Friday: Stephen C. Byrd, Pioneering Producer of Broadway Plays With multi-Ethnic Cast, Honored At Black Star News Awards


Stephen C. Byrd, Pioneering Producer

Inspired by the progressive ethnic fusion of Merchant and Ivory, the touchstone producing duo he idolized,  Stephen C. Byrd endeavored to shine the spotlight of diversity upon the Broadway stage.

Ignoring the naysayers, in 2008 Byrd and his partner, Alia M. Jones-Harvey mounted the first African-American Broadway production of Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, which became the highest-grossing play on Broadway that season – earning them a trophy case of awards including the prestigious Lawrence Olivier Award for Best Revival of a Play. Since then they have captivated both critics and audiences with their elegant literary adaptations of classic dramas featuring racially-inclusive casts.

Black Star Annual Awards: Please join us on December 18, 2015 at MIST Harlem at 46 W 116th St, New York, N.Y., 10026 from 6PM to 10PM when Stephen C. Byrd joins Mayor David Dinkins, Rep. Charles Rangel, Rep. Yvette Clarke, the Central Park 5 and others as one of this year’s Black Star News Annual Excellence Awards Dinner honoree.

Blazing new paths is nothing new for Byrd, who’s done so both in the boardrooms of Goldman Sachs and in the producer’s chair for a variety of forward-focused theater, film and television projects. He brings his financial acumen and exceptional management skills, developed over more than two decades of leadership in the global financial sector, to his role as founder and partner in Front Row Productions, Inc. His background makes him uniquely qualified to handle all aspects of production, from raising funds to procuring performance venues to hiring staff from the director to the public-relations specialist. Byrd recounts their recipe for success thusly: “We are granularly involved in every aspect of the production. We are creative producers from start to finish, the first producers of color to prevail upon the theatre world’s most incandescent stage.”

Byrd’s dual acumen has resulted in programming that’s met with both critical acclaim and financial success. Yet Byrd aspires to even greater ambitions, featuring groundbreaking inclusive casting along with racially-diverse production staffs. As the only full-time African American lead producers currently working on Broadway, Byrd and Jones-Harvey have transported a unique brand of diversity to New York – and beyond.  Byrd subsequently transferred the Production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof to London’s West End, where he replicated his success, becoming the only African-American producer (along with Jones-Harvey) ever to win the prestigious Olivier Award.

In 2012, Byrd and Jones-Harvey engaged with another classic, launching a multiracial production of A Streetcar Named Desire., The Play, which received radiant reviews and a Tony nomination, enjoyed an immensely successful run,  attracting large, diverse audiences to its performances, many of whom had never been to Broadway before. Byrd and Jones-Harvey also comprised the producing team for The Trip to Bountiful, the critically-acclaimed production which starred the legendary Cicely Tyson, who won Tony, Outer Critic’s Circle and Drama Desk awards for her heart-stirring performance. During its run the production played consistently to a crowded house..

Front Row has proven their immensely adaptative talents with such racially-inclusive remakes of the classics as Romeo and Juliet, directed by five-time Tony Award nominee David Leveaux. International film star Orlando Bloom made his Broadway debut alongside Tony Award nominee Condola Rashad as the star-crossed lovers in this version of Shakespeare’s timeless love story. The show opened on Broadway on Thursday, September 19, 2013 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, following preview performances. The new production marked the first time in 36 years that Romeo and Juliet was produced on Broadway.  This version of the classic tale retains Shakespeare’s original language set in modern times in which members of the contentious Montague and Capulet families come from different backgrounds and races.

Front Row also partnered with The Public Theater to produce a powerful new play, Eclipsed, by Danai Gurira, featuring Academy Award Winner Lupita Nyong’o in her Off-Broadway debut. The play will debut at The Public Theater as a result of the generous support of Stephen and his partner Alia-Jones Harvey.

Byrd and Jones-Harvey are currently in development of a new musical for Broadway —Black Orpheus.. Based on the original play by Vinicius de Moraes and the internationally acclaimed film released in 1959, Black Orpheus is the enchanted re-telling of the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice set in romantic Rio de Janeiro during Carnaval and featuring the music of bossa nova kings Vinícius de Moraes and Antonio Carlos Jobim. Byrd and Jones-Harvey are planning on future productions in both Brazil and South Africa.

Byrd has pursued his passion for delivering high-quality racially-diverse entertainment  to the public for years. As he explains, “There’s an audience between Tyler Perry and August Wilson that hasn’t been addressed.” As President/ CEO of the American Cinema Group, Inc., he has raised capital for, and invested in several such television and film projects.  He was recently a Principal in StoneHedge Capital, Inc., a Private Equity firm. Previously Byrd was an Investment Banker in M&A with Goldman, Sachs & Co.  As a Principal, he was instrumental in the formation of a Private Equity LLC, Thurn & Taxis, for Prince Karl Von Taxis of Austria. 

A native of Philadelphia, PA., Byrd received his Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from Temple University and MBA in Finance from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. He has also attended the Alliance Française in Paris.  He supports several community and non-profit organizations, including Safe Horizon and The National Urban Technology Center. He is a member of The Broadway League and The Society of London Theatre.

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