From the Bahamas to Broadway: Sidney Poitier's Life Will Inspire a New Play

·3 min read
 Actor and film director Sidney Poitier, on September 15, 1980.
Actor and film director Sidney Poitier, on September 15, 1980.

He may be best known for his dynamic and pioneering work onscreen, but Sidney Poitier’s history-making journey to stardom began on the stage. Soon, the Bahamian-American actor-director’s inspiring life story will also take the stage, as Poitier has garnered his own biographical Broadway play.

Per Variety:

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In films like “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” and “In the Heat of the Night,” Poitier turned in powerful performances that electrified audiences. He also broke racial barriers as a leading man and top box office draw in the 1950s and 1960s, and became the first African American male to win an Oscar for best actor for his performance in “Lilies of the Field.” Though best known for his film work in front of the camera, Poitier also became a director making hits such as “Stir Crazy.” On stage, he appeared in the first production of “A Raisin in the Sun.”

Now, Poitier’s legendary life as a performer, director, and activist will be dramatized in a new Broadway play that will be written by Charles Randolph-Wright and directed by Tony Award winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson. Titled “Sidney,” the show will trace Poitier’s youth on Cat Island in the Bahamas to his rise to become one of the world’s biggest stars.

“Sir Sidney Poitier is clearly one of the greatest actors in the history of cinema. His integrity and standard of excellence set the bar for generations to come,” said Santiago-Hudson in a statement. The Tony winner’s own autobiographical work, Lackawanna Blues, came to Broadway this season with Santiago-Hudson as both star and director. “It is an honor to be a part of celebrating the incomparable Sidney Poitier’s monumental career in this play but also the man and his extraordinary life,” he added.

Fortuitously, the play, adapted from Poitier’s bestselling second memoir, The Measure of a Man: A Spiritual Autobiography, is being developed with the full support of his family, who personally selected Randolph-Wright and Santiago-Hudson to lead the production. Furthering that support will be filmmaker Anika Poitier, the fifth of the 94-year-old Poitier’s six daughters, who will produce alongside Ron Gillyard and Barry Krost. A debut date, cast and creative team for Sidney have yet to be announced.

In a statement, author-director Randolph-Wright, who penned the upcoming American Prophet: Frederick Douglass In His Own Words, shared an anecdote about the inimitable Poitier:

“The first time I met Sidney Poitier was decades ago when he saw a show I co-wrote and directed in Los Angeles. We went to dinner and I literally could not speak. He said to me, ‘If in any way I have inspired you, you have more than paid me back with what I saw this evening.’ I have held onto those words my entire career. And now to place his astonishing life on stage is the ultimate challenge and the ultimate joy. To have the trust of Mr. Poitier and his family is one of the greatest gifts I have been given – what an honor to get to dramatize the true measure of this monumental man. I look forward to the world discovering the astounding person that is behind one of our most prodigious heroes, a man who continues to inspire.”

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