EXCLUSIVE: Harry Lennix, AKA Agent Harold Cooper on NBC’s The Blacklist, has staged A Small Oak Tree Runs Red at off-Broadway’s Billie Holiday Theater, in previews, opening tomorrow and running through March 4.
The play had its premiere in 2016 in Chicago, where Chicago Tribune drama critic Chris Jones called it “an important new drama (that) looks racial violence right in the eye.” A Small Oak Tree originated at Chicago’s Congo Square Theater as part of its August Wilson New Play Initiative.
“A Small Oak Tree Runs Red is a specific story set within a specific time and place that has universal resonance, the persecution by powerful structures on a people who are marginalized,” says Lennix, whose CV in theater, television and film includes August Wilson’s Radio Golf. “Well-crafted theater can be cathartic, soul cleansing. A Small Oak addresses the wounds of our past and, hopefully, helps us move that much closer to a place of healing.”
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“Artists like Lennix, who are making their living in films and on television shows over which they have limited control, often choose plays in the theater that offer up the very challenges and fulfillment typically missing from their mainstream careers,” Jones wrote of the Chicago production. “Lennix is telling a story (and) if you can stomach the pain — (it’s) something important to see … Stomach it you should; it’s the same agony as on the news.”
A graduate of Northwestern University and a mainstay of the Chicago Theater scene, Lennix has directed the stage version of Robert Townsend’s The Five Heartbeats, which received three NAACP Theater Award nominations, and The Glass Menagerie for Steppenwolf Theater. He also starred in August Wilson’s King Hedley II at L.A.’s Mark Taper Forum. He was the first recipient of an Ollie Award for his portrayal of Malcolm X at the Goodman Theater in Chicago and two Joseph Jefferson Citations for roles in Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Caught in the Act. In 2001, he was part of the first American company to be invited to the Royal Shakespeare Company in the production of Cymbeline.
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