The Al Hirschfeld Foundation launches special online exhibit highlighting black theatre makers

Guys and Dolls, 1976.  © The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. All rights reserved.

Many black theatre makers, who graced the stages of The Howard Theatre and The Kennedy Center among many other Washington, DC venues are part of a special digital exhibition by The Al Hirschfeld Foundation for these times: “Lost In The Stars: Black Theatre Makers Drawn by Hirschfeld,” available online through August 2.

A collection of over 25 drawings, paintings, and prints documenting nearly three-quarters of a century of African-American theater artistry, “Lost In The Stars: Black Theatre Makers Drawn by Hirschfeld” is the latest in a series of online exhibitions produced by the foundation exploring characterist Al Hirschfeld’s iconic work. 

The online exhibition begins with F.E. Miller and Aubrey Lyles, the duo that wrote the book and starred in the landmark musical Shuffle Along and travels 72 years to include drawings of Canada Lee, Paul Robeson, Diana Sands, James Earl Jones, Ed Bullins, Charles Brown, Robert Guillaume, Nell Carter, Ntozake Shange, Charles Dutton, and Audra McDonald, and shows including Carmen Jones, Decision, For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow Is Enuf, the musical Golden Boy, Ain’t Misbehavin’, the 1976 all Black revival of Guys & Dolls, and Marie Christine.

“Black actors, directors, composers, lyricists, playwrights, designers, and producers have long played a role in the American Theater, despite Broadway’s nickname as The Great White Way,” writes David Leopold, Creative Director for The Al Hirschfeld Foundation in his introduction to the exhibition.

“The title of this exhibition comes from the musical of the same name that explored the racial injustices of the 20th century South Africa apartheid system. But it can also serve as a metaphor of the Black creative in a predominantly white theater world. Too often the contributions of Black artists have been minimized or co-opted, and the Al Hirschfeld Foundation wanted to look at many of the Black stars in all disciplines that make the American Theater what it is today. ‘Lost In The Stars…’ will be the first of at least four exhibitions that will explore Black theater, film, dance and music over the next year. We believe that Black Live Matter. Black Art Matters. And Black Theatre Matters.”

Leopold also includes a special note as part of his introduction, “We recognize that some drawings could be found offensive. Hirschfeld’s work is generally described as caricature, but the label is limiting. His art is not pejorative. His intent was not to poke fun at his subjects or perpetuate stereotypes, but rather it was a distillation and celebration of the performance. Exaggeration is used for emphasis so that the drawings, as one fellow artist said of Hirschfeld’s work, look more like the person than the person does.”

In keeping with the spirit of Hirschfeld, this exhibition is free and open to everyone. The show is part of The Al Hirschfeld Foundation‘s continuing mission to promote interest in the theater and the performing and visual arts. Supporting the exhibition is a special online gift shop of merchandise connected to the exhibition.

Those wishing to learn more about the exhibition are invited to listen to a special episode of The Al Hirschfeld Foundation‘s podcast dedicated to the works featured in “Lost In The Stars: Black Theatre Makers Drawn by Hirschfeld.” It will be available starting June 30 from The Al Hirschfeld Foundation‘s websiteiTunes and other popular podcast sites.



Troy Petenbrink

Troy, also known as The Gay Traveler, is a well known travel and food writer. His has been a regular contributor to a variety of outlets including National Geographic, Travel Channel, DCRefined, CBS Local, and Metro Weekly. He also appears on local Washington news outlets as a travel expert.

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