Wendell Holbrook to speak at NPL's exhibit opening, Feb. 1st

We Wear The Mask

Newark Public Library Celebrates Black Theatre

The Newark Public Library will present a series of events and exhibitions for Black History Month 2012 exploring the world of black theatre including Newark’s groundbreaking community theatre companies of the 1960s such as Ensemble Theatre Company and Theatre of Universal Images to Broadway stars like Ethel Waters and Lena Horne. New Jersey theatrical giant Paul Robeson will be celebrated, along with lesser known figures including Bergen Street School graduate Hughes Allison who wrote “The Trial of Dr. Beck” in the 1930s, and Hollywood actor Lorenzo Tucker, who was known as “The Black Valentino.” The exhibition will also highlight the Newark or New Jersey connections to plays such as the classic opera “Porgy & Bess,” and the contemporary Broadway show “Stick Fly.” We Wear The Mask: Black Theatre in Newark & Near, From 1700s to 2012, a nod to the poem “We Wear The Mask” by Paul Laurence Dunbar, debuts  on February 1 and ends on March 24th.

The February 1 exhibit opening and reception celebrates the birthday of legendary poet and playwright James Mercer Langston Hughes, a former Westwood, NJ resident, who was born on February 1, 110 years ago.  Langston, We Love You Madly will feature a talk, “The Poet as Playwright,” by historian Dr. Wendell Holbrook, Associate Professor in the Department of African American & African Studies, Rutgers University-Newark; a musical performance by song stylist Cynthia Lady Rose Roberson; a performance by The Adelaide Sanford Charter School Drum Orchestra; a talk, “Theatre in Newark,” by Theatre of Universal Images founder Clarence M. Ali; and, a dramatic interpretation of Hughes’ literature by David Mills, a Langston Hughes Scholar. This event will be held at Centennial Hall from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Main Library at 5 Washington Street.

Below is a list of events for We Wear The Mask.


The Sounds of Broadway, sung by the North Jersey Philharmonic Glee Club, noon to 3 p.m, Centennial Hall, Main Library, 5 Washington Street.


Film presentation of plays by August Wilson in addition to Lorraine Hansberry’s groundbreaking A Raisin in the Sun, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., Fourth Floor Auditorium, Main Library, 5 Washington St.


Meet The Cast of For Colored Girls, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Centennial Hall, Main Library, 5 Washington Street. Excerpts from 1970s play written by Trenton, NJ resident Ntozage Shange.


A celebration of the first anniversary of the W.E.B. Du Bois Reading Circle of the James Brown African American Room, 6-8 p.m., Community Room, Weequahic Branch, 355 Osborne Terr.


A day-long, three-part “Tribute to Ethel Waters & Lena Horne, Black Ladies on White Broadway” begins at 9 a.m. in the Fourth Floor Auditorium, Main Library, 5 Washington St., with a screening of films such as Cabin in the Sky; a workshop about the film Pinky from 2 – 4 p.m. in the James Brown African American Room, Main Library, led by Dr. Linda Caldwell Epps; and a 6 to 8 p.m. talk and author event in the Fourth Floor Auditorium, Main Library, on the topic of Waters & Horne led by celebrated writer and historian Donald Bogle..


Panel discussion on “The State of Black Theatre”  with Amiri Baraka, playwright; Stephen McKinley Henderson, actor; Woodie King, Jr., producer;  Marie Thomas, actor; and Philip Thomas, moderator, Executive Director of Newark Symphony Hall. Centennial Hall, Main Library, noon to 3 p.m.


Says exhibit curator Sandra L. West, who manages the library’s James Brown African American Room, “I always attempt to teach from a vantage point of victory. This is why Black History Month programs are important to me, and this is why a public teach-in of black drama is important, because black drama is so liberating – whether we are actor or audience.”


In addition, Rutgers University has been very gracious in extending to Newark Public Library patrons of the February 1st and March 7th  programs the opportunity to park at the Rutgers Lot 506 on Essex Street, at the back of the library, for a discounted rate of $4.25. Please be governed accordingly.


All programs are free and open to the public. For more information or to arrange a tour of the exhibit, please call the curator at 973-733-5411. In case of inclement weather, please call 973-733-7800 (Main Library) to determine whether the Library is open.