Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
490 Riverside Drive, 11th floor
New York, NY 10027-5788
(212) 896 1700
A New Musical and Theatrical Performance of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Washington, D.C. (February 24, 2020) — On Saturday, March 28, 2020 at 8:00pm, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and The Classical Theatre of Harlem perform the world premiere of A Harlem Dream as part of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and Washington Performing Arts’ SHIFT: A Festival Of American Orchestras. The festival is a weeklong celebration of the vitality, identity, and extraordinary artistry of North American orchestras through an immersive festival experience in the nation’s capital, taking place in Washington, D.C. from March 23–29, 2020.
A Harlem Dream is a stirring rendition of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream with vivid allusions to New York City and the centennial of the Harlem Renaissance. A torchbearer of diversity and inclusion in the classical orchestra field in the U.S. and a long-time resident of Harlem, Orpheus invited The Classical Theatre of Harlem to join this groundbreaking new production. In Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’s beloved score performed in an adaptation for chamber orchestra by Andreas Tarkmann, the 22 Orpheus musicians and eight actors play varied and imaginative roles during the 90-minute performance directed by Peter Francis James. Now, the four young lovers of Shakespeare’s beloved tale spin drama alongside Duke Ellington, the Father, and the forest spirits of Central Park.
“Since its inception in 1972, Orpheus has been known for being innovative and exploring new territory. Inviting The Classical Theater of Harlem to celebrate the Harlem Renaissance together with us, and the beautiful music of Mendelssohn was a dream come true,” says Orpheus’s Executive Director Alexander Scheirle. “For decades our home has been Harlem, and it was important to us to find the right collaborator to highlight Harlem's history, and the wonderful story of our community.”
Of the impetus behind the production, Peter Francis James says, “Some time ago, Ty Jones, Producing Artistic Director of The Classical Theatre of Harlem, asked me for advice. He'd been approached by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, proposing that they collaborate on a project together, perhaps using A Midsummer Night's Dream. Having once participated in a concert on this theme, I suggested reading interspersed excerpts of the play, along with Mendelssohn’s score. Ty thought they could take on something more adventurous, and, as the centenary was approaching, ideally, could it be something specifically referencing the Harlem Renaissance. That suggestion set off a brushfire in my mind. A remarkable nexus in history, the Harlem Renaissance brought together the Great Migration, The Jazz Age, Women's Suffrage, The Roaring Twenties, the concept of the New Negro, a flowering in art, an explosion in the worlds of letters and music, and vaulting aspirations in the African-American community. Condensing the storyline of the ‘Dream’ to the four young lovers, the Duke, the Father, and the Forest Spirits (Oberon, Puck and Fairy), and moving the setting, from ‘Athens and a nearby Wood,’ to Harlem and Central Park...and an enchanted, magical orchestra, conjuring this world, calling forth the mortals to fulfill their destiny, through the immortal music of Mendelssohn and Duke Ellington (oh, definitely Ellington!), it seemed that this remarkable play might, yet again, open itself to yield something relevant and enlightening – for any era, but especially this one.”
As part of its involvement with SHIFT, Orpheus will present an Orpheus Process® workshop with the DC Youth Orchestra on Saturday, March 28, 2020 from 11:30am-1:30pm at Takoma Education Campus, sharing with students how to work together to create an artistic interpretation. On Sunday, March 29, 2020 at The Hill Center at Capitol Hill, Orpheus performs a family-focused chamber concert featuring works based on Shakespeare.
SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras | A Harlem Dream
Saturday, March 28, 2020, at 8:00pm
Kennedy Center Concert Hall | 2700 F St NW | Washington, DC
Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
The Classical Theater of Harlem
Mendelssohn (arr. Tarkmann) – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, incidental music, Op. 21 and 61
Charles Bernard Murray* - Theseus
Sharlee Taylor* - Helena
Alisha Espinosa* - Hermia
Matthew J. Harris* - Demetrius
Kambi Gathesha* - Lysander
Michael Early* - Egeus/Cop/Fairy
Ro Boddie* - Oberon
Reynaldo Piniella* - Puck
Peter Francis James - Director
Ty Jones - Producing Artistic Director
Ryan Patrick Ervin - General Manager
Sarah Lurie - Lighting Designer
Aharon Simone - Costume Designer
Katherine Freer - Projection Designer
Labhaoise Magee* - Production Stage Manager
Kat Norton* - Assistant Stage Manager
*denotes member of Actors' Equity Association
Orpheus Artistic Directors:
About Orpheus Chamber Orchestra
In 1972, a group of young artists made history by creating an orchestra without a conductor in which musicians led themselves democratically. Since then, the Grammy Award-winning Orpheus Chamber Orchestra has recorded over 70 albums on all major classical labels, toured to 46 countries across four continents, and collaborated with hundreds of world-class soloists.
Orpheus’ 34 member musicians work together as a collective and rotate leadership roles for all works performed, giving flight to unconventional interpretations. This democratic structure also extends to organizational functions including programming and governance: the orchestra elects three members to Artistic Director positions and three to the Board of Trustees.
Orpheus’ 2019-20 New York performance season features collaborations with pianist Jan Lisiecki, violinist Vadim Gluzman, trumpet virtuoso Tine Thing Helseth, and the Sphinx Virtuosi. The season opened with a new commission by the orchestra’s first-ever Artistic Partner, composer and violinist Jessie Montgomery. Orpheus’ 2019-20 touring schedule includes appearances in Germany, Canada, and across the United States.
An essential part of New York City’s cultural landscape, Orpheus presents annual series at Carnegie Hall and 92nd Street Y. Orpheus tours to major international venues and has appeared regularly in Japan for 30 years; recent engagements include the Prague Spring and Dresden Music Festivals and a 12-concert tour of Asia. The orchestra’s extensive discography includes a February 2019 release on Deutsche Grammophon of Mendelssohn concertos with pianist Jan Lisiecki. Champions of chamber orchestra repertoire, Orpheus has commissioned and premiered over 50 new works.
Orpheus shares its collaborative model through education and community engagement initiatives that promote equity and access to the arts for listeners of all ages around the world. These include programs for K-12 students, opportunities for emerging professional musicians, and a music and wellness program for people living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
For more information about Orpheus please visit www.OrpheusNYC.org or call 212.896.1700.
About the Classical Theatre of Harlem
The Classical Theatre of Harlem (CTH) provides theatrical productions and theatre-based educational and literary programs at little or no cost to underserved communities in Harlem and beyond. Since its founding in 1999, CTH has prioritized opportunity and access in the theatrical arts: onstage, backstage, in its administration, board, and audience. By leading with diversity, equity and inclusion as its core values, CTH attracts one of the most racially, generationally and socio-economically diverse theatre audiences in New York City.
CTH engages with Harlem residents, businesses, schools, and community-based organizations, to directly benefit 18,000 people each year. In fact, CTH is the only professional theatre company above 96th Street dedicated to the classical canon, revivals, new works and musicals.
About Peter Francis James
Peter Francis James was most recently seen on Broadway as Barack, in Hillary and Clinton. His work as a director includes: Moliere’s The Misanthrope at CSC in NY, The African Company Presents Richard The Third for Cleveland Playhouse, Miss Julie for BADA at Oxford, Talk To Me Like The Rain… at the Phoenix Theater. A graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, he has been the resident Shakespeare teacher at The Yale School of Drama, since 2000. Other Broadway acting credits include: Present Laughter w/Kevin Kline, The Merchant of Venice w/Al Pacino, On Golden Pond w/James Earl Jones (originally at the Kennedy Center), Drowning Crow, and Judgment at Nuremberg. For the NY Public Theater: Colin Powell in Stuff Happens (OBIE, Drama Desk, & Lucille Lortel Awards), Much Ado About Nothing, Venus, Horatio in Kevin Kline’s Hamlet, Long Day’s Journey...: at CSC: The Maids (OBIE Award). Signature Theater: The Lady From Dubuque, (Lortel Nomination). U.K: The Lady From Dubuque (w/Maggie Smith), Cymbeline (RSC). Film and TV: The Humbling, Song One, The Losers, The Rebound, The Messenger. ”neXt” “Katy Keene”, “Bull”, “Godfather of Harlem”, “The Code”, "Boardwalk Empire", “The Mysteries of Laura”, “Oz”, “Royal Pains”, “Gossip Girl”, “Kings”, "The Rosa Parks Story", “Simple Justice”, ”The Ruby Bridges Story”, all the “Law & Order” series. Narration: more than 60 books and numerous awards.
About The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is America’s living memorial to President Kennedy. Under the leadership of Chairman David M. Rubenstein and President Deborah F. Rutter, the nine theaters and stages of the nation’s busiest performing arts facility attract audiences and visitors totaling 3 million people annually; Center-related touring productions, television, and radio broadcasts welcome 40 million more.
Opening its doors on September 8, 1971, the Center presents the greatest performances of music, dance, and theater; supports artists in the creation of new work; and serves the nation as a leader in arts education. With its artistic affiliates, the National Symphony Orchestra and Washington National Opera, the Center’s achievements as a commissioner, producer, and nurturer of developing artists have resulted in more than 300 theatrical productions and dozens of new ballets, operas, and musical works.
Each year, millions of people nationwide take part in innovative, inclusive, and effective education programs initiated by the Center, including school- and community-based residencies and consultancies; age-appropriate performances and events for young people; career development for young actors, dancers, singers, and instrumentalists; and professional learning opportunities for teachers, teaching artists, and school administrators. These programs have become models for communities across the country. The Center’s Ensuring the Arts for Any Given Child program works with selected local school districts and seeks to provide a comprehensive arts education to children K-8. The Center also has been at the forefront of making the performing arts accessible to persons with disabilities, highlighted by the work accomplished with its affiliate, VSA.
As part of the Kennedy Center’s Performing Arts for Everyone outreach program, the Center stages more than 400 free performances of music, dance, and theater by artists from throughout the world each year on the Center’s main stages, and every evening at 6 p.m. on the Millennium Stage. The Rubenstein Arts Access Program expands the Center’s efforts to make the arts accessible to children, young adults, and to people who have little or limited ability to attend and enjoy the performing arts, enabling audiences to engage in more ways, at more times, and in more places than ever before.
About Washington Performing Arts
One of the most established and honored performing arts institutions in America, Washington Performing Arts has more than a half-century history of serving artists, audiences, students, and civic life. The city is truly our stage: in venues ranging from concert halls and clubs to public parks, we present a tremendous range of artists and art forms, from the most distinguished symphony orchestras to both renowned and emerging artists in classical music, jazz, international genres, and dance.
Washington Performing Arts nourishes communities throughout the region by partnering with local organizations and other arts institutions, staging concerts and arts activities in the neighborhoods, involving internationally known main-stage performers in community programs, and presenting locally based artists to a wider audience. We place a premium on establishing artists as a continuing presence in the lives of both young people and adults through sustained residencies and educational programs.
Our achievements have been recognized with a National Medal of Arts and with two Mayor’s Arts Awards from the D.C. Government. We embark upon our next half-century with the goals of expanding our commitment to excellence and rededicating ourselves to the motto of our founder, Patrick Hayes: “Everybody in, nobody out.”
Generous support of SHIFT: A Festival of American Orchestras is provided through a matching grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; by Dr. Gary Mather and Ms. Christina Co Mather; and by The Centene Charitable Foundation.
SHIFT is supported in part by Betsy and Robert Feinberg, the National Endowment for the Arts, Galena-Yorktown Foundation, and Tom Gallagher.
SHIFT is also made possible by Mr. and Mrs. John V. Thomas, and Mr. and Mrs. Harry M. Linowes.
SHIFT is presented in cooperation with the League of American Orchestras.
Use #SHIFTmusic for social media related to SHIFT. Use #orpheuschamberorchestra for social media related to Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.