Photo by Ruth Morgan
Producing Artistic Director Classical Theatre of Harlem (1999- )
“We are out to entertain diverse audiences who desire to be highly engaged emotionally and highly satisfied intellectually by productions that are anchored in the context of the African Diaspora.”
Ty Jones, named ‘One of 25 to Watch’ by Time Out Magazine, has received the OBIE, LADCC, and AUDELCO awards forwork on Broadway, Off-Broadway, in Regional Theater and on film and in television. He is also the artistic and institutional visionary for the Classical Theatre of Harlem.
The Classical Theatre of Harlem (CTH), a professional theater company founded in 1999 at the Harlem School of the Arts, remains the only year round theater company operating on an AEA LORT (Actors’ Equity Association/The League of Resident Theatres) contract in Harlem. Says Jones, who was then on the board of CTH, “In 2009 we had sort of a perfect storm of events. We had the financial meltdown—foundations were pulling back—and then we had a vacuum of leadership. But we decided that the brand was worth saving and we kept moving.” He emerged as Producing Artistic Director.
Named ‘1 of 8 Theatres to Watch in America’ by The Drama League, CTH has mounted more than 40 productions since its founding, including Ain’t Supposed To Die A Natural Death, The Blacks: A Clown Show, Dutchman, Detroit ‘67, Trojan Women, Waiting for Godot, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Henry V, Macbeth, and others for which the company has received numerous award nominations, including American Theater Wing, Lucille Lortel, OBIE, Drama Desk and Edwin Booth, and over 70 AUDELCO nominations and 18 AUDELCO Awards for Excellence in Black Theatre.
CTH offers year-round programming. In the springtime the company presents shows that, according to Jones, “may really tick you off, but without question you will not leave indifferent in any way.” The summer show is outdoors and family-friendly. Says Jones, “We have up to 10,000 people who come see that show, which is an opportunity for us to partner with local businesses and also cultivate potential donors.” Jones continues, “Virtually every regional theater does a Christmas show, and the revenue from that funds much of their programming for the next year. I believe that one day with the right partnerships and funding we could have another destination presentation of a holiday show right in Harlem and that’s what we’re creating right now.”
Classical Theatre of Harlem is one of the arts organizations to be located in the historic Victoria Theater on 125th Street, along with Jazzmobile, Harlem Arts Alliance, and the Apollo Theater Foundation.