The Public Theater and Elevator Repair Service's already-extended Off-Broadway run of Baldwin and Buckley at Cambridge officially opens October 2 after beginning performances September 24 at the Public's Anspacher Theater. Conceived by Greig Sargeant with Elevator Repair Service and directed by John Collins, the production will continue through October 23.
Sargeant stars as James Baldwin, opposite Daphne Gaines as Lorraine Hansberry, Gavin Price as Mr. Heycock, Christopher-Rashee Stevenson as Mr. Burford, and Ben Jalosa Williams as William F. Buckley, Jr. Stephanie Weeks will succeed Gaines as Lorraine Hansberry from October 18, and Matthew Russell will play Mr. Heycock for select performances.
The work recreates an infamous 1965 debate between Black writer James Baldwin and staunch conservative William F. Buckley, Jr., ending with an imagined scene between Baldwin and A Raisin in the Sun (currently being revived at the Public) playwright Lorraine Hansberry, researched and written by April Matthis and Sargeant.
The production features scenic consulting by dots, costume design by Jessica Jahn, lighting design by Alan C. Edwards, sound design by Ben Jalosa Williams, and wig design by Earon Chew Nealey. Maurina Lioce is production stage manager, and Jack Ford is stage manager.
"With The Public Theater’s strong commitment to social justice, its supportive community, and its engaged and adventurous audiences, I cannot imagine a better home for this piece," said Sargeant in an earlier statement. "Recreating such a powerful debate for a modern audience is deeply fulfilling for me personally, and I am both thrilled and humbled to give voice to the words of Mr. James Baldwin."
"The words of James Baldwin are as urgent and moving today as they have ever been,” added Collins, director of the production and artistic director of Elevator Repair Service. "This debate staged for a live audience not only delivers those powerful ideas, but also reminds us of the all-too-familiar counterarguments of William F. Buckley, arguments that still find sympathy among today’s conservatives."
The production is the latest collaboration between The Public and ERS, with past productions including Gatz, Arguendo, and The Sound and the Fury.