Tuskegee Angels Fly Over New York City

6 Jun

What gift do you give to the filmmaker who has everything? Tickets to a play! For my birthday, my cousin Lise took me to see Black Angels Over Tuskegee, a wonderful off-Broadway gem written, directed and produced by Layon Gray.

l to r: Lise Kelson, Layon Gray, Olu Gittens

There’s something about the Tuskegee Airmen, the black World War II fighter pilots who broke ground as the first African-American pilots in U.S. military history, that continues to inspire.  The dapper brothers with side parts and bomber jackets have become iconic, and a number of documentaries, including the Cable ACE Award-nominated Lonely Eagles: Airmen of Tuskegee, produced by Nicole Sylvester (co-producer of Oh Gee Productions’ BABY OF THE FAMILY) have conveyed their fighter spirit and military accomplishment against a segregated backdrop. But it was after seeing HBO’s narrative film The Tuskegee Airmen starring Laurence Fishburne that thespian Gray was moved to create an expression of their story for the stage.

With a narrator and a cast of six pilots and a sergeant  loosely based on the cumulative stores of many, Black Angels reveals the brotherhood, determination,  and fighter spirit that defined these great airmen. Each character speaks in his own unique voice, and the play’s rhythms and sensibilities vividly recall the “last great generation” era. Gray and the Black Gents of Hollywood theater ensemble brought Black Angels to New York City from Los Angeles along with several awards  in tow, including the NAACP Image Award. The play, which features Lamman Rucker of Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married as one of the pilots, has since won an AUDELCO Award here in New York.

This is a story for the ages. Don’t walk – RUN – to see Black Angels Over Tuskegee.

Actors’ Temple Theatre, 339 W. 47th St nr. Ninth Ave, NYC








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