News: Last Week to See "Bethune: Our Black Velvet Rose," Celebrating Educator and Civil Rights Activist Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune

Richarda Abrams as Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune. Photo by Lia Chang.
Richarda Abrams's new play, Bethune: Our Black Velvet Rose, celebrates the life of world-renowned educator and civil rights activist Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune. It is currently in the final week of tis world premiere at NYC's Theaterlab.

Born in 1875 to former slaves, Bethune was denied the right to read as a young girl in the segregated Jim Crow South, but she persevered and became a world-renowned educator and a champion of civil rights and racial and gender equality. During her life, she acted as an advisor to several American Presidents, including Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and Harry S. Truman; was a successful businesswoman; and founded one of the first Historically Black Universities, Bethune-Cookman College in Florida. Recently, Bethune’s statue was unveiled in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall, replacing a Confederate statue.

What begins as a school class visit to Washington D.C. to the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall to see the famous statue of Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune turns into a college student getting more than she bargained for as Bethune’s statue comes to life and transports them both back through time to 1884 and beyond.

TLab Shares is hosting RPR Productions for the play's world premiere, which began on October 7th and runs through October 23rd. Abrams is an award-winning actor/playwright who previously performed her solo show First By Faith: The Life of Mary McLeod Bethune, which won numerous awards and had a sold-out run at the National Black Theatre Festival. Kathleen Brant, who is a member of the Playwright and Director Workshop at the Actors Studio, directs. Music direction is by Amina Claudine Myers. 
Charles Black, Samuel James Pygatt. Photo by Lia Chang.
The cast includes Richarda Abrams (4-time AUDELCO award-winner), Stephanie Anuwe (Between the Pages/Amazon), Charles Black (Vieux Carré, directed by Austin Pendleton), Bryan Hickey (Joseph Jefferson Award Nominee), Judy Jerome (27 Wagons Full of Cotton/St. Luke's Theatre), and Samuel James Pygatt (Graduate Actors Studio/Pace University).

The creative team includes lighting design by Duncan Davies, projection design by Anna Kiraly, costume design by Sally Lesser (3 Emmy Awards/One Life to Live), scenic/properties design by Harlan Penn (Netflix, Disney, Warner Bros), sound design by Jeanne Travis (New York Innovative Theatre Award Winner), stage combat coordination by Dan Renkin (Metropolitan Opera), and graphic design by M. Drue Williams. Production assistant Chamallie Singh.

Performances are Tuesday - Saturday at 7pm, Sunday October 9 and 16 at 2pm (followed by talkbacks), and Sunday, October 23 at 7pm. 

Performances take place at Theaterlab, 357 West 36th Street (between 8th and 9th avenues), 3rd Floor (elevator accessible), New York, NY 10018. Subways: 1, 2, 3, A, C, E to 34th Street. 

Tickets are $20 students/seniors, $30 general admission and are available at

Running time is 105 minutes with intermission. COVID 19: Boosters and KN95 masks are required to enter the venue. Masks will be available at the door. More info available at


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