The first gala lining the history books of Harlem Stage, formerly known as Aaron Davis Hall, saw a slate enviable in its stature. Opened at first as part of the City College of New York, the performance complex inaugurated its stages with Ella Fitzgerald, the American Symphony Orchestra, Suzanne Farrell, Mikhail Baryshnikov and Patricia McBride.
With its stately Gatehouse venue currently shuttered, Harlem Stage will host this year’s gala online, opening up its characteristically star-studded event to a wide audience. The affair will take place May 18 at 7 p.m. and will be viewable via the Harlem Stage Facebook and Instagram. Presented as a musical event and a fundraiser, money donated during the gala will help to “ensure the continued existence of Harlem Stage and its ability to discover, support and commission works by visionary artists of color, and present those works at low, or no cost, to the community.”
The gala will be hosted by LaChanze, Tamara Tunie and Celia Rose Gooding, with a packed lineup of artists scheduled to appear throughout the night. Breaking the fourth wall, hosts and members of Harlem Stage will respond to live comments during the event.
“The closure of performing arts venues due to COVID-19 has been difficult for artists, administrators, stakeholders and for audiences,” Patricia Cruz, executive director of Harlem Stage, said. “This online celebration will showcase our mission to a wider audience and hopefully raise the critical funds needed to continue to support visionary artists of color whose daring works inspire and uplift our community and our world.”
Last night many were unable to enjoy the full video of our virtual gala celebration. You can now watch it in its entirety here or anytime at https://www.harlemstage.org/gala2020Remember to IGNORE any requests (in the comments or posts by others) to log in to view this video.
Posted by Harlem Stage on Tuesday, May 19, 2020
New and archival pieces from Nona Hendryx will be featured alongside performances from the evening’s guests — which includes, among others, Jason Moran, José James and Jason ‘Timbuktu’ Diakité. MSNBC host and anchor Joy Reid, Bill T. Jones, Claire Danes, Hugh Dancy, Fab 5 Freddy and Tate Donovan will also make appearances throughout the evening. Hosts LaChanze and Celia Rose Gooding are honored as this year’s awardees.
“Like so many arts organizations, especially those dedicated to serving artists of color and making their work accessible to the community, Harlem Stage is facing economic challenges like never before,” organizers said in a statement. “Due to the cancellation of their annual spring gala, their most critical fundraiser of the year, Harlem Stage is facing a significant revenue gap that could undermine their ability to continue the mission they have so proudly championed for more than 35 years.”
Last year, the Harlem Stage gala celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance with a 1920s-inspired soiree. The event raised $400,000 to aid in supporting the performance institution.
In addition to championing artists at every stage of their career, the institution has been home to groundbreaking works over the course of its existence — including the recent presentation of Theater of War Productions’ “Antigone in Ferguson,” which was captured by ALL ARTS in 2018 and responded to the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014.
More information about the Harlem Stage digital gala, including how to donate, can be found here.
Top Image: Jason ‘Timbuktu’ Diakité. Photo: Ulf Berglund.