Energized on Roosevelt Island, An Alice Childress Revival

Energized on Roosevelt Island, An Alice Childress Revival

From our point of view, the Alice Childress revival started on Roosevelt Island in 2016. Prompted by her friend, Michael Rogers, The Daily dug into the story of this Roosevelt Island pioneer and literary legend. Childress lived her final years here in Westview where she helped found the original public library on the first floor.

by David Stone

The Roosevelt Island Daily News

An Alice Childress Revival

Alice Childress plaque.
With a lot of help from Erica Spencer-EL and Susan Rosenthal, then with RIOC, the Alice Childress memorial was rescued and given a new home near the Meditation Steps. That got things rolling.

While I was digging up whatever I could find about the Alice Childress memorial plaque and the now missing magnolia tree planted beside it, RIOC Community Relations Manager Erica Spencer-EL got wind of it. Soon, with support from then President/CEO Susan Rosenthal, she rescued it from the muddy lot behind PS/IS 217.

After some fixing up, in a ceremony where Rogers electrified the audience with tales of Childress’s greatness, RIOC gave it a shady new home, just a few feet south of the Meditation Steps.

But the revival didn’t stop there. The RIOC team asked Rogers to stage and direct one of her most revered plays. Trouble In Mind rolled out in front of packed houses at the Howe Theatre on Main Street, Roosevelt Island.

And last year, after a long pandemic delay, that same play made its Broadway debut at the Roundabout Theatre – where it also sold out.

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Next Step, The Wedding Band Opens at TAFANA

The Wedding Band is one of Childress’s most emotionally charged works. Helen Shaw says in New York magazine that it’s “One of the most anticipated shows of 2022.”

“My play… concerns itself with the seeking of love in a racist society.
all kinds of love…man and woman, parental, neighborly… the love of
country, the love of material things…and spiritual love.

Alice Childress in a letter to Ruby Dee

According to the Theatre for a New Audience…

Wedding Band is set in the Deep South at the end of World War I during the flu epidemic, and is one of American drama’s most revealing tales of interracial love. Written in the heat of the Civil Rights era, Wedding Band speaks with stunning clarity to the public debates of the Black Lives Matter era.

“Following the celebrated Broadway production of Childress’s Trouble in Mind, Awoye Timpo directs the first New York production of Wedding Band since its New York premiere in 1972.”

Wedding Band opens at the Theatre for a New Audience on April 23rd. Get your tickets here.

About Alice Childress

Alice Childress was born in Charleston, SC, in 1920. A self-taught playwright and author, she wrote more than 20 plays, including Trouble in Mind and Wedding Band. She was also a prolific writer for the stage and screen.

Childress was a leader in the African American theater community, serving as president of the Dramatists Guild of America and the Negro Playwrights Association. In 1985, she became the first black woman to win a Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement. Childress passed away in 1994*. Her legacy continues to inspire new generations of artists.

*The Alice Childress memorial plaque was dedicated to her in 1995 along a then quiet stretch of Roosevelt Island’s West Promenade.

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