Performing Arts

Flushing Town Hall’s ‘Black History Trilogy’ features solo performances by Broadway stars

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To honor Black History Month, Flushing Town Hall presents its Black History Trilogy, a three-part series of Broadway luminaries showcasing the speeches and music of influential African-American artists and leaders. While facilities are temporarily closed to the public in accordance with COVID-19 safety regulations, the events are being presented online as part of FTH @ Home! virtual programming, which offers free viewing to the general public, with donations welcome to support the non-profit cultural organization, its artists, and initiatives.

On Friday, February 5, at 7:00 pm, Alton Fitzgerald White (Ragtime; The Lion King) launches the Trilogy with “John Lewis: A Pioneer for Justice.” Through his reading of one of the most impactful speeches by the American politician and Civil Rights leader (who coined the phrase “good trouble”), White shines a spotlight on Lewis’s legacy, then discusses why the words and mission of Lewis, who passed away last July, at the age of 80, are still relevant today. The program will conclude with a short question-and-answer session with the virtual audience.

The Trilogy continues on Thursday, February 18, with a presentation of “Divine Sass: A Tribute to the Music, Life, and Legacy of Sarah Vaughan.” The second installment in the series features Tony Award-winning actress and vocalist Lillias White (Dream Girls, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, South Pacific, and Cy Coleman’s The Life), who wrote and conceived the show, highlighting the music and struggles of jazz legend Sarah Vaughan. Born in Newark, NJ, Vaughan (called “Sassy” by the great jazz musicians of her time) was not only an outstanding vocalist, pianist, and a pivotal figure in the formation of Be-Bop, who influenced generations of vocalists with her unique style of expression and melodic phrasing, she also helped to desegregate the American airwaves, setting the stage for the Civil Rights activism of the 1960s and 1970s.

Tony, Grammy, and Emmy Award winner André De Shields (Hadestown) concludes the Black History Trilogy on Friday, February 26, with “André De Shields Is Frederick Douglass: Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory,” performing an excerpt from his self-crafted one-man show. In his portrayal of the great emancipator, the acclaimed actor takes audiences back in time to explore the life and achievements of Douglass, who, on July 5, 1852, delivered a keynote address, entitled “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro,” at a commemoration of the signing of the Declaration of Independence at Corinthian Hall in Rochester, NY. In it, Douglass asked, “What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July?” De Shields notes, “Though Douglass began his life as a slave, through heroic effort, he became one of America’s most important and historically influential icons.” His is a story of brutality and deliverance that is implausible, yet historically accurate, and as filled with hope and achievement as it is with darkness and anger.

Flushing Town Hall’s three-part Black History Trilogy streams on February 5, 18, and 26, at 7 pm. Viewing is free to the general public; donations are encouraged. For more information and to RSVP for the shows, visit the FTH newly redesigned website, with improved access to online events and educational programming.

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