harlem is...THEATER: The South African Connection

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Scene from New Heritage Theatre's South African production "Asinamali!" © New Heritage Theatre Group
harlem is...THEATER: The South African Connection

40 Lincoln Center Plaza,
New York, NY 10023
February 3rd, 2015 - May 1st, 2015
Opening: February 3rd, 2015 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM

12-8pm Mon & Thurs, 12-6pm Tues, Wed, Fri, Sat & Sun
painting, digital, photography, mixed-media, installation, performance


Black Theater Exhibition Moves to The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center and Debuts its Newest Component:
The South African Connection. February 4 - May 1, 2015


Join our multimedia celebration of nearly 200 years of Black Theater in Harlem and New York as the expanded, comprehensive harlem is . . . THEATER exhibition rolls into The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center during the first week of February, 2015.

Through memorabilia, photos, film and original artwork, learn about the theaters that bloomed and survived, the people who were driven to keep them vital, and the explosion of Black Theater productions that marked the 1960s and continue to this day. The message of the exhibition is strong: Black Theater plays a crucial and continuously vital role for Harlem, New York City, and the world.

As the exhibition moves to The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, it additionally explores the important collaboration in the 1980s between New Heritage Theatre Group and Lincoln Center Theater to bring South African playwrights and voices to New York. These productions exposed audiences to the realities of life under apartheid through new, brilliant stage experiences—among them Woza Albert!and Sarafina! At the time, it was considered audacious for Voza Rivers, Executive Producer of New Heritage Theatre Group in Harlem,  Bernard Gersten, then Executive Producer, and Greg Mosher, Artistic Director of Lincoln Center Theater to bring South African playwrights, including Mbongeni Ngema - who created Woza Albert!, Sarafina!, Asinamali, Township Fever - and the Woza Afrika Festivalto New York. Commenting on the importance of this project, Mosher said, “One might imagine that the plays of Woza Afrika Festival and Sarafina! sprang from rage…but their work emerged from courageous hope.” New York theater-goers were mesmerized and flocked in droves to the presentations.

See for yourself through special performances, conversations and symposia at the library and at partner sites including the Apollo Theater, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture,City College Center for the Arts-Aaron Davis Hall, how Community Works NYC continues to fulfill a promise it made 25 years ago to advance the arts as a bridge among New York’s diverse neighborhoods and cultures.


harlem is … THEATER
is an award-winning exhibition that will spend three months at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center.  Lead sponsorship is provided by the Joseph S. and Diane H. Steinberg 1992 Charitable Trust, and from the National Endowment for the Arts. Community Works NYC will offer exhibition tours for community and schools, Mondays through Saturdays. The exhibition will then tour citywide, changing and growing along the way. 

Originating in 2005, at the Museum of the City of New York harlem is. . . THEATER began with students in ten schools in Harlem meeting with theater veterans, learning about the history of Black Theater, creating written and dramatic work, and then challenging the professionals to help build an exhibition that reflects a rich history that stretches back to 1821 with the establishment of the African Grove Theatre in lower Manhattan.

In 2014, Community Works decided to expand the exhibition to include a timeline celebrating 50 years of New Heritage Theatre Group as a Harlem nonprofit theater producer; include information on more theaters, invite public conversations with giants in Black Theater, while continuing to collect a rich selection of artifacts and original artwork related to Black Theater.

Community Works, which is celebrating its 25th year, began in 1990 in a small office on Manhattan’s Upper West Side with the single vision of advancing the arts as a cultural bridge. Today, more than 100,000 youth and community members participate in more than 300 unique workshops, theater performances, and public art exhibits every year.

Several performances, including shows especially for community and schools, and a family day have been scheduled to complement the exhibition. In addition, there will be public conversations about Black Theater, and the opportunity for schools and community groups to arrange guided tours of the exhibition.  For more information, email  or call 212-459-1854.


This exhibition is supported, in part, by Con Edison, Emilie Davie and Joseph S. Kornfeld Foundation, New York Council for the Humanities, West Harlem Development Corporation of Tides Foundation and Credit Suisse; and by public funds from Manhattan Borough President, Gale Brewer, New York City Council Members Inez E. Dickens and Helen Rosenthal, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. 

The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts gratefully acknowledges the leadership support of Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman. Additional support for exhibitions has been provided by Judy R. and Alfred A. Rosenberg and the Miriam and Harold Steinberg Foundation.

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