Jamaican actor and playwright David Heron has been named co-producer for a staged reading of American David Stallings’ play Leonora, which takes place June 3 at Williams Institutional CME Church in Harlem, New York.
Heron, head of Sure Thing Productions, will work alongside Stephen Burdman, artistic director of the New York Classical Theatre and New Heritage Theatre Group, whose principal is the acclaimed Voza Rivers.
Leonora is a Jamaicanised version of A Doll’s House, an enduring drama first staged in 1879. Stallings’ version is set in 1951 Jamaica, following the devastating Hurricane Charlie; it is based on Leonora Hartell, a black woman from a working-class background and Tristan, her white, upper-class British husband.
In an interview with the Jamaica Observer, Heron said he was approached by Burdman to be part of the one-off project.
“We have had a friendship and great working relationship since I performed in his Off Broadway production of Shakespeare’s The Winters Tale several years ago. We had often spoken about working together again in some capacity and he contacted me some months ago, inviting me to co-produce a staged concert reading of a piece set in the Caribbean, that would be part of the theatre’s Diversifying The Classics series,” he disclosed.
This week, the cast for Leonora will be announced and according to Heron, has a strong Jamaican presence.
Burdman is founder of New York Classical Theatre which revisits landmark plays by celebrated writers such as Shakespeare, Moliere and Oscar Wilde. Their productions usually takes place in Brooklyn and Central Park.
Rivers, who co-founded New Heritage Group in 1964, has an impressive resume. Those include outstanding interpretations of the South African musical, Sarafina!, and The Huey P Newton Story, based on the militant founder of the Black Panther Party.
He has also worked with a lofty cast of musicians including Nina Simone, Nancy Wilson, Luther Vandross and Mary J Blige.
For Heron, working with Burdman and Rivers is “one of the high points of my career to date, because between the two of them, you are talking about over a half-century’s worth of producing experience in New York City, spanning Broadway, Off Broadway and everything in between.”
Heron is widely regarded as a leading figure in contemporary Jamaican theatre. His credits include the provocative plays, Against His Will and Ecstasy.
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