Most of us are familiar with the story of legendary contralto Marian Anderson’s pivotal role in civil rights history. In 1939, Anderson was denied the opportunity to sing at Constitution Hall in Washington, DC by the Daughters of the American Revolution because of a “white-artist-only clause printed in every contract.” As a result, Anderson, instead, performed for 75,000 people on a stage built over the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. This moment made Anderson one of the most important figures in performing artists’ struggles to overcome racial prejudice.
Perhaps what’s lesser known is that two years before that incident, Marian Anderson faced similar racial discrimination in Princeton, New Jersey in an situation in which Nobel Prize-winning physicist Albert Einstein played a significant role. The details of this event are the subject of the staged reading of My Lord, What a Night, presented by Premiere Stages at Kean University on November 13-15.
The reading, written by playwright and librettist Deborah Brevoort and directed by Kel Haney, chronicles the the night Anderson gave a concert in Princeton, NJ. After the concert, she was denied a room at the Nassau Inn. Albert Einstein, an ardent supporter of Black civil rights, invited Anderson to stay at his home. An act of racial discrimination that could have torn apart a community instead galvanized a relationship between Anderson and Einstein that lasted until his death in 1955.
Brevoort is best known for her play The Women of Lockerbie, which won the silver medal in the Onassis international playwriting competition. She is a two-time winner of the Frederick Loewe Award in musical theatre for King Island Christmas with David Friedman and Coyote Goes Salmon Fishing with Scott Richards.
My Lord! What a Night will be performed at the Kean University Center Little Theatre. Admission is free but tickets may be reserved here.