The African Company Presents Richard III

New York City, 1821. 40 years before the Civil War, William Henry Brown, a free black American, organizes a production of Shakespeare’s Richard III for a predominantly black audience. But in doing so, Brown challenges the leading producer of New York City, Stephen Price, who has secured the famous English actor Junius Brutus Booth to play Richard III at his Park Theatre. As Brown fights for the right of his company to present Shakespeare, his African Grove Theatre Company fights within their ranks, questioning the appropriation of English drama for African-American actors and the racial implications of such a move. Based on the true story of the first African-American theatre company, Carlyle Brown’s The African Company Presents Richard III carries a timeless message of negotiating racial consciousness in theatre that still resonates for actors and audiences today.

Published by Dramatists Play Service

Cast & Crew

first presented at Penumbra Theatre in February 1988

Written by Carlyle Brown
Directed by Lou Bellamy


James Harris as Stephen Price
Bernadette Suyllivan as Hannah Price
Rebecca Rice as Sarah
Faye M. Price as Ann Johnson
Terry Bellamy as James Hewlett
Marion McClinton as Papa Shakespeare
James A. Williams as William Henry Brown
Mike McQuiston as The Constable-Man


Set and lighting design by Ken Evans
Costume design by Deidrea Whitlock
Sound design by Ben James

Subsequently presented by Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., December 9, 1992

Written by Carlyle Brown
Directed by Tazewell Thompson


Jed Diamond as Stephen Price
LaDonna Mabry as Sarah
Gail Grate as Ann Johnson
Leon Addison Brown as James Hewlett
Wendell Wright as Papa Shakespeare
Jonathan Earl Peck as William Henry Brown
David Marks as The Constable-Man
Ed Eaton as a Member of the Constabulary
Paul Niebanck as a Member of the Constabulary


Set design by Douglas Stein
Costume design by Paul Tazewell
Lighting Design by Allen Lee Hughes
Sound design by Susan R. White
Stage manager: Wendy Streeter