WHEN ROOSEVELT ISLAND GOT THE JUMP ON BROADWAY…

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Roosevelt Island got the jump on Broadway, putting together a revival of Alice Childress’s timely Trouble in Mind in 2017.

By David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

Prompted by actor/director Michael Rogers in 2016, we reported on the neglect of memorial dedicated to Alice Childress on the lawn behind PS/IS 219. Childress, a Roosevelt Island pioneer, broke ground for women and minorities in New York theatre, but her plays never reached Broadway.

That’s about to change, and maybe, activism by RIOC and Roosevelt Islanders ignited a chain reaction.

When Roosevelt Island got the jump on Broadway, it started with small steps. Reading about the neglected memorial, RIOC community relations manager Erica Spencer-EL went to the school and took possession.

Alice Childress plaque.
After rescuing the Alice Childress memorial plaque, RIOC made a home for it in a shady place near the Meditation Steps.

After some restoration work, RIOC hosted a ceremony alongside the memorial’s new home.

Then RIOC Got the Jump on Broadway

“At RIOC, I was so proud of the production we supported to honor Childress,” RIOCs former leader, Susan Rosenthal, told The Daily. “Perhaps the play is even more important today than when it was first produced off-Broadway.”

For the ceremony, the state agency recruited Michael Rogers as a speaker. We all met for the first time. Childress mentored Rogers as an actor, and among other anecdotes, he recalled meeting her in Westview.

Childress fell in love with Roosevelt Island and spent the last years of her life here, contributing quietly. She helped start, for example, the first library, located then on Westview’s first floor. Now, years after the NYPL adopted it, a move is on for renaming it in her honor.

Wheels turning

A few weeks later, Rogers and I met with Rosenthal, proposing that RIOC produce a Childress play in the Howe Theatre in the Cultural Center. Her groundbreaking Trouble in Mind got the nod, and it was significant.

Trouble in Mind might’ve broken more ground because a Broadway opening was planned. That would’ve been a first for Childress and a giant breakthrough for women and people of color. But when she refused changing the ending, making it more palatable mainstream audiences, the opening was canceled.

For RIOC president/CEO Susan Rosenthal produced Trouble in Mind on Roosevelt Island. She is, coincidentally, a Roundabout Theatre subscriber.

But now, the Roundabout Theatre has set a date for reversing that mistake. Trouble in Mind, the very play that RIOC revived, opens on Broadway for the first time on October 29th. Roosevelt Island got the jump, and now, Broadway’s taking a leap.

“My heart is full with joy to be able to know that there are two productions of Alice’s work in New York in the same year.” A staged reading of her In the Wilderness was performed earlier. “I expect nothing but brilliance.”

Added Rosenthal, “I’m also thrilled that Childress, Roosevelt Island’s own, is finally getting the prestige she deserves.”

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