The Bardavon Presents: Two award-winning programs about race in America

Two award-winning programs about race in America…

(Poughkeepsie, NY): The Bardavon, in collaboration with Vassar College and the Poughkeepsie City School District, will present two award-winning programs: Rhapsody in Black (Friday, February 6, 7pm at the Bardavon) is LeLand Gantt’s one-man play about his life as an African-American seeking to transcend racism; and Through A Lens Darkly (Friday, February 20, 7pm at the Bardavon ) is the first documentary film to explore the critical role of photography in shaping African-American identity from the time of slavery to the present.

Both programs will be followed by a panel discussion with prominent local African-American scholars, artists, students, and community leaders continuing a timely conversation with the audience. Legal Services of the Hudson Valley and Hudson River Healthcare will share an information table in the Bardavon lobby.

Rhapsody in Black: Written and performed by LeLand Gantt and developed at NYC’s Actors Studio with Estelle Parsons as directorial consultant, Rhapsody in Black is a one-man show that explores LeLand’s personal journey to understanding and eventually transcending racism in America. We follow his spellbinding life story—from an underprivileged childhood in the ghettos of McKeesport, Pennsylvania to teenage experiments with crime and drugs to scholastic achievement and an acting career that land adult LeLand in situations where he is virtually the only African-American in the room. How he manages to cope with the various psychological effects of consistently being marked The Other is recounted in remarkable and exquisitely moving detail, guaranteed to leave lasting impressions.

LeLand Gantt - Writer, Performer: Rhapsody in Black was first unveiled at the WorkShop Theater Company’s Sundays @ Six reading series in March 2013. Further development at The Actors Studio yielded a slot in their Playwrights/Directors Unit’s spring festival in May 2013 and, subsequently, a three-week workshop run in December 2013 and a return run at WorkShop Theater in February 2014. In November 2014 it played the United Solo Festival in New York where it won awards for Best Storyteller (LeLand Gantt) and Best Direction (Estelle Parsons). Mr. Gantt’s regional credits include: Two Trains Running and Radio Golf (Syracuse Stage); Walter Mosley’s The Fall of Heaven, world premier (Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park);Gem of the Ocean (Arena Stage), Jitney (Pittsburgh Public Theater), and In Walks Ed (Longwharf Theater). Off-Broadway/Broadway: Slippery When Wet (La Mama), Another Man's Poison (Peter Jay Sharpe Theater), OyamO's Killa Dilla and Let Me Live (Drama Desk and Audelco Award nominee for Featured Actor), and the revival of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (u/s Rock Dutton). Film and television credits include: Miracle at St. Anna, Requiem for a Dream, Malcolm X, Presumed Innocent, Law and Order, Law and Order SVU, J.A.G., and HBO's The Affair.


Estelle Parsons - Directorial Consultant: Ms. Parsons won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1967 for her role as Blanche Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde. Among her most noted television roles, she played Roseanne’s mother on the award-winning sitcom Roseanne. She played the title role in Miss Margarita’s Way on Broadway and the National tour, and Violet Weston in August: Osage County on Broadway and the national tour. Ms. Parsons’ directing credits include: a multi-cultural Anthony and Cleopatra described as “the most exciting and innovative presentation in English since Peter Brook’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at the Belasco Theater; Flaubert’s Madame Bovary adapted by Adrienne Kennedy at the Signature Theater, NYC; Oedipus the King (Yeats adaptation) and Salome: The Reading (Oscar Wilde) with Al Pacino at the Bardavon, on Broadway, and the National tour.  Nominated four times for the Tony Award, Ms. Parsons was inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame in 2004.

The panel for Rhapsody in Black will include moderator Edward Pittman (Associate Dean of the College for Campus Life at Vassar College); LeLand Gantt and Estelle Parsons; Bryant “Drew” Andrews (founder and director of Kingston’s Center for Creative Education’s award-winning hip-hop dance troupe, Energy); Quincy T. Mills (Author and professor of African-American history at Vassar College); and Vaughn Harper (Dutchess County Community College student and entrepreneur/founder of Struggle Life clothing).

Through a Lens Darkly (2014): Inspired by Deborah Willis’s book, Reflections in Black, and directed by Thomas Allen Harris, Through a Lens Darkly is a film that considers how Black photographers have used the camera to define themselves. It is the first documentary to explore the role of photography in shaping the identity, aspirations, and social emergence of African Americans, from the time of slavery to today. It presents photos that were shot by professional as well as vernacular African-American photographers and were previously unknown, forgotten, or suppressed. The images open a window into the lives of Black families and present complex and nuanced perspectives frequently absent from the historical canon of representations of African Americans. The film features works by Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson, Anthony Barboza, Hank Willis Thomas, Coco Fusco, Clarissa Sligh and many other visual storytellers.


Thomas Allen Harris - Director, Producer, Writer: Raised in the Bronx and Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania, Thomas Allen Harris is an award-winning filmmaker and cultural warrior, whose documentary films, installations, and experimental videos have been featured in venues around the world, on television, at festivals, and in museums and galleries. For over six years, Harris produced for public television and won two Emmy nominations (in 1991) for his work as a staff producer at WNET (New York’s PBS affiliate). His documentary programs CRISIS: Who Will Do Science? and CRISIS: Urban Education aired nationally on public television in 1989 and 1990 respectively.

Harris' film Twelve Disciples of Nelson Mandela is the third film to make its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival and was broadcast on POV/The American Documentary Series. The film made its theatrical premiere at the BAM Cinematech and won over five international awards and honors. Harris' 2001 documentary, É Minha Cara/That's My Face, premiered at the Toronto, Sundance, Berlin, and Tribeca Film Festivals and was broadcast on the Sundance Channel and ARTE. The film also made its theatrical premiere at the BAM Cinematech and won seven international awards. Harris' 1995 documentary feature, Vintage – Families of Value, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival; won Best Documentary at the Atlanta Film and Video Festival and a Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival; and was selected for Official Competition at FESPACO in 1997. A Harvard graduate, Harris is presently a visiting professor at Sarah Lawrence College.

Don Perry - Producer: Mr. Perry is Chief Operating Officer of Chimpanzee Productions, Inc. He was co-writer and co-producer of Thomas Allen Harris’ feature-length documentary É Minha Cara/That’s My Face. Mr. Perry is an experienced financial and management consultant with a wide-ranging background in commercial finance. Prior to his association with Chimpanzee Productions, he was Executive Vice President - Finance for Wyndhurst Associates, LLC, a boutique financial restructuring and turnaround management firm. Prior to joining Wyndhurst, Mr. Perry founded a strategic management consulting practice that provided services to emerging growth companies focusing on business turnarounds. Mr. Perry holds a BA in International Relations and Development Economics from Williams College. He received his Masters in Business Administration in Strategic Management from the Peter F. Drucker Center, Claremont Graduate University.

The panel for Through a Lens Darkly will include moderator Tyrone Simpson (Associate Professor of English, who also teaches in the programs of Urban Studies, Africana Studies, and American Culture at Vassar College); and Thomas Allen Harris and Don Perry; Mia Mask (Associate Professor of Film at Vassar College, teaching classes on African-American cinema and documentary film history); and Nina Scott (senior at Poughkeepsie High School and co- recipient of the 2015 Catharine Street MLK Scholarship).

Tickets for each program are free (suggested donation $6) and are available at: