The Riant Theatre’s free launch party is packed with theatre, film, book, music, poetry dance, award programs and creative writing workshops.
Stephen C. Byrd and Alia Jones-Harvey left Wall Street to create acclaimed star-studded productions like “Romeo and Juliet” with Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad;“The Trip To Bountiful” with Cicely Tyson, Vanessa Williams and Cuba Gooding, Jr.; “A Street Car Named Desire” with Blair Underwood and Nicole Ari Parker and “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” with Phylicia Rashad, James Earl Jones, Terrence Howard and Anika Noni Rose.
“Alia and I think outside the box,” explained Stephen C. Byrd, a former Goldman Sachs executive whose Front Row Productions with Alia Jones-Harvey is the only African American theatre production firm on Broadway.
Their formula for developing hit Broadway shows for African American audiences has resulted in top grossers like the revivial of Tennessee Williams' “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. ” Later on the London stage, it earned the prestigious Laurence Olivier Award for Best Revival of a Play.
“If we cast a production interracially and get panned by the critics, it doesn’t matter to us because African Americans want to see their talent,” said Byrd. “They want to see Terrence Howard. They want to see James Earl Jones. They don’t care what the New York Times says.”
The business duo uses the fine art quality of an August Wilson play and the marketing methods of a Tyler Perry play when creating their Broadway productions. “We’re approaching these productions as if they are start-up businesses. They take all of the research and planning of any start-up business,” said Jones-Harvey, a former NASA executive who holds a MBA and masters degrees in engineering and math. “Each time you put on a production, you need to know what market you are targeting. The profit margins are all in reaching your market efficiently.”
Other Pioneer of the Arts Awards will be presented to Rock and Roll Hall of Fame singer Lloyd Price, whose hits include“Lawdy Miss Clawdy” and “Stagger Lee” and B. Jeffrey Madoff', documentary filmmaker and commercial producer-director, behind the broadcast of Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show.
“I really liked the fact that these African American producers don’t depend on the papers to validate them to fill the seats in the theatres,” said Van Dirk Fisher, founder of the Riant Theatre and artistic director Strawberry One-Act Festival. “Sometimes artists are complaining that there are not enough roles out there. But, we need to take charge and tell our own stories so we don’t have to beg other people to help us. The fact that these two producers have been doing it successfully has been daring and bold and amazing.”
The February 9 event is jam-packed with interactive arts. There will be a book signing of “Volume 8 of the Best Plays from the Strawberry One-Act Festival;” Video Diaries Project short film screenings; “Cold April,” about schoolgirls during the 1994 Rwandan genocide and “The Brothers Texas,” the Riant Youth Empowerment Award film by Ashton Pina. Kory French’s drama “Abramovic”
The Strawberry One-Act Festival has presented over 2,500 one-act plays since its inception. Riant Theatre’s 25th Season Strawberry One-Act Festival will be held at the Theatre at St. Clement's at 423 West 46th St., New York from February 13 - 23. For more information: