Meet Darnelle Radford. He's the man behind the labor of love that is Rep Radio, a podcast that has served Philadelphia's theater community since 2009. As a theater critic, I admired Radford's work from a distance because he was also a playwright and the artistic director of Represented Theatre Company; no favoritism here! But almost as soon as I became editor of Broad Street Review, I ran up to him (on Facebook, but you know what I mean), fangirled a little, and asked him to join our enterprise. He agreed, and starting this month, Rep Radio and BSR will team up to bring you exciting content from inside Philly's arts and culture communities.
This has been a rough week newswise, and that's why I'm so pleased to introduce you to the Rep Radio podcast and give you a taste of things to come. Though Radford's most recent interview isn't part of the BSR collaboration, it's still pretty great, and a balm for the soul -- at least if your soul craves thoughtful, respectful discussion of theater and social change. And who among us isn't craving thoughtful, respectful discussion right now?
Perhaps the name Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj rings a bell. In May and June, as New Freedom Theatre's guest resident artistic director, Maharaj wrote, directed, and choreographed the company's world premiere The Ballad of Trayvon Martin, and directed and choreographed their production of the 1957 musical Jamaica. You can hear the entire interview here, and while you're at it, dig through Rep Radio's archives. You never know what gems you might find there.
Jamaica (book and lyrics by Yip Harburg and Fred Saidy, music by Harold Arlen) tells the story of a simple island community fighting to avoid being overrun by American commercialism. Savannah, a beautiful island girl, longs to escape to New York City to live a life of modern convenience. She is tempted to accept the marriage proposal of a visiting New York businessman. However, when an impoverished fisherman, Koli, saves her younger brother’s life during a hurricane, she opts to remain with him.
The show was originally written for Harry Belafonte, and as a result of the popularity of his style, Arlen’s music parodies Calypso. Belafonte withdrew from the production due to illness, and the musical was then tailored around the talents of Lena Horne.
About Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj
Maharaj is an Indo-Caribbean American artist, educator and activist. He was hailed in the New York Times as “one of the most talented directors in New York." He is the producing artistic director of Rebel Theater Company in Brooklyn, NY.
For Mark Cofta's review of The Ballad of Trayvon Martin, click here.
For Steve Cohen's review of Jamaica, click here.