PITTSBURGH—“Kings of Harlem,” presented by New Horizon Theater, Inc., came alive on the Kelly Strayhorn stage, Oct. 14-16, with an engaging, flawless performance that was inspired by the 1939 Harlem Rens (Renaissance) basketball team.
Excellent portrayals occurred of the story of seven men who overcame adversity to win more than 2,000 games while barnstorming throughout segregated parts of the country in the 1930s despite never being officially accepted professionally or socially by the White media or society. The Harlem Renaissance Big Five was one of the most successful renowned all-Black professional basketball team in the 1920s and ‘30s that added grace and style to the game of basketball.
The team was formed five years before the Harlem Globetrotters and provided African American men the opportunity to compete against White athletes equally on the court.
The Rens got their name from playing at the Renaissance Casino ballroom in Harlem, N.Y., where they amazed fans with their innovative and unique style of play. They toured the country competing against Black and White teams, and in the process, compiled the most impressive winning streak in Basketball history. In 1963, the entire team was inducted into the Professional Basketball Hall of Fame.
Author and director Layon Gray followed the success of his play, “Black Angels Over Tuskegee,” the story of the Tuskegee Airmen now in its 6th year Off-Broadway, with this play. Both plays were produced by New Horizon Theater, Inc.
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