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 Premiering Works

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 begins in April 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, Wednesday-Sunday, April 23-27, including the following two events produced by Harlem Stage:



Stew on Baldwin: An Intimate Look

Stew on Baldwin: An Intimate Look A preview of Notes of a Native Song, a new work by STEW, commissioned and produced by Harlem Stage. Via songs, poems, sermons and projections, Stew will use the work of James Baldwin and the locale of Harlem as both filters through which to view the role of Black artists in America, as well as springboards from which to leap into future questions of black art, its relationship to the black community and what exactly a black American artist owes to this idea of community.



Stranger on Earth by Carl Hancock Rux

A Preview of a new work commissioned and produced by Harlem Stage. Stranger on Earth imagines a chance meeting between writer, James Baldwin and singer, Dinah Washington at a jazz club in Harlem in 1963. Drawing on Baldwin’s words as well as dialogue written by Rux, the piece is performed by Rux and vocalist Marcelle Davies Lashley and addresses issues regarding, race, identity, music, and the future of a world both are struggling to understand.

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

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.