Broadway’s Only Full-Time Black Producers Stephen C. Byrd & Alia Jones-Harvey Bring Diversity To The Stage
Stephen C. Byrd, 52, and Alia Jones-Harvey, 40, of Front Row Productions are the only full-time professional black producers currently on Broadway. And they say while they have paved the way for others, they have lots more work ahead.
“We are granularly involved in every aspect of the production,” Byrd told The Huffington Post. “We are creative producers from start to finish. We have been able to do this both on Broadway as well as London’s West End where we were the first people of color to ever produce [a play].”
Their strategy has been successful.
They took a major gamble in bringing an all-star, all-black lineup to the revival of Tennessee Williams’ “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
“By the Spring of 2008, the production had become the highest-grossing play on Broadway, earning the duo, countless awards, including the Laurence Olivier Award for Best Revival of a Play in 2010″ reports HuffPo.
The pair just kicked off their newest production “Romeo and Juliet” this past weekend, featuring a multicultural lineup including Condola Rashad as Juliet and Orlando Bloom as her Romeo. This marks the first time in 36 years that the play will be produced on Broadway. “With Condola Rashad cast as an African-American Juliet, it became interesting to us because we saw it as an opportunity to attract new audiences to Shakespeare, as opportunities for our investors who are interested in our mission as well,” said Jones-Harvey.
Added Byrd, “And that mission is non-traditional, multi-racial casting on Broadway and involvement of people of color both onstage and behind stage. What was attractive in part to me was that half the cast in black and half is white. That to me is non-traditional inclusive casting and it’s never been done before with ‘Romeo & Juliet.'”
“Romeo and Juliet” comes on the heels of two of their other star-studded successes–“A Streetcar Named Desire” and Horton Foote’s “The Trip To Bountiful.”
Despite their successes, the pair wishes Broadway was more diverse. “Broadway is an old boys club, a very closed club. Unlike Hollywood, on Broadway if you don’t get a theater, you don’t have a show … you can be all dressed up and nowhere to go,” Byrd said.
Jones-Harvey and Byrd are looking to “Black Orpheus” to the Great White Way and are a “major major director,” said Byrd.
For more about this pair, click here.