On March 9, the Lied Center for Performing Arts is bringing writer and actor Leland Gantt’s life story to the stage with the presentation of “Rhapsody in Black,” a one-man play that tells of Gantt’s experience as a Black man in America and how the construct of race has impacted him.
“Rhapsody in Black'' shows Gantt’s story from the age of 10 to the present, depicting various parts of his life where he encountered racism. The livestreamed event will premiere at 7:30 p.m., and the audience will need to reserve a ticket in order to receive the link. There will be a Q&A session with Gantt after the presentation.
Gantt said writing the play was the hardest part of the creative process because, while he had helped write for other entertainment projects before, he had never written anything so personal by himself.
“I helped a lot of other writers, as an actor, develop their pieces and sat in on these kinds of workshops and whatnot. But you know, watching somebody play a major league baseball game is not anything like playing a major league baseball game,” Gantt said. “It was not something that I was conversant with, so I really had to teach myself how.”
Gantt said putting real-life experiences in the play and performing them in front of people can be difficult, and the weight of what he was performing didn’t come to him until he first started performing his play.
“It wasn't until I actually performed it in front of people and got the feedback that … said how brave they thought I was to present all of this very personal material. That's when I realized, ‘Oh, I'm standing up here naked.’ That's not what I had anticipated. But then again, when you look at it, that's exactly what I had crafted. I wanted that transparency. A look into a real-life person's life,” he said.
Because the production is virtual, the Lied Center staff puts in extra work in order to give a great performance. The Lied Center’s executive director and chief artistic officer Bill Stephan said it’s not as easy to livestream a theatrical performance as one might think.
“Doing a high quality virtual program, particularly if there's theatrical lights and those kinds of things, definitely takes some time, and so it's usually not something that you can just do really quickly,” Stephan said. “There's been a lot of virtual programming from people performing at their home on Facebook Live, and that's fairly simple, but you don't necessarily have the quality of a theatrical presentation like you'd see in the Lied Center.”
Stephan said he encourages everyone to experience the show because anybody can learn from Gantt’s story and be inspired.
“I would encourage you to experience ‘Rhapsody in Black,’ which is a stimulating, provocative insightful, dramatic, life-changing theatrical presentation that is based on real life and will change your perspective and change your world. That's the magic of theater, and the price is free,” he said.