Scene from Asinamali
Photograph by Pam Frank
NEW HERITAGE THEATRE GROUP
1964-present | 35 East 125th Street, moved to 290 Lenox Avenue at 125th St,
presently at 253 West 138th Street, Strivers Row
New Heritage serves as an oasis for Black creativity and contributes to the cultural fiber of the Black experience.
For more than forty years, New Heritage Theatre Group, founded by Roger Furman in 1964 as New Heritage Repertory Theatre, has been a leading institution for creating, developing and nurturing Black actors, directors, designers, playwrights, musicians and technicians. Also, the theater has provided a professional environment for Blacks and artists of color to develop, explore and practice their craft. Roger Furman, the consummate theater professional, was knowledgeable about all aspects of theater: playwriting, directing, producing, lighting, set and costume design and marketing. Roger was also a member of the American Negro Theater in the 1940’s and often used their standards to inspire New Heritage actors to buy into a partnership of sustainability for the theater. It wasn’t enough for the actors, directors and company members to learn their lines, direct the plays and oversee the productions. Everyone also had to commit to marketing and getting bodies into the theater seats.
Roger was the artistic visionary for the first twenty years of the theater’s existence and wrote and/or directed and produced the critically acclaimed plays, including White Shop and Ham Hocks, Madam Odum, An After Taste of Sherry, The Long Black Block, Four O’ Clock on a Rainy Afternoon, Midnight, Friday the 13th, Deadwood Dick, Legend of the West and Roshomon.
After Roger’s death in 1983, Voza Rivers, founding member and executive producer, with the assistance of Andre Robinson, Jr. Phyllis Yvonne Stickney, Shauneille Perry and Duma Ndlovu expanded Roger’s vision and produced works by South Africa’s award winning playwright/
director Mbongeni Ngema including Woza Albert!, Asinamali, Sarafina and Township Fever with Lincoln Center Theater and Abram Hill’s On Strivers Row.
In 1997, Jamal Joseph, playwright/director joined with Voza and reorganized the theater into several new divisions which include IMPACT Repertory Theatre for 12-18 year old students; New Heritage Films which produces documentaries and film shorts and Furman Theatre Repertory an ensemble group of artists, directors and playwrights focused on developing new works.
Roger’s motto for all guests who walked into his theater was, “Don’t Bring No Bad Vibes,” and the theater’s motto today is “Don’t Bring No Bad Vibes, Only Love and Understanding.”