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Manhattan Theatre lab High SChool

Back to School With

The HistoryMakers 2011

Duis Sed Sapien

Nunc Et Orci

Morbi Posuere

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The HistoryMakers 2011 Micki Grant, Billie Allen and Carmen de Lavallade pictured with Principal Evelyn Collins. The HistoryMakers is a national 501 (c)(3) non-profit video oral history archive headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. The HistoryMakers is dedicated to preserving African American history as the missing link in American history. Focused on American history, oral history and education in general and more specifically on African American history, education, music, law, the arts, science, technology, media, medicine, entertainment, fashion & beauty, business, the military, politics and sports,

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The History Makers is a combination archive, library, museum, stock footage collection, on-line educator and educational PBS/TV programming. Its topics include but are not limited to African American organizations and associations, slavery, reconstruction, the labor movement, the civil rights movement and black authors. (From The HistoryMakers website.) *Photographs by James Alexander

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Billie Allen (right) in the 1964 Broadway production of Adrienne Kennedy’s “Funnyhouse of a Negro” A

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Billie Allen - actor, director, and dancer

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Carmen de Lavallade - dancer and actor

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Micki Grant - Actor, Composer, Lyricist, and Director

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Actor, dancer, director Billie Allen was born Wilhelmina Louise Allen on January 13, 1925 in Richmond, Virginia to Mamie Wimbush Allen and William Roswell Allen. Allen grew up in Richmond's West End, attending Randolph Street School and Elba Elementary School before graduating from Armstrong High School in 1941. At Hampton University, Allen was inspired by Romare Bearden and mentored by Billie Davis. Drawn to show business, Allen moved to New York City in 1943 to take ballet classes and to study acting at the Lee Strasbourg Institute. Soon, Allen was dancing professionally and auditioning for stage roles. In 1949, Allen was featured in the film Souls of Sin with Jimmy Wright and William Greaves. In 1953, Allen performed in the Broadway play, Take A Giant Step with Lou Gossett, Godfrey Cambridge and Lincoln Kilpatrick. She was cast as "WAC Billie" in five episodes of television's Phil Silvers' Show from 1955 to 1959. During this period, she also played Ada Chandler in the soap opera, The Edge of Night. In 1964, Allen was cast in Adrienne Kennedy's Funnyhouse of a Negro, and in 1990, directed the play's revival. She also portrayed "Vertel" in the movie Black Like Me in 1964 and appeared on stage in James Baldwin's Blues for Mister Charlie. Since the 1960s, Allen has been cast in a number of movies and television programs including Route 66, Car 54, Where Are You, The Wiz, Winter Kills, The Vernon Johns Story, Eddie Murphy Raw, and Law and Order. In the early 1980s, Allen directed the off-Broadway play Home featuring Samuel L. Jackson, and in 2001, she directed Saint Lucy's Eyes starring Ruby Dee. Allen is a founding member of the Women's Project and Productions and served as a founding member and co-president of the League of Professional Theatre Women. In 1973, Allen with Morgan Freeman, Garland Lee Thompson and Clayton Riley founded Harlem's Frank Silvera Writers' Workshop. She interviewed Rosetta LeNoire, Julia Miles and Ruby Dee for the theatre archives of the Library of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center, and in 1999 and 2000, served as a voting member of the Tony Awards nominating board. Allen married the late composer, Luther Henderson with whom she received the 2002 Audelco "VIV" Pioneer Awards. She has two grown children and lives in New York City. The HistoryMakers interviewed Allen on April 16, 2007.

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The HistoryMakers with MTL’s Advanced Actors.

The HistoryMakers with MTL’s National Honor Society.

The HistoryMakers with MTL’s Dance Company and Tap Dancers.

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Dorian Steele, Actor

Kenya Bannister, Actor

Davina Love, Yasmin Cofield, Britianna Sapp, and Stevonya Rogers - Dancers.


Dance luminary Carmen De Lavallade was born on March 6, 1931, to Creole parents in New Orleans, Louisiana. De Lavallade was raised in Los Angeles, California by her aunt, Adele, who has the distinction of owning, the Hugh Gordon Book Shop, one of the first African American history bookshops on Central Avenue. Her cousin, Janet Collins, was the first African American prima ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. De Lavallade discovered her talent for dance early. In 1945, she began studying ballet with Melissa Blake, and at the age of sixteen, upon graduation from Thomas Jefferson High School, was awarded a scholarship to study dance with the renowned Lester Horton. In 1949, De Lavallade became a member of the celebrated Lester Horton Dance Theater, where from 1950 to 1954, she enjoyed the status of lead dancer. During this time, De Lavallade continued to study dance and to become proficient in ballet and other forms of modern and ethnic dance. Lester Horton insisted that she study other art forms including painting, acting, music, set design and costuming. De Lavallade began studying ballet privately with Italian ballerina Carmelita Maracci and later acting with Stella Adler. In 1954, De Lavallade made her Broadway debut in House of Flowers, and that same year, Alvin Ailey, the founder of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Center School, moved to New York City to partner with her in that production. During that engagement in 1955, De Lavallade met and married dancer and actor Geoffrey Holder. With Holder, she completed her signature solo, Come Sunday, to which he suggested choreographing to a black spiritual, sung by Odetta Gordon. In 1956, De Lavallade danced as the prima ballerina at the Metropolitan Opera performances of Samson and Delilah, and Aida. Also in 1956, she made her television debut in John Butler's ballet Flight, and in 1957, she appeared in the television production of Duke Ellington's A Drum is a Woman. In pursuit of an acting career, Lena Horne introduced her to the executives at Twentieth Century Fox, and between 1952 and 1955, she appeared in several films including Carmen Jones with Dorothy Dandridge. In 1959, she starred in Odds Against Tomorrow with Harry Belafonte. De Lavallade also appeared in several off-Broadway productions, including Othello and Death of a Salesman. By the early 1960s, De Lavallade was a principal guest performer with Alvin Ailey's Dance Company. In 1964, she danced with Donald McKayle and in 1965 appeared in Agnes deMille's American Ballet Theater productions of The Four Marys and The Frail Quarry. In 1970, De Lavallade joined the prestigious Yale School of Drama as a choreographer and performer-in-residence. She staged musicals, plays and operas, and later became a professor and member of the Yale Repertory Theater. Between 1990 and 1993, De Lavallade returned to the Metropolitan Opera as choreographer for Porgy and Bess and Die Meistersinger. In 2004, De Lavallade received the Black History Month Lifetime Achievement Award, the Rosie Award and the Bessie Award in 2006. De Lavallade resides in New York City with her husband, Geoffrey Holder. The HistoryMakers interviewed De Lavallade on December 12, 2006.


Andy Correa, Dancer

Kenya Bannister and Beatrice Adegbenro, Vocalists.

Jonathan Contreas and Jose De La Cruz, Tap Dancers

Shawn Chester and Eric Vails, Rappers


Lyricist, composer, writer and performer, Micki Grant was born to Gussie and Oscar Perkins on June 30 in Chicago, Illinois. Her mother worked for Stanley Products and her father was a master barber and self-taught pianist. Encouraged by her parents to pursue music, writing and acting, Grant began taking piano lessons at eight years old, and at age nine, she took drama classes from Susan PorchĂŠ. After high school, she pursued her acting career in earnest. Moving to Los Angeles, under the tutelage of her cousin, Hollywood tap dancer and performer, Jeni LeGon, Grant was cast in James V. Hatch and C. Bernard Jackson's Fly Blackbird. She moved with the show to New York City where she also earned her B.A. degree in English and theatre at CUNY's Lehman College, graduating Summa Cum Laude. It was in New York that the writer, musician and performer merged into one. While cast in Jean Genet's long-running play, The Blacks, Grant began studying acting with Herbert Berhof and Lloyd Richards. As a result of her stage work, she won a major role in the daytime series Edge of Night. She also began to write a musical score with Vinnette Carroll, with whom she was to enjoy a successful collaboration that included, Don't Bother Me, I Can't Cope, The Ups and Downs of Theophilis Maitland, Step Lively, Boy and Croesus and the Witch. Grants other Broadway credits include Your Arms Too Short to Box With God in 1976 and Working in 1978. As a lyricist, Grant worked on Eubie in 1978 and It's So Nice to Be Civilized in 1980. Her other credits in music and lyrics includes J. E. Franklin's The Prodigal Sister in 1974 and music and lyrics for Phillis in 1986. She also wrote the English lyrics for Jacques Brel Blues. Grant received a Helen Hayes Award for her performance as Sadie Delaney in a two-year tour of Having Our Say in 1996, which also ran six-weeks in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1998. She is the recipient of the National Black Theatre Festival's Living Legend Award in 1999 and the AUDELCO's Outstanding Pioneer Award in 2000. In February 2005, she was honored at the New Federal Theatre's 35th Anniversary Gala. Grant has also garnered a Grammy for Best Score from an original cast album; an OBIE Award for music and lyrics; a Drama Desk Award for lyrics and performance, an Outer Critics Circle Award for music, lyrics and performance and five Tony nominations. She is also the recipient of an NAACP Image Award. Grant resides in New York City. The HistoryMakers interviewed Grant on June 21, 2006.


Students Shadia Akabashorun, Leah Walker, and Dorian Steele ask questions of the HistoryMakers.


Manhattan Theatre Lab High School Evelyn Collins, Principal Manhattan Theatre Lab High School is a small performing arts school-servicing students in grades 9-12. It is located in the Lincoln Center community and is surrounded by arts institutions: Metropolitan Opera, Juilliard, Fordham University, Lincoln Center Library for the Performing Arts, and Lincoln Center Theatre. MTL offers a sequenced program in theatre, music, and dance. Students come from all five-boroughs of New York City. This is Manhattan Theatre Lab’s second year participating in the HistoryMakers “Back to School” program. For More information about Manhattan Theatre Lab High School 212-362-2075

MTL with the HistoryMakers 2011  

Manhattan Theatre Lab High School celebrates the HistoryMakers; Billie Allen, Carmen de Lavallade, and Micki Grant on September 23, 2011