Upcoming Productions

In 1971, 28-year-old poet Nikki Giovanni interviewed renowned novelist James Baldwin, 47, on America’s first “Black Tonight Show,” SOUL! Fifty years later, Lessons in Survival: 1971 reintroduces their candid, provocative dialogue on race and liberation in America to our present moment. Building on the digital exploration of Lessons in Survival, which was recognized by The New York Times as Best in Theater 2020, this revelatory live staging explores the layers of intimacy and ideas between two Black revolutionary artists of different generations, with astonishing resonance for today.

Carl Clemons-Hopkins (Emmy Award nominee, Marcus on HBO’s “Hacks”) and Crystal Dickinson (Theater World Award winner, Clybourne Park) portray James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni.

Live Commissary Night – Monday, June 27 (Free)

performance calendar





This program is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature; and Venturous Theater Fund, a fund of Tides Foundation.

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Lessons in Survival: 1971

May 31 - June 30

Created with The Commissary
Based on Nikki Giovanni's interview with James Baldwin for WNET’s television series SOUL!
Directed by Tyler Thomas

In 1971, 28-year-old poet Nikki Giovanni interviewed renowned novelist James Baldwin, 47, on America’s first “Black Tonight Show,” SOUL! Fifty years later, Lessons in Survival: 1971 reintroduces their candid, provocative dialogue on race and liberation in America to our present moment. Building on the digital exploration of Lessons in Survival, which was recognized by The New York Times as Best in Theater 2020, this revelatory live staging explores the layers of intimacy and ideas between two Black revolutionary artists of different generations, with astonishing resonance for today.

Carl Clemons-Hopkins (Emmy Award nominee, Marcus on HBO's "Hacks") and Crystal Dickinson (Theater World Award winner, Clybourne Park) portray James Baldwin and Nikki Giovanni.

Live Commissary Night - Monday, June 27 (Free)

performance calendar

This program is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature; and Venturous Theater Fund, a fund of Tides Foundation.

Carl Clemons-Hopkins

Carl Clemons-Hopkins gained national popularity with their breakout performance as Marcus on HBO Max’s "Hacks" opposite Jean Smart. Carl’s performance earned them an Emmy nomination in the “Outstanding Supporting Actor In a Comedy Series” category. Season two of the acclaimed series debuts on May 12th on HBO Max. On the big screen, Carl can be seen in Jordan Peele’s Candyman for Universal. They recently wrapped filming Kristin Gore’s film, The Beanie Bubble for Apple TV+. Carl concluded 2021 with filming Zach Braff's produced independent film, The Mattachine Family. Other credits include a recurring role on NBC’s "Chicago Med." On stage, Carl has performed in the Chicago production of Hamilton as Aaron Burr and George Washington and made his Steppenwolf Theatre premiere in For the Last Time.

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Crystal Dickinson

Crystal Dickinson is an actor, educator and a New Jersey Native. Her Broadway credits include in the Tony Award Winning Play, Clybourne Park, for which she received an illustrious Theater World Award, and Tony Nominated Play, You Can't Take it With You, alongside James Earl Jones and Rose Byrne. She has also performed Off Broadway at Lincoln Center, The Public Theater, Playwrights Horizons and The Signature Theater, Theater for a New Audience and most recently Cullud Wattah at The Public Theater. She has worked with Thomas Kail, Micheal Grief, Scott Ellis, Bryan Cranston, Wendell Pierce, Pam Mackinnon, Lila Neugebauer, Leigh Silverman and Kenny Leon. Film and Television credits include: "I Origins," "This Is Where I Leave You," "The Good Wife," "New Amsterdam," a recurring roles on Showtime’s "The Chi" and ABC's "For Life." Crystal has also has an illustrious career teaching acting and coaching at Julliard, Stella Adler Studio, Spelman College, NYU, Princeton, Pace University and both of her Alumni schools, University of Illinois and Seton Hall University. A proud MFA graduate of The University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana, she also studied at the London Academy for Music and Dramatic Art and is an elite member of the Lincoln Center Directors Lab.

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