The Classical Theatre of Harlem has painted a portrait of excellence with their presentation of "The Three Musketeers."
For 90 minutes, Marcus Garvey Park is filled with romance, sword-playing, and vivid costuming. The audience absorbs moments of swirling romances, combative scenes, and impeccable dance moves as the story of the courageous d’Artagnan (played by Miriam A. Hyman) unfolds.
The Classical Theatre of Harlem adds a modern and edgy spin to the Alexandre Dumas’ classic but leaves an empowering message. The production, which concludes Sunday July 30, demonstrates that with strength, courage, responsibility, and sensibility, we shall overcome as a unit.
NBCBLK spoke with Ty Jones, The Classical Theatre of Harlem’s Producing Artistic Director and Choreographer Tiffany Rea- Fisher about the show. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
NBCBLK: What was the production process like for the play?
Ty Jones: First, when I choose a play, I choose it based on what’s going on in the world. Last year, we did the Macbeth play and I think it’s Shakespeare's most politically significant play and we’re living politically significant times. Then the election happened and I think things shifted dramatically.
I will say this about Trump’s election; the conditions were set a long time ago to allow someone like him be elected so it wasn’t a surprise. But, I think the climate in which we live in today, I don’t think it’s about electing Republicans or Democrats, it’s the 'have and have nots.' And the great thing about "The Three Musketeers," it’s about these guys who are from different backgrounds.
The guys said we must come together to work. We must find some sort of census, some sort of strategy to defeat the evil worshipper. When we say, “All for one and one for all, it’s appropriate in today’s world.”
How did you select the cast for the off-off Broadway play?
Ty Jones: It’s the normal process. We break down the characters and we submit them on our social media outlets. Folks will visit those sites and see what they’re right for and audition. Sometimes, you can go to agencies and bring people within those agencies but that’s the process.
But, the cool thing about it is bringing Tiffany Rea-Fisher who is the choreographer of the play and a member of Elisa Monte Dance Company. I believe in dance, theater, and music and bringing those elements together. And so, when I brought Tiffany, she comes in and has a certain perspective about the play. We integrated her ideas as well.
Tiffany Rea-Fisher: It was wonderful. It was my second time working with Ty and The Classical Theatre of Harlem. I really love the reasons he picked the play. And I think picking a play written by a black man is not common knowledge. I think bringing the play to Harlem was extraordinary. I think the play pushes theater into a different light.
Why did you decide to have the production at Marcus Garvey Park?
Ty Jones: There’s Shakespeare in the Park and I wanted an Uptown Shakespeare in the Park. That’s what we were going for and it’s our fifth year. We have petitioned the parks and it’s a long process. It’s going to take some time before we can deliver the kinds of things that would allow us to have a permanence here like they do downtown.
How did you make the play relatable to African-Americans in 2017?
Ty Jones: Well, Alexandre Dumas is French but is also of Haitian descent. We borrowed from the diaspora and blended it together to present what we think is highly entertaining and intellectually piece of theater.
I think people will walk away having discussions about the play and they will have great artistry. But, I think when you create great dialogue and discussion after a play, you’ve done something special.
What were some disadvantages and advantages you’ve experienced while completing the play?
Ty Jones: Raising funds, trying to create a first-class quality production, and incorporating all the other elements. For example, lighting, sound, creating the set, designers; it’s just a huge operation.
It’s a financial challenge but our job is to enroll people through the arts. We want people to say our work matters and we want you around for a long time.
What do you want viewers to leave with after watching 'The Three Musketeers'?
Ty Jones: It’s for “All for One and One for All.”
Tiffany Rea-Fisher: I want to tell people that this could be you; I think seeing people that look like you do extraordinary things on a sacred platform is key. I’m getting a great production for free. The staff is willing to bring great art to NYC.
It’s free, it’s for the people! It’s a great way to experience your culture and see black bodies in dance, acting, and music.