The life of celebrated 19th century Shakespearean actor Ira Aldridge will be highlighted in an original theatrical production featuring Avery Brooks, acclaimed 21st century Shakespearean actor, as Ira Aldridge: The African Roscius, at 7 p.m., Feb. 18, at the Armstrong Atlantic State University Fine Arts Center, located 11935 Abercorn St. The performance is free and open to the public. The play examines the life of an African American who was forced to emigrate to Europe in the early 1800s in order to practice his craft and who, despite the odds, transcended as an artist to the heights of his chosen profession.
Aldridge performed abroad for 43 years, winning more awards, honors and official decorations than any of his professional peers. Jewell Robinson, producer and actress, will portray Aldridge’s daughter Amanda. Brooks is an educator, musician, director and actor. He has performed as the great baritone/actor/scholar Paul Robeson in Phillip Hayes Dean’s play Paul Robeson.
He premiered the title role in the Anthony Davis opera X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X. His theater roles include Othello and Lear.A tenured professor at Rutgers University, he was the institution’s first black MFA graduate. Additionally, he served as the National Black Arts Festival’s (NBAF) Artistic Director during the 1990s in Atlanta, Ga. Brooks has been featured in such films as American History X, 15 Minutes, and The Big Hit. On television, he is best known for his roles on Spenser: For Hire and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. As public program director at the National Portrait Gallery (NPG), Robinson conceives, writes, produces and occasionally performs in NPG’s Cultures in Motion series. A professional actress, Robinson has worked in New York and at virtually every professional theater in the Washington region. Commissioned by the Marc Pachter Fund and written by Jacqueline Lawton, the theatrical tribute to Aldridge’s life is part of an ongoing series entitled cultures in motion.
The Theatrical series is designed to educate, entertain and promote mutual understanding of the diverse cultures that make up both the National Portrait Gallery collection and the mosaic of American Heritage. Ira Aldridge: The African Roscius was produced by the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, in collaboration with the Smithsonian National Museum for African American History and Culture.