ABOVE PHOTO: Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj (Photo: rajendramaharaj.com)
New Freedom Theatre is pleased to announce the appointment of Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj as its new Artistic Director. Maharaj, who had served as Guest Artistic Director last season, is only the fourth full-time artistic director in the company’s fifty year history, following foundr John E. Allen, Jr., Robert E. Leslie and Walter Dallas.
An award-winning artist, activist and educator, Rajendra Ramoon Maharaj received his professional start over fifteen years ago at Freedom Theatre. As a playwright, his documentary-style political work deals with American history and events tied to the African American narrative, including The Ballad of Trayvon Martin which New Freedom Theatre produced last summer to great acclaim. He founded Rebel Theatre Company in 2010 in New York City and Voices at the River at Arkansas Repertory Theatre, designed to support African American and Latino playwrights nationally and in Arkansas. Winner of a Barrymore Award for Outstanding Ensemble for his production of Little Rock at Passage Theatre last year, he has also directed or choreographed works at The Public Theatre, Classical Theater of Harlem, Goodman Theatre, Signature Stage, Syracuse Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Crossroad Theatre, and Portland Stage Company.
The recipient of the Woodie King Jr. Award for Outstanding Direction and four Vivian Robinson AUDELCO awards for his direction and choreography. Maharaj also received a nomination for the New York Innovative Theater Award and S.A.L.T award nomination for Director of the Year. He has held artistic residencies with Alliance Theatre, Kennedy Center, Crossroads Theatre, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Amas Musical Theatre and Nuyorican Poets Cafe. A member of the Theatre Philadelphia Board of Directors, Maharaj is an alumnus of Lincoln Center Directors Lab and TCG Young Leaders of Color in the American Theater.
“We are delighted to Rajendra on board to lead New Freedom Theatre into the next half century. His eclectic theater background as a playwright, director and choreographer combined with his passionate vision of theater as a platform for social justice will ensure New Freedom Theatre’s place as a major regional and national cultural treasure,” said Derek Hargreaves, President of the Board of Directors of New Freedom Theatre.
“My first professional job was a Freedom Theater – directing a new musical by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage. I have always considered this to be my artistic birthplace and one of the most vital regional theaters in the country,” said Maharaj.
Founded in 1966 by the late John E. Allen, Jr., New Freedom Theatre is Pennsylvania’s oldest African American theater, and one of only five in the nation whose mission supports the African American dramatic arts, producing both new and established plays. Recently New Freedom Theatre instituted free community events including the Edwin Forrest Reading Series, a monthly series showcasing lost African American plays and subject matter, and Freedom Speaks modelled after the Harlem Renaissance Salons and featuring diverse voices discussing how the arts can relate to issues affecting the neighboring community. New Freedom Theatre is housed in the historic Edwin Forrest Mansion at Broad and Master Streets.
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