Lecture, receptions to mark opening of exhibit

Featured speaker: Historian Paul Carter Harrison to speak Feb. 13

Two special receptions and a lecture by a renowned playwright and expert on African-American theatre will highlight the February opening of the first major exhibition of works from the Paul R. Jones Collection at the University.

"Original Acts: Photographs of African-American Performers in the Paul R. Jones Collection" will open Feb. 5 and remain on display through March 28 at the University Gallery in Old College.

On Feb. 13, a lecture by theatre historian Paul Carter Harrison will be held at 5:30 p.m., in 101 Recitation Hall, followed by a community reception in the gallery. A VIP reception will be held from 5:30-7 p.m., Feb. 14–a date that marks the one-year anniversary of Jones' donation of his extensive art collection to UD. Jones is an Atlanta entrepreneur who amassed one of the nation's largest private collections of works by African -American artists.

The opening events are free and open to the public. To attend either reception, r.s.v.p. to [sdorr@udel.edu] by Feb. 11.

Amalia Amaki, assistant professor in the Black American Studies Program and curator of the exhibition, said Harrison was invited to speak because of his "strong base of knowledge and scholarship in the history of African-American theatre and other performance arenas." He will discuss the future of African-American theatre.

Harrison is professor emeritus of theatre at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and has been playwright-in-residence at Columbia College in Chicago. He has a long involvement with the Negro Ensemble Company and has written and edited numerous plays, anthologies and books dealing with such subjects as theatre and jazz musicians.

His books include In the Shadow of the Great White Way: Images from the Black Theatre, which features the photography of Bert Andrews. Eighteen of Andrews' photos are part of the "Original Acts" exhibition.

Harrison also is the author of The Drama of Nommo and Totem Voices: Plays from the Black World Repertory and the editor of Kuntu Drama: Plays of the African Continuum and Black Theatre: Ritual Performance in the African Diaspora. He wrote the play The Great MacDaddy, which won a 1973-74 Obie Award.

On Feb. 14, the exhibition's VIP event will include a reception modeled on the style of a jazz café of the 1940s or '50s, Amaki said.

"This exhibition is the first showing since the agreement was signed [donating the Paul Jones collection to the University], and Feb. 14 is the anniversary of the signing, so we want it to be a true celebration," she said. "We're planning a very festive event."

"Original Acts" presents the work of 12 African-American photographers who have focused on African-American performers exclusively or as an integral part of their careers.

Representing several geographic regions in terms of origin and training, these artists used techniques ranging from the formal studio style of preeminent photographers Prentice Herman (P.H.) Polk and James Van Der Zee, to the stage-derived and more spontaneous approaches of California-based photographers William Crite and John H. Cochran Jr., originally from Savannah, Ga.

Bert Andrews captured the power, passion and promise of African-American theatre for more than 35 years. Although the Chicago native was highly sought after and respected as a photographer throughout New York's theatre circuit, he was especially noted for his "live" images of the award-winning Negro Ensemble Company. Later, he became the sole documentarian of the productions of Woodie King Jr.'s New Federal Theatre. His photographs have appeared in Time, Life, Newsweek, The New York Times and books on American theatre.

New Jersey native Jim Alexander has photographed leading jazz musicians for the past 30 years. Having worked as a photographer for Yale and Clark Atlanta universities, he reached a milestone with the publication of the acclaimed photo essay "Duke and Other Legends," dedicated to the musical genius of Duke Ellington. His work also includes portraits and candid stage shots of such international stars as Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr., Eubie Blake and jazz vocalist Betty Carter.

Motion picture still photographer and freelancer Adger W. Cowans creates improvisational pieces that pay homage to the life and work of Ellington as well. A former Navy photographer and past assistant to Gordon Parks in the 1960s, Cowans captures poetic motions in water as a personal way of equating to the unmistakable, yet elusive nature that defines the legendary bandleader.

Like Cowans, Onikwa Bill (William) Wallace is a motion picture still photographer and freelancer. Wallace, who is based in Chicago, has focused much of his work on jazz musicians.

Frank Stewart, who is a New York-based photographer and filmmaker, produces works in a similar vein. He has produced well-received photographs of such jazz greats as Wynton Marsalis, and his work is featured in a book about the trumpeter, titled Sweet Swing Blues on the Road.

Stewart's work is also featured in Smokestack Lightning, a book about the joys of Southern barbecue, and a reviewer describes his photographs as "stark, lyrical and beautifully composed."

William Anderson emphasizes the resourcefulness and unpretentiousness of solo street performers in a manner that approaches photojournalism.

Gerald Straw, on the other hand, turns his camera to America's urban streets in less obvious references to the interactive roles of audience and performer. A native New Yorker currently living in Atlanta and one of the founders of the Black Photographers Annual, Straw documents performance with the sensibility of a researcher, capturing data plastered on the walls of unoccupied buildings that read as public billboards advertising concerts and dance troupes.

After its UD run ends March 28, the show will travel.

The University Gallery, located on the second floor of Old College, presents exhibitions and educational programs of regional and national importance and is a repository for art objects and cultural artifacts spanning the ancient period through the present.

For more information, call 831-8242 or visit the University Gallery web site at [http://www. museums.udel.edu].