Juneteenth on Broadway: What events are happening in NYC?

Here’s how you can honor Juneteenth on Broadway.

Photo credit: Restart Stages (Photo by Ceylan A. Sahin Eker)

Juneteenth is a holiday that acknowledges and honors the emancipation of enslaved people across the United States. Also called Freedom Day, Jubilee Day, Liberation Day, and Emancipation Day, Juneteenth is commemorated on the date June 19, 1865, where slaves were declared free. Juneteenth is typically celebrated on the third Saturday of June, which for 2021 is June 19.

Although Juneteenth is not recognised as a national holiday, Juneteenth will be a New York state holiday for the first time in 2021, allowing all communities to celebrate together.

To mark Juneteenth on Broadway in 2021, live events featuring Black performers will take place across New York City. But it's not just on Juneteenth that stories of Black people will take center stage. In upcoming Broadway seasons, Black playwrights will make their Broadway debuts, as well as acclaimed plays returning to the city. Here’s how Broadway is commemorating Juneteenth in 2021.

Broadway Celebrates Juneteenth

The Broadway League will present their inaugural Juneteenth-themed concert: Broadway Celebrates Juneteenth. The exact line-up is to be announced, but Ben Vereen and Lilias White will star, as well as cast members from Girl From the North Country, The Lion King, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, and the upcoming Broadway play Thoughts of a Colored Man.

Steve H Broadnax III will direct Broadway Celebrates Juneteenth, and Broadnax will  make his Broadway debut directing Thoughts of a Colored Man at the Golden Theatre. The event will feature music direction is by Daryl Waters, with Nzinga Williams as General Manager and Cody Renard Richard as Stage Manager.

“This will be the first year that Juneteenth will be an official holiday in New York State.” said Broadway League President Charlotte St. Martin. Speaking about the Juneteenth concert, she said: “[The Broadway League] are proud to be honoring and celebrating this important day together as a community. We will be reflecting on the incredible contributions that the Black members of our community have made and continue to contribute to Broadway… we welcome this opportunity to join together in looking forward to a better Broadway, one that comes back stronger, more diverse, more equitable, more inclusive, and more united.”

Broadway Celebrates Juneteenth will take place in Times Square from 12-1:30pm on June 19.

Juneteenth at Lincoln Center of the Performing Arts

As part of Restart Stages at Lincoln Center of the Performing Arts, two Juneteenth events have been scheduled. Read more about Restart Stages here. 

On the morning of June 19, Concerts for Kids will present Coming Together, a musical celebration of Black joy. Torya Beard directs the event, featuring DJ Justin Johnston, choreographer Brian Harlan Brooks, as well as poets and dancers for an exploration of family connection to unite all. Coming Together lottery tickets are available now.

Later on June 19, the Juneteenth emancipation will be honored in I Dream a Dream that Dreams Back at Me. Conceived and curated by poet and artist Carl Hancock Rux, the site-specific event will include a deconstructed National Anthem and original music and lyrics by Lynn Nottage, culminating in a full-length concert by Toshi Reagon and BIGLovely. I Dream a Dream that Dreams Back at Me lottery tickets are available now. 

The Shed

The New York venue The Shed will mark Juneteenth in 2021 with a revival of Troy Anthony's The Revival: It's Our Duty. Anthony stars in the production, celebrating his ancestors and Black communities in decades gone by. Music is provided by a community choir and band. In a previous statement, Anthony said: This is a space for anger and rage. This is a space for grief. This is a space for you to sit and be reminded that we have access to the strength and radical joy necessary to make it through this moment. The Revival won’t take away pain; it is a manifesto of community power that will shake us and help us see each other in new ways. It will ask us to commit ourselves to the collective path forward. We will sing. We will shout. We will dance. We will rise together. We will be changed.”

The 2020 Antonyo Awards

In 2020, the Antonyo Awards were founded, recognizing Black artists and creatives across New York productions. Details on a 2021 Antonyo Awards ceremony are to be announced, but you can relive the excitement of live theatre coming back with the award-winning performances.

Winners included Audra McDonald in Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune, Adrienne Warren in Tina: The Tina Turner Musical and Celia Rose Gooding in Jagged Little PillRead more about the 2020 Antonyo Awards here

Look forward to Black stories on Broadway

Broadway theatres are gearing up for reopening at full capacity this fall, with many new works by Black playwrights receiving their Broadway premiere in 2021. Check out when all Broadway shows are opening in 2021 here. 

Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu’s Pass Over will begin performances at the August Wilson Theatre from August 4, following young Black men dreaming of a promised land. Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s solo play Lackawanna Blues receives its Broadway premiere from September 14, dramatising his childhood upbringing with Miss Rachel, his nanny.

Over at the Golden Theatre from October, Keenan Scott II’s play Thoughts of a Colored Man sees seven men share their hopes and fears of modern-day society. But, it’s not just modern-day tales opening on Broadway. Caroline, or Change, the story of an African-American maid in 1960s Louisiana, is at Studio 54 from October 7. Alice Childress’ Trouble in Mind heads to Broadway too too, exploring racism in American theatre over recent decades.

Upcoming shows to look forward to include Paradise Square at the Barrymore Theatre in spring 2022 and Dominique Morisseau's Skeleton Crew at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre, which starts performances in December 2021.

Photo credit: Restart Stages (Photo by Ceylan A. Sahin Eker)