The Slave Who Loved Caviar

By Ishmael Reed
Directed by Carla Blank
December 23 – January 9
Dec 23, 2021 - Jan 9, 2022, Thu, Fri, Sat @ 8 PM, Sun @ 3 PM



December 23, 2021 to January 9, 2022
Theater for the New City, 155 First Ave.

Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8:00 PM; Sundays at 3:00 PM
(Yes, there will be performances Xmas Eve & Day and New Year’s Eve & Day.)
Runs 2 hours including intermission.
Tickets $15.00

Critics are invited on or after Dec. 23 (opening date).

NEW YORK, November 20 — Playwright Ishmael Reed uses satire to explore aspects of American culture and history overlooked by others. His newest play, “The Slave Who Loved Caviar” is a theatrical investigation into the relationship between Jean-Michel Basquiat and the art world. It challenges the widespread notion that Basquiat was merely Andy Warhol’s “mascot.” Theater for the New City will present its world premiere December 23, 2021 to January 9, 2022, directed by Reed’s frequent collaborator, Carla Blank.

Basquiat’s legacy has been intricately entwined with Warhol’s since their collaborations in the mid-1980s. At that time, Warhol was an arts world insider and “elder statesman.” Basquiat was an edgy talent rising from the graffiti scene. They collaborated intensely in 1984 and 1985, with Warhol assuming an almost parental role in Basquiat’s life. Basquiat’s father was born in Haiti; his mother was born in Brooklyn to parents of Puerto Rican descent. Jean-Michel became a graffiti artist, pop icon, musician and neo-expressionist painter. He unified street art with painting, bridging modes that were historically considered high and low art. Warhol’s studio assistant, Ronny Cutrone, remembered, “It was like some crazy-art world marriage and they were the odd couple. The relationship was symbiotic. Jean-Michel thought he needed Andy’s fame, and Andy thought he needed Jean-Michel’s new blood. Jean-Michel gave Andy a rebellious image again.”

L-R: Robert Turner as Abstractionist artist Jack Brooks, Raul Diaz as the vampire Baron De Whit, Roslyn Fox as Chief of Detectives Mary Van Helsing. Photo by Jonathan Slaff.

 Ishmael Reed is author of twelve novels, nine collections of  essays, fifteen anthologies of criticism and ten plays of  which this is the latest. The New Yorker has labeled him “America’s most fearless satirist” and his exposés often attract bitter criticism.  A firestorm of comments, often  ferocious, appeared in The New York Times and Broadway World in response to his “The Haunting of Lin-Manuel Miranda” (Nuyorican Poets Cafe, 2019), which deconstructed the Broadway play’s abolitionist portrayal of the founding father with incisive, impeccably-researched satire.  The play portrayed a naive, defensive Miranda awakening to the sins of the Founding Fathers.  Writing in The New York Times, Elizabeth Vincentelli characterized it as “classic activist theater” and “a cross between ‘A Christmas Carol’ and a trial at The Hague’s International Criminal Court.”  Reed’s eighth play, “Life Among the Aryans” (Nuyorican Poets Cafe, 2018), envisioned a future when the downtrodden denizens of the Alt Right realize they’d be better off if they were Black.  His latest anthology, “Bigotry on Broadway,” co-edited with Carla Blank, was published this fall by Baraka Books.  His best-known novel, “Mumbo Jumbo” (1972), was cited by Harold Bloom as one of the 500 great books in the Western Canon.  His newest poetry collection, “Why the Black Hole Sings the Blues: Poems 2007-2020,” was released from Dalkey Archive Press in November 2020.  He is also a publisher, songwriter, cartoonist, public media commentator, lecturer, teacher, and founder of the Before Columbus Foundation and PEN Oakland, non-profit organizations run by writers for writers.

Carla Blank is a director, dramaturge, writer and editor. After debuting as a dancer and choreographer as part of the Judson Dance Theater Workshop performances in the 1960s, she devoted a portion of her life to working with youth to aged adults in community arts projects.  The performance arts handbook, “Live On Stage!,” that evolved out of this work was adopted in school districts throughout the US and Canada. From 2003-2012 she directed productions of Wajahat Ali’s “The Domestic Crusaders.” A collaboration with director Robert Wilson, “KOOL- Dancing in my Mind,” an homage for Japanese choreographer Suzushi Hanayagi, premiered at NYC’s Guggenheim Museum in April 2009. She directed “News from Fukushima,” a multimedia performance work by Yuri Kageyama, at La MaMa in 2015 and Z Space in San Francisco in 2017. A documentary film of the 2017 performance is receiving international acclaim. She directed Ishmael Reed’s “Mother Hubbard” in Xiangtan, China in 2016.
Rome Neal, Director of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, is Production Coordinator

Video production is by Zohair Zaidi
Set designer is Mark Marcante
Assistant Set Designer is Lytza Colon
Lighting Designer is Alexander Bartenieff
Costume Designer is Diana Adelman
Projection Designer is Miles Shebar
Stage Manager is Michael Durgavich
Original music is composed and performed by Ishmael Reed

Jesse Bueno
Maurice Carlton
Raul Diaz
Roz Fox
Laura Robards
Monisha Shiva
Brian Simmons
Robert Turner
With understudies Daniel Lugo and Kenya Wilson

COVID Protocol and Etiquette:
As of August 17 2021, people 12 and older are required to show proof they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized for emergency use by the FDA or WHO.
Proof of vaccination may include the NYC Vaccination Record, CDC Vaccination Card (or photo), Excelsior Pass or NYC COVID Safe App.

All patrons must be vaccinated in order to see shows. Please provide proof before purchasing tickets.
Everyone must wear a face mask for entry into the theater or when moving around.