Harlem’s historic Apollo Theater has announced the details of its upcoming 2017-2018 season. Probably the most anticipated part of the programming will be a stage adaptation of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s #1 New York Times bestseller BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME. The show – scheduled to be adapted and directed by the Apollo’s Executive Producer Kalimah Forbes – will be a multimedia performance piece featuring music, video projections and monologues based on Coates’ letters to his son, Samori Maceo-Paul Coates. An original score will be written by well-known jazz composer Jason Moran. Cast members have not been announced as of yet, but Forbes has promised the cast will feature a combination of new and established talent.
Coates released the book in 2015 at a time filled with intense racial strife. The title is taken from a poem by Richard Wright of the same name in which a Black man is struck by fear after coming upon the site a lynching. On the heels of an unending series of police killings of young Black men, followed by large demonstrations all across the nation, the murder of a Bible study group in a Charleston church by a white supremacist, and debates over flags and monuments recognizing the South’s Confederate legacy -BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME couldn’t have been more apropos to the moment. The book is structured as a letter addressed to his teenage son. Coates offers the reader an insider’s view of what is commonly know as “the talk” many African-Americans parents have with their children about the harsh realities of growing up Black in America. He shares his feelings, interpretation of symbolism, and realities associated with his own upbringing and a catalog of almost 400 years of racial violence that runs throughout American history explaining how it woven into the fabric of American culture. Inspired by James Baldwin’s 1963 THE FIRE NEXT TIME, Coates confronts Americans with an image of its own racial realities many would deny or not care to admit.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, is a National Book Award winner for Non-fiction Writing and the former national correspondent for The Atlantic Magazine. A 2015 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellow, Coates has received the National Magazine Award, the Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism, and the George Polk Award for his Atlantic cover story “The Case for Reparations.” For the last year Coates has been writing Marvel’s BLACK PANTHER comic book. He lives in New York with his wife and son.
Kalimah Forbes is known in New York theatre circles. She spent 15 years as a part of the Hi-ARTS/Hip Hop Theater Festival which she co-founded and served as Producing Artistic Director. Her credits include having been Assistant Director for the Broadway revival of A RAISIN IN THE SUN, as well as the Broadway premieres of STICK FLY and THE MOUNTAINTOP; and prior to that, producer for HBO‘s RUSSELL SIMMONS PRESENTS DEF POETRY, and DEF POETRY JAM on Broadway. Most recently, she was a producer on the television broadcast of THE WIZ LIVE! Forbes and Coates met while at Howard University. Longtime friends, she is even mentioned in BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME.
Jason Moran is a jazz pianist as well as composer and educator. He has been on the faculty at the New England Conservatory of Music since 2010. Originally a musical adviser for jazz at the Kennedy Center beginning in 2011, he became the artistic director for jazz in 2014. In an effort to attract larger and younger audiences Moran created the Crossroads Club at the Kennedy Center. He has released eight albums – with his trio, The Bandwagon, solo or leading other ensembles – and appeared in about 30 albums as a sideman. Like Coates, Moran is a former MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellow.
The Apollo Theater is a historic 1,506 seat venue known for showcasing African-American performers. From 1987 to 2008 it served as the home of “Showtime at the Apollo,” a nationally syndicated television variety show which showcased new talent. It is estimated that 1.3 million people visit the Apollo every year.
Following the 2008 publication of his first book, THE BEAUTIFUL STRUGGLE – a memoir about coming of age in West Baltimore and its effect on him – Coates received strong critical recognition for how he discussed the influence of his father, a former Black Panther; the prevailing street crime of the era and its effects on his older brother; his own troubled experience attending Baltimore-area schools; and his eventual graduation and enrollment in Howard University. Award-winning novelist Toni Morrison compared him to public intellectual and writer James Baldwin.
BETWEEN THE WORLD AND ME will be brought to the Apollo stage next season in April 2018.