Lights Out: Nat "King" Cole

People's Light



Actors Woody Sez, Andy Teirstein, David M. Lutken, Helen J. Russell, and Darcie Deaville in Woody Sez: The Life and Music of Woody Guthrie, 2014. Photo by Mark Garvin.


Actors Melanye Finister and Michael Genet in Fences, 2014. Photo by Mark Garvin.


The cast of The Cherry Orchard. Photo by Mark Garvin.

People's Light will commission and premiere a new music-theatre work that will open a window into legendary vocalist and jazz pianist Nat "King" Cole's public and private personas, and examine the 1957 demise of his groundbreaking national television series and his complex relationship with America's civil rights movement. The first African American entertainer to host a national television show, Cole gained critical acclaim for his series, projecting a sophisticated on-air persona during an era when most African Americans on television were depicted as caricatures. Yet off-stage, Cole was often criticized by civil rights leaders for his perceived lack of action. Playwright Colman Domingo, composer Justin Levine, and director Patricia McGregor's multi-dimensional production will weave Cole's personal story into larger social narratives surrounding race, identity, and creativity in America. The cast will include award-winning Broadway actor Daniel Breaker as Cole. A combination of live piano quartet, pre-recorded tracks, and monophonic archive sound will create a lively soundscape mirroring the original 1950s broadcast and Cole's musical roots.

Additional unrestricted funds are added to each grant for general operating support.