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Red Velvet: The Story of Ira Aldridge, Trailblazing Black Actor

Ira Aldridge was 17 years old when he left his father’s home to pursue his dream of becoming a professional actor in England. Born in New York in 1807, Aldridge grew up during a time when chattel slavery was legal, and black actors who performed works associated with Anglo culture were usually subjected to harsh criticism, and sometimes violence.  But Aldridge would go on to become one of the most celebrated actors in the world.  

Red Velvet is an award-winning play written in 2012 by British playwright, producer and stage actress Lolita Chakrabarti. It tells the story of Aldridge's 1833 London performance as Shakespeare's Othello that transformed him into an international star of the theater, and a seminal figure in the narrative of African American achievement.  Now, Baltimore's Chesapeake Shakespeare Company is giving the play its long-awaited Baltimore premiere, after critically acclaimed productions in Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, and London.

Shirley Basfield Dunlap is directing the company's new production of Red Velvet.  She's an associate professor in the Department of Fine and Performing Arts, and Coordinator of Theater Arts at Morgan State University.  She joins Tom in Studio A to talk about this remarkable play, and its even more remarkable subject. 

Chesapeake Shakespeare Company’s production of Red Velvet continues through Sunday, February 25th.  The run includes free public events in the community made possible by partnerships with the arts and culture community of Baltimore.  For more information, click the link below:


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