Red Velvet: A Colorful Story of Ira Aldridge
By Urban Milan
June 27, 2022
June 27, 2022
Now being performed at the Michael R. Klein Theatre, "Red Velvet" is the stage re-telling of the true story of Ira Eldridge. To those who are not familiar, Ira Aldridge was a well accomplished Black American Shakespearean actor that emigrated to Britain in 1824 due to racist treatment in the American theatre scene. This play consists of scenes set in the "present" with flashbacks to the past. In these flashbacks we see that even after gaining some renown for his performances in Britain, Ira Aldridge was not able to completely escape the racism of close-minded critics who saw only the color of his skin and not the performances he gave onstage.
Primarily centered around the time when he replaced an ill Edmund Kean as Othello, British playwright Lolita Chakrabarti weaves a fantastic story around the stain of racism and prejudice that perhaps prevented this thespian from reaching the pinnacle of success he may have otherwise achieved. While it would seem ridiculous to us today that an actor of African descent would be considered inappropriate to play the role of Othello, British critics and audiences of the early 1800's found the idea repugnant and their reviews and reactions reflected those attitudes.
"Red Velvet" is a play that serves not only as recounting of a dark past but has a message that speaks to us even today. Written by award-winning actress and playwright Lolita Chakrabarti (Life of Pi). Visionary young director Jade King Carroll (Proof of Love) helms the production in her exciting D.C. homecoming. The Red Velvet cast includes Samuel Adams (Amadeus) as Casimir/Henry Forrester, Jaye Ayres-Brown (Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin) as Charles Kean, David Bishins (Richard III, Twelfth Night) as Bernard Warde/Terence, Amari Cheatom (Judas and the Black Messiah, The Book Of Grace) as Ira Aldridge, Emily DeForest (The Blind) as Ellen Tree, Shannon Dorsey (Fairview, BLKS) as Connie, Michael Glenn (The School for Lies, Peter Pan and Wendy) as Pierre Laporte, and Tro Shaw (West Side Story) as Halina Wozniak/Betty Lovell/Margaret Aldridge. The production features set design by You-Shin Chen (Mrs. Murray's Menagerie), costume design by Rodrigo Muñoz (Notes from Now), and lighting design by Yuki Nakase Link (Seven Deadly Sins), with original music and sound design by Karin Graybush (Uncle Romeo Vanya Juliet).
This wonderful production will be presented by the Shakespeare Theatre Company through July 17th, 2022 at the Michael R. Klein Theatre at the Lansburgh. For more information visit: https://www.shakespearetheatre.org/