 2014.