history-theater

Konark Sun Temple, Odisha

King Narasimha Deva built the Konark Sun Temple during 1250 A.D. and dedicated to Sun God, Surya. According to Hindu mythology, Surya is considered as prime source of life giving energy and healer of diseases. The temple is situated 65 kms from the city of Bhubaneswar, India.

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World Theatre Day - 27 March
World Theatre Day was created in 1961 by the International Theatre Institute (ITI). It is celebrated annually on the 27th March by ITI Centres and the international theatre community. Various national and international theatre events are organized to mark this occasion. One of the most important of these is the circulation of the World Theatre Day International Message through which at the invitation of ITI, a figure of world stature shares his or her reflections on the theme of Theatre and a Culture of Peace. The first World Theatre Day International Message was written by Jean Cocteau (France) in 1962.

It was first in Helsinki, and then in Vienna at the 9th World Congress of the ITI in June 1961 that President Arvi Kivimaa proposed on behalf of the Finnish Centre of the International Theatre Institute that a World Theatre Day be instituted. The proposal, backed by the Scandinavian centres, was carried with acclamation.
Ever since, each year on the 27th March (date of the opening of the 1962 “Theatre of Nations” season in Paris), World Theatre Day has been celebrated in many and varied ways by ITI National Centres of which there are now almost 100 throughout the world.
Each year a figure outstanding in theatre or a person outstanding in heart and spirit from another field, is invited to share his or her reflections on theatre and international harmony. What is known as the International Message is translated into more than 20 languages, read for tens of thousands of spectators before performances in theatres throughout the world and printed in hundreds of daily newspapers. Colleagues in the audio-visual field lend a fraternal hand, more than a hundred radio and television stations transmitting the Message to listeners in all corners of the five continents.

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Shakespeare in its original 16th century accent

Whenever I look at the great singer, dancer, actress and producer Aida Overton Walker, I think about how awesome it would be to see someone like Anika Noni Rose or Audra McDonald bring her to life on the stage. Born on Valentine’s Day in 1880 in New York City (some accounts say Richmond, VA, but my source is “Black Women in America,” edited by the foremost historian of black women, Darlene Clark Hine. Ms. Overton Walker changed her name from “Ada” to “Aida” late in her short but storied career, which began in the chorus of Black Patti’s Troubadours, the troupe founded by the one of the first black opera singers, Sissieretta Jones. She was best known for her work with the comedian and singer Bert Williams and her husband George Walker and, upon joining their Williams & Walker act around 1899, she choreographed all of their routines. She won critical acclaim for her solo performances, especially in the 1902 musical “In Dahomey” and sang three of the shows most popular tunes including “Leader of the Colored Aristocracy,” a song written by James Weldon Johnson (one of her most ardent admirers) and the brilliant composer and violinist, Will Marion Cook, expressed the desire of her character’s (Rosetta Lightfoot) desire for more opportunities in life. Ms. Overton Walker is also credited with popularizing the cakewalk, the 19th century dance craze that originated on slave plantations. Keenly aware about stereotypes and how they affected black people, on and offstage addressed members of the black elite who took issue with blacks in show business in a searing 1905 essay for the Colored American entitled “Colored Men and Women on the Stage.” In the essay, she wrote, “Some of our so-called society people regard the Stage as a place to be ashamed of…. In this age we are all fighting the one problem—that is the color problem! I venture to think and dare to state that our profession does more toward the alleviation of color prejudice than any other profession among colored people. The fact of the matter is this, that we come in contact with more white people in a week than other professional colored people in a year and more than some meet in a whole decade.” When her husband became ill around 1908, Ms. Overton Walker donned his costume and performed his routines along with her own until after his death in 1911. Some accounts of her life incorrectly report a decline in her career after the death of Mr. Walker, however, in 1912, she had great success touring the United States in a solo show as “Salome.” The photo here is Ms. Overton Walker in character as Salome, from the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. Tragically, amidst her very successful career, Aida Overton Walker died at the age of 34 on October 11, 1914, after a brief illness.

I left quite a bit out of this lengthy post, but Ms. Overton Walker is featured prominently in my book, Vintage Black Glamour, which will be published in Spring 2014 by Rocket 88 Books. Please visit the book site and register for updates and pre-order information. http://vintageblackglamourbook.com/

Happy 111th birthday to the legendary American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist Langston Hughes. At The New York Public Library you can find ample Langston Hughes information, including photos (the one featured here is from our Manuscripts and Archives Division), papers , books, and films. Of course, you can also go over to the NYPL’s great Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and visit the Langston Hughes Auditorium.