Founded in 1974, People's Light is one of Pennsylvania's largest professional nonprofit theaters and is known for its resident company of artists, eclectic mix of productions, and innovative work with young people. The company produces a mix of world premieres, contemporary plays, and fresh approaches to classic texts. Its initiatives include the New Play Frontiers Residency and Commission program to support the development of new work.
People's Light will commission and premiere a new music-theatre work that will open a window into legendary vocalist and jazz pianist Nat "King" Cole's public and private personas, and examine the 1957 demise of his groundbreaking national television series and his complex relationship with America's civil rights movement. The first African American entertainer to host a national television show, Cole gained critical acclaim for his series, projecting a sophisticated on-air persona during an era when most African Americans on television were depicted as caricatures. Yet off-stage, Cole was often criticized by civil rights leaders for his perceived lack of action. Playwright Colman Domingo, composer Justin Levine, and director Patricia McGregor's multi-dimensional production will weave Cole's personal story into larger social narratives surrounding race, identity, and creativity in America. The cast will include award-winning Broadway actor Daniel Breaker as Cole. A combination of live piano quartet, pre-recorded tracks, and monophonic archive sound will create a lively soundscape mirroring the original 1950s broadcast and Cole's musical roots.
*Additional unrestricted funds are added to each grant for general operating support.*