This Week in Black Art : Kerry James Marshall Public Art Project, Thee Stallion Launches Major Collaborations, Macbeth with Ruth Negga

This week in Black art and culture, we learned that Macbeth, directed by Sam Gold, will feature Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga on Broadway. The 74th Annual Tony Awards took place. Nearly half of the recipients of the MacArthur Grant in 2021 announced this week were Black. Megan Thee Stallion collaborated with Nike and Coach. The National Cathedral commissioned Kerry James Marshall to create unique windows. 



Above: Ruth Negga speaking at the 2017 San Diego Comic Con International, for “Preacher”, at the San Diego Convention Center in San Diego, California.

Macbeth with Daniel Craig + Ruth Negga 

At the Lyceum Theatre, Daniel Craig and Ruth Negga will appear in a new Broadway version of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, directed by Sam Gold. In the drama, Negga will make her Broadway debut. In 2020, she made her New York stage debut as Hamlet at St. Ann’s Warehouse. Craig returns to Broadway for the first time since the 2013 revival of Betrayal; in 2016, he played Iago in Gold’s Othello production at the New York Theatre Workshop. 

Last year, Negga made her New York stage debut in the title role of Hamlet at St. Ann’s Warehouse Off Broadway, for which she received an Academy Award nomination. The Abbey Theatre, The Royal Court Theatre, The Old Vic and The National Theatre are among her U.K. stage credits. She’ll appear opposite Tessa Thompson in Rebecca Hall’s Passing, which will premiere on Netflix this autumn. Barbara Broccoli and Michael G. Wilson, who collaborated with Craig on the James Bond series as well as the Shubert Organization and Frederick Zollo are producing Macbeth. Tickets go on sale to the general public on Friday, Oct. 8, with pre-sales beginning on Wednesday, Oct. 6. The 15-week run will begin on Tuesday, March 29, with opening night slated for Thursday, April 28. 

74th Tony Awards 

The 74th Annual Tony Awards last Sunday, with the majority of the program airing on Paramount Plus, featured performances from previous and present Broadway companies, as well as Broadway veterans returning in commemoration of the theater’s restoration. 

A Soldier’s Play, a 1981 play created by Charles Fuller about a murder investigation set during WWII segregation, was one of the night’s big winners. For its pre-pandemic run in 2020, it earned Best Revival of a Play, with David Alan Grier earning a Tony Award for his role in the production. Grier’s performance as Tech Sergeant Vernon C. Waters earned him a Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role in a Play nod. Director Kenny Leon collected the Best Revival award. 

Adrienne Warren, a Broadway veteran, won her first Tony Award for her portrayal as Tina Turner in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, earning Best Performance by a Lead Actress in a Musical. 

Three of the four Tony Honorees for Excellence in the Theatre this year, all significant figures in the Broadway community, were Black. After 50 years in the profession, Broadway press agent and producer Irene Gandy was honored; she was the first Black female press agent member of ATPAM (Association of Theatrical Press Agents and Managers). Beverly Jenkins, the production stage manager for Best Musical 2019 winner Hadestown, has worked on around 30 shows over the years, including The Lion King, Aida, Dreamgirls, In the Heights, Avenue Q and Godspell. The New Federal Theatre was created in 1970 by legendary director and producer Woodie King, Jr. He has a vast and remarkable list of credits to his name, including A Raisin in the Sun and For Colored Girls, among others. 

MacArthur  Foundation Awards 12 Black Fellowships to Black Creatives

The MacArthur Foundation’s class of 2021 was revealed on Tuesday, with 12 out of 25 of the fellows being Black. MacArthur Fellows receive a $625,000 no-strings-attached stipend handed out over five years, dubbed the “genius grant” by many. According to the MacArthur Foundation’s website, just under 1,100 persons have been designated MacArthur Fellows since 1981. 

Reginald Dwayne Betts is a poet and lawyer who works to promote the human rights and dignity of those who are or have been jailed. Betts’ art is influenced by his time in prison after being tried as an adult for a carjacking when he was 16 years old. He advocates for mercy and parole for those serving long sentences as a practicing lawyer. In 2012, President Barack Obama named Betts to the Coordinating Council of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Betts has served on Connecticut’s Criminal Justice Commission, which chooses state prosecutors, since 2018. 

Jordan Casteel is a painter who frequently places her figures in front-facing, sitting poses in her artworks. Her topics have ranged from individuals on the streets of Harlem to people on the New York subway, with a current concentration on students and family members in settings of their choice. (She emphasizes actively collaborating with her subjects.) Casteel’s experimentation with color challenges the spectator to explore “Blackness” as a concept and social construct. Her figures’ skin is frequently flecked with red, yellow, lavender or pink spots, which match their colorful settings. 

Nicole Fleetwood is an art historian and curator interested in how jailed people’s art contributes to our knowledge of modern art, the criminal justice system and the humanity that exists inside it. Fleetwood’s previous work focused on representations of Blackness in art, performance and popular culture, specifically ways that Black artists and public personalities disrupt or reinforce preconceptions about Blackness in American society. She dissects the societal, emotional, and artistic importance of jailed people’s work in her book, Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration, as well as a companion museum exhibition of the same name. 

Daniel Lind-Ramos, a sculptor and painter from Loza, Puerto Rico, creates assemblages out of common items that often highlight the oppression of Black Puerto Ricans. He draws on his Afro–Puerto Rican community’s social history, religious rites, and constructed and natural surroundings. Lind-Ramos’ collection of work includes sculptures as well as painting, drawing, video and community performance. 

Additional Black recipients include Ibrahim Cissé, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Hanif Abdurraqib, Ibram X. Kendi, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Desmond Meade, Safiya Noble and Jawole Willa Jo Zolla. 

Thee Stallion Campaigns with Coach and Nike 

Coach presented the Coach x Schott NYC shearling line, which includes Coach shearling outerwear that was originally seen in the Fall 2021 collection. Megan Thee Stallion, rapper and songwriter Pardi Fontaine, and Megan’s close pals Queenie, Jae, Daren and Kellon Deryck all appear in the ad. The collection features soft shearling purses, shoes and slides, as well as warm, roomy outerwear in the form of luxury coats and wonderfully worn aviator jackets. Coach collaborated with Megan Thee Stallion and her friends on a tale inspired by New York City street style in the late 1970s and early 1980s to bring the collection to life. 

Thee Stallion also released her collar with Nike, revealing her own fitness journey while urging her followers to follow their own athletic routes and defy critics as part of Nike’s “Play New” campaign. Megan depicts her own athletic experience in the campaign’s short video, “New Hotties,” which includes unwanted suggestions from friends and family about which sports she should join based on her height. In the end, she decided to pursue a career in dancing. Fans can get a workout with Meg and trainer Tara Nicolas by downloading the Nike Training Club (NTC) App. Fans may also purchase the many outfits worn by Megan. 

Kerry James Marshall Ends Public Artwork Hiatus 

Church authorities announced that Kerry James Marshall has been chosen to create new windows for the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. The Daughters of the Confederacy had donated the former windows in 1953, which commemorated Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson. The two stained glass windows honoring Lee and Jackson were removed from the National Cathedral in 2017. 

The issue with the windows originally was brought up in 2015, when then-Cathedral Dean Gary Hall advocated for their removal in the aftermath of the tragic massacre at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. A 21-year-old gunman, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, killed nine Black people, including the pastor of the church. 

The window depicting Confederate General Lee will be on display at the National Museum of African American History and Culture for the next year as part of the exhibition, Make Good the Promises: Reconstruction and its Legacies (Sept. 24, 2021-Aug. 21, 2022). When the display is over, the Lee/ Jackson windows will be conserved and preserved away from public view in the Cathedral. Marshall is working with stained glass for the first time on this project. He also is working with poet Elizabeth Alexander, who will compose a poem that will be engraved on stone tablets next to the windows. In 2023, the new windows are anticipated to be unveiled.

-Compiled by Sumaiyah E. Wade

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