The first line you’ll hear when noted actor LeLand Gantt brings his inspirational life story to the Gracie Theatre on Friday, February 24, 2023 at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., in celebration of Black History Month is, “I just want to start a conversation.”
“Rhapsody in Black,” is a one-man show written and performed by Gantt. Directed by Estelle Parsons, the woman who played Roseanne’s mother on the award-winning sitcom “Roseanne,” the play explores Gantt’s personal journey as he works to understand and eventually transcend racism in America. A one-hour, abbreviated version of the play will be performed at 11 a.m. and is open to members of the Husson campus community as well as the general public at a reduced rate. The complete version of the play is open to the general public at 7 p.m. that evening.
The performance is a journey through Gantt’s life as he explores issues of racism. This includes being a child in a rough neighborhood, as a member of a financially distressed family living in working-class McKeesport, Pennsylvania; to becoming a teenager experimenting with crime and drugs. Later the audience will see portrayals of Gantt’s life as he finds success through scholastic achievement and career fulfillment as an actor.
As part of this journey, the audience will come to better understand what it means to be “the only African-American in the room.” “Rhapsody in Black” recounts with authenticity and integrity, and in remarkably exquisite detail, the trials and tribulations Gantt experienced over the course of his life – challenges that left lasting impressions that he continues to carry with him today. Gantt has won critical praise for the charming, self-deprecatingly funny, and passionate ways he confronts heavy issues.
“In the show, you first meet me as a 9 or 10-year-old kid who’s seen people get shot and die. This younger version of me thinks life is cheap,” said Gantt. “When I go to other neighborhoods and see grass and yards, you’ll see me steal flowers out of those yards to give to my mother.”
Gantt continued: “This show reaffirms humanity. It deals with survival, racism, identity, and the psycho-emotional effects of growing up as a young Black man living in America. Everyone has issues and racism is affecting everyone. I just want to start a conversation and talk about how we are more the same than we are different.”