Performing Arts Highlights to Celebrate #BlackHistoryMonth

It’s February, and we’re trying not to forget Valentine’s Day, while being eternally grateful that we don’t spend 24 out of the 28 days digging out from snow and ice storms. Most importantly, we are celebrating Black History Month.

Throughout the month we’ll bring you recommended films and books that will hopefully teach you something new, provide new perspective, and entertain.

Today, we’re sharing some of our favorite arts programs that pertain to Black history, and/or Black culture. We hope you enjoy these selections. Be sure to follow us on both Facebook and Twitter for more recommendations, and please share some of your favorites with us, so that we can share them with others.

American Masters
Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart

Black and white image of Lorraine Hansberry with arms crossed and resting over typewriter

To say Ms. Hansberry was a trailblazer is to woefully understate her legacy. At age 29, she won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award—the youngest dramatist to do so, and only the fifth woman—for A Raisin in the Sun. When the play opened on Broadway, Hansberry became the black female playwright to have a play produced on Broadway. While this alone would be impressive, Hansberry was a prolific activist, and was a leader in both the Black and gay civil rights movements. The premiere of the current season of American Masters explores Hansberry’s life and work through archival footage, home movies, rare photos and unpublished documents. Watch Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart soon though! It expires mid-February.

Austin City Limits
B.B. King and Herbie Hancock

B.B. King wearing suit on stage with guitar strapped on shoulder.

Legendary keyboardist, composer, and jazz innovator, now in the fifth decade of his career, Herbie Hancock made his Austin City Limits debut just this year. The hour-long performance is career-spanning. The late B.B. King (pictured) recorded his episode of Austin City Limits way back in 1983 at a time, according to ACL Executive Producer Terry Lickona, when “it was rare for a blues artist to command a full hour on national television.” You’ll see, though, that he manages to do just that.

Live From Lincoln Center
Norm Lewis: Who am I? and Billy Porter: Broadway and Soul

Broadway legend Norm Lewis performing on stage

Get your Broadway fill! Norm Lewis (pictured) is a Broadway legend, performed in some of the most-beloved Broadway shows, including Les Miserables, The Who’s Tommy, Porgy and Bess, and Chicago. When The Little Mermaid opened on Broadway, Lewis was the first King Triton. He was also the first Black performer to play the title role in the Broadway run of The Phantom of the Opera. Triple threat Porter, meanwhile, is perhaps best known for his work in Kinky Boots in which he originated the role of Lola in 2013, and earned a Tony for Best Actor in a Musical. These episodes of Live From Lincoln Center spotlight each performer’s talents as well as their personalities.

Great Performances
Driving Miss Daisy

James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury in Driving Miss Daisy
And while we’re on the subject of Tony winners, this performance is anchored by a trio of them: James Earl Jones, Angela Lansbury, and Boyd Gaines. The Pulitzer Prize-winning play is a timeless, searing, funny, and ultimately hopeful meditation on race relations in America, told through the complex relationship between a Jewish widow and an African American man who works as her chauffeur.

Great Performances
Twilight: Los Angeles

Anna Deavere Smith sitting on chair in Twilight: Los Angeles

Anna Deavere Smith is as much an anthropologist and sociologist as she is a performer and writer. Twilight: Los Angeles is a one-woman piece about the 1991 Rodney King beating, the violent aftermath of the 1992 verdict, and the lasting impact of the L.A. riots on America’s conscience. Award-winning director Marc Levin weaves Smith’s stage performance with news footage and interviews to create a portrait of rage, sorrow, loss, and battered hope.