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Harlem Duet

Harlem Duet
Your Price: $17.95 CDN
Author: Djanet Sears
Publisher: Scirocco Drama
Format: Softcover
# of Pages: 118
Pub. Date: 2008
ISBN-10: 1896239277
ISBN-13: 9781896239279
Cast Size: 3 women, 2 men

About the Play:

Winner of the 1998 Governor General's Award for Drama (Canadian equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize)

Harlem Duet is a full-length drama by Djanet Sears. The critically acclaimed "prequel" to Shakespeare's Othello transplants the story to Harlem, where a college professor leaves his grad student wife for a white colleague. The stinging abandonment leads to profound questions about love, loss, loyalty and race, played out over two centuries in a wide range of settings.

Harlem Duet is a modernized interpretation of the classic tragedy Othello, which addresses the question, "Who would Othello be if he were alive today?" Shakespeare's Othello provides one of the first portrayals of an African man in western literature. Djanet Sears' award-winning play hypothesizes that The Moor who married the much younger Desdemona had a previous wife – a Black woman. Harlem Duet is told through the eyes of Billie, a black graduate student studying the mental health of Black people. She loves and marries Othello, a young black teacher at Columbia University, only to be left by her husband of nine years for Mona, his white colleague on the Upper East Side. Billie reels from a multitude of betrayals, played out over three great periods in African-American history: set simultaneously on a Southern plantation in 1860 (before the Emancipation Proclamation), in 1928 during the Harlem Renaissance, and in contemporary Harlem on the corner of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X Boulevards. Powerful, intense and emotionally gripping, this Canadian theatre classic packs as powerful a punch now as it did when it won of the Governor General's Award for Drama in in 1998.

Harlem Duet was workshopped in 1996 at New York City's Joseph Papp Public Theatre, where the author was the international artist-in-residence. The play premiered in 1997 at Tarragon Theatre in Toronto, Ontario, and went on to win the Governor- General's Award, the Chalmers Canadian Play Award and the Dora Mavor Moore Award. Its New York premiere was in 2002 off-Broadway at Blue Heron Theater. Since then the play had a historic 2006 production at the Stratford Festival (the first play directed by a Black woman, the first play written by a Black Canadian writer and the first play to have an all-Black cast at the festival) and has had many high-profile productions across North America.

Cast: 3 women, 2 men

What people say:

"…undeniable emotional power." — New York Times

"Harlem Duet, by Djanet Sears, is a play about jealousy multiplied by racial tensions that ventures boldly beyond the personal into the political in a complex, lyrical flow of words. It's of those rare works wherein we get swept away by the sheer virtuosity of the writing. Yet for all its poetry and musicality, Harlem Duet transcends mere word craft. The dramatic potential is explosive." — The Montreal Gazette

"…an ambitiously complex and satisfying work about interracial marriage, ghettos and the whitening of Black history and culture…" — Variety.

"This is an impressive achievement, an ambitious and accomplished work with scope and the vision to realize it, a drama filled with intelligence and compassion, humor and anger, outrage and understanding." — Toronto Star

About the Playwright:

Djanet Sears is a Canadian playwright, actor and director, nationally recognized for her work in African-Canadian Theatre. An award-winning playwright and director, she has several acting award nominations to her credit for both stage and screen. She is the recipient of the Stratford Festival's Timothy Findley Award, as well as Canada's highest literary honour for dramatic writing, the Governor General's Literary Award.

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