February 17, 2012

WNYC presents A Unique Radio Drama of Zora Neale Hurston's "Their Eyes Were Watching God" with Phylicia Rashad

THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD is Zora Neale Hurston’s story of Janie Crawford’s quest for her own identity.  Though greeted with controversy and critique by the male literary establishment upon publication in 1937 – contributing to it falling out of print for 30 years – it is now, since its reissue in 1978, one of the most widely read and highly acclaimed novels in the African American literary canon.

To commemorate the 75th anniversary of the original publication and to herald its place as a seminal work in the American literary tradition, The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at WNYC  and WQXR will present a multiplatform exploration of the novel and its influence with “The 75th Anniversary of Zora Neale Hurston’s THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD.”

“I am honored and excited to direct Zora Neal Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, a very important work in the fabric of American culture that takes us, not farther away from, but deeper into Black folk traditions,” said RUBEN SANTIAGO-HUDSON, who will direct The Greene Space’s production of the first American adaptation of the novel as a radio play.  “Their Eyes beautifully captures the essence, language, life and stories of Black people and celebrates them.  Creating a radio drama of this poetic and powerful text is a huge undertaking and I believe that we are in the process of creating an experience not soon to be forgotten.”

“The Greene Space is dedicated to presenting great work for both live, online and audio audiences, and this endeavor to illuminate a novel that has been so meaningful for so many is a significant and ambitious building block in our curatorial vision,” said INDIRA ETWAROO, Executive Producer of The Greene Space and Producer of The Hurston Series.  “When Arthur Yorinks and Ruben Santiago-Hudson agreed to join this project, I knew something very special was about to unfold.  When Phylicia Rashad, Ruby Dee, Sonia Sanchez and Alice Walker came on board – women whose shoulders I stand on – “very special” quickly became “once-in a-lifetime.” All of these artists carry Zora’s torch to speak for all of us on what it means to be human and authentically oneself.”

The heart of the 75th Anniversary Festival will be The Greene Space’s production of the first-ever American radio adaptation of THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD before a live audience and live video webcast audience online. Presented on two nights, on Wednesday, February 29 and Thursday, March 1, the radio play will be directed by SANTIAGO-HUDSON, currently starring on Broadway in Stickfly, and adapted by award-winning writer ARTHUR YORINKS, with a cast that includes Tony Award and Emmy Award-Winning Actress PHYLICIA RASHAD narrating and LESLIE UGGAMS starring as Grandmother.  The performances will be taped for a national radio broadcast in September 2012.

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