Tuesday, April 16, 2013 at 7:30pm
Alice Childress's Wedding Band

155 Freeman Street, Brooklyn

Wedding Band
Written by Alice Childress
Directed by Joseph Papp
Video, 105 mins, 1974
Introduced by Hilton Als

In 1957 the theater impresario Joseph Papp realized the first part of a many-tiered dream: to establish free productions of Shakespeare in Central Park. Papp's open to all aesthetic extended to the stages he built in Manhattan's old Astor Library, on Lafayette Street, too. Called the Public Theater, it was, from the time it opened its doors in 1967, a home where actors and writers could try things out without certain commercial pressures. At the Public, artists ranging from Meryl Streep to Ntozake Shange learned their craft while garnering acclaim. But Papp's work as a producer has overshadowed his fine work as a director. In 1974, when television and pre-pay-view experiments like the American Film Theatre were trying to further democratize theater by bringing filmed projects to TV and the screen, Papp directed, for ABC, a version of Alice Childress's play Wedding Band: A Love/Hate Story in Black and White. Starring Ruby Dee and Eileen Heckart, Wedding Band is a story of miscegenation in World War I South Carolina. Dee's portrayal of the lonely, stalwart, and melancholy Julia—a role she originated in the 1972 Public Theater production—is the finest work she'd done since appearing in Joseph Strick's film version of another great play, Jean Genet's The Balcony. Part of the brilliance of the script is Childress's refusal to take sides; no one in this story is right in their love, or wrong. But what makes it particularly interesting from a cinematic point of view is how Papp tries to work within the conventions of the theater—the piece is very actor-centered—as he explores how the camera's eye can change the spectator's focus. - HA

Hilton Als is a staff writer for the New Yorker. His work also appears in The New York Review of Books. His new book, White Girls, will be out from McSweeney's in the fall.

Tickets - $7, available at door.

Please note: seating is limited. First-come, first-served. Box office opens at 7pm.