Harlem Stage is unique among performing arts institutions in its approach to supporting the work of artist's of color. We just don't present work from a menu of outside offerings, we help deserving young artists like Vijay Iyer, Mike Ladd, Maurice Decaul and Lynn Hill create and draw attention to their work. Work that has meaning for all of us. The Commissioning Circle is a critically important means to help Harlem Stage make this happen. The Commissioning Circle is comprised of an inner core of Harlem Stage supporters. People that each year go deeper in their embrace of the performing arts and a next generation of artists that inspire us with a heightened sensibility to their art forms.


2014 – 2015

The Year of James Baldwin


April 2014 – June 2015: A Partnership of Harlem Stage and New York Live Arts, in collaboration with Columbia University, the Avedon Foundation, and The New School | Vera List Center for Arts and Politics In honor of the life and artistic legacy of the American novelist, essayist, playwright, poet, and social critic, The Year of James Baldwin, is a yearlong, city-wide celebration that runs from April 2014 to June 2015 at venues across the city. It all began in April 2014 with the second annual Live Ideas festival at New York Live Arts (NYLA), entitled: James Baldwin This Time! featuring back-to-back events over 5 days.

Download the festival brochure: James Baldwin This Time!

Read about the festival in the news:
Amsterdam News: ‘The Year of James Baldwin’ Opens in Grand Style
Beacon Broadside: Jimmy’s Blues: James Baldwin’s Poetic Legacy
Black Star News: Live Ideas Festival: James Baldwin This Time
Broadway World: New York Live Arts Announces LIVE IDEAS Festival 2014 Schedule – ‘The Year of James Baldwin’
New York Times: New York Festival to Celebrate the Work of James Baldwin
New York Times: Trying to Bring Baldwin’s Complex Voice Back to the Classroom
Wall Street Journal: James Baldwin Festival Starts at New York Live Arts

Spring 2015: Year of Baldwin programs at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse:



Year of James Baldwin: Stew’s Notes of a Native Song

A new work commissioned and produced by Harlem Stage

Tickets: $55 / $44 MyHarlemStage Members
PURCHASE TICKETS HERE: Wednesday, June 3, 7:30pm / Thursday, June 4, 7:30pm / Friday, June 5, 7:30pm / Saturday, June 6, 7:30pm / Afternoon Shows: Saturday, June 6, 2:00pm / Sunday, June 7, 2:00pm
Order early. Get 50% off a second ticket. Purchase by February 10th, use promotion code SP2015

Tony Award (Passing Strange) and Obie Award-winning playwright/singer-songwriter, Stew creates a collage of songs, text and video inspired by Baldwin’s brave and visionary proclivity for airing uncomfortable truths as celebratory events of poetry and beauty. Heady themes will be attached to wonderfully catchy tunes with head-nodding grooves for your listening pleasure. Along with his band, Stew will create a very intimate, up-close-and-personal cabaret show which will stimulate a wide range of thoughts and emotions. Read more…


Carl Hancock Rux

Year of James Baldwin: Carl Hancock Rux’s Stranger on Earth

A new work commissioned and produced by Harlem Stage

Tickets: $45 / $36 MyHarlemStage Members
PURCHASE TICKETS HERE: Thursday, February 19 / Friday, February 20
Order early. Get 50% off a second ticket. Purchase by February 10th, use promotion code SP2015

James Baldwin and Dinah Washington have a chance encounter at a Harlem jazz club in 1963. Their imagined meeting is brought to life through the brilliant words of Baldwin, with original text created and performed by Carl Hancock Rux. The memorable songs of Dinah Washington are delivered by extraordinary vocalist, Marcelle Davies Lashley. Read more…

Makandal Creative Team


A Contemporary Opera

Commissioned and produced by Harlem Stage through its WaterWorks Program

Conceived and written by Carl Hancock Rux

Composed by Yosvanny Terry Visual

Art by Edouard Duval-Carrié

Directed by Lars Jan

“Makandal’s music is a fusion of the sounds of the Antilles in a journey through Cuba, Haiti and Dominican Republic. A natural synergy of the Afro-Caribbean traditions, jazz and contemporary classical music.” — Yosvanny Terry, composer

After five years in development, Makandal will make its world premiere at the Harlem Stage Gatehouse in 2015.

We are so proud to have taken part in the creation of this poignant story and its operatic presentation. It’s been a remarkable journey viewed through the lens of Haiti’s rich and mystical history and its significance to the world, through its continuing struggle and strength.

Moving between three universes – historic, contemporary and mythic, Makandal, inspired by Alejo Carpentier’s The Kingdom of this World, and Edouard Duval-Carrié’s expansive imagery integrates two stories:

  • The first, about Francois Makandal, an 18th century Haitian revolutionary who led a failed slave revolt, but achieved the status of mythic hero.
  • The second about a group of 21st century Haitian, Cuban and Dominican immigrants embarking upon a dangerous boat ride to an unnamed shore where they seek an illusive “freedom;” however, Makandal, in its reach is about all people who have yet to fully realize emancipation. It is a story that is timeless and universal.