Writer-producer Thomas Goggans’ powerful play “The Brethren” opens in Brooklyn, New York, Saturday, September 22 at the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, thanks to the efforts of DeVaughn Myles, a longtime church member and star in the world of entertainment marketing and promotions.
“The play has enjoyed a great run in various venues, including churches, throughout New York City,” says Bro. Myles. “But there’s something quite unique about Pleasant Grove Tabernacle as the host ‘theatre’ for ‘The Brethren’s” Brooklyn debut performance.”
According to Goggan’s extensive production notes, “The Brethren,” set in Harlem during a time of economic uncertainty, depicts the lives of five determined young deacons. “Things take a turn,” says Mr. Goggans, “when one of them makes a decision that challenges their relationships and, ultimately, their faith.”
On many different levels the play touches on the drama in the life of everyman. So it was not a difficult decision for Pleasant Grove’s Bishop Albert L. Jamison to agree with Bro. Myles: that the play would be a great fundraising initiative during the September 22-23 “Men’s Day” weekend.
Yet, there’s another connection that sets Pleasant Grove apart from all other locales at which “The Brethren” has ever played.
From the Brownstoner.com, Bishop Jamison and Bro. Myles learned that the Tabernacle building itself, built in 1919, was originally the Normandy Theatre. Then in 1933, it became the Howard Theater catering totally to “Negro audiences.” Later, the building was sold to a Melrah corporation (note: Melrah is Harlem spelled backwards), and later reopened as the Carver Theater.
In 1958, the theatre exchanged its proscenium for an altar, and was transformed into a sanctuary with pews — the Mount Hope Church. In 1970, Hope became Mount Pleasant, where it still lives but now as Pleasant Grove. Instead of watching westerns – which played three times a day, these days audiences at 1927 Fulton Street attend Bishop Jamison’s services and hear the word about many of the issues touched on in Mr. Goggans’ “The Brethren.”
Whether Pleasant Grove’s architectural life history is a sign that the “The Brethren” will one day become a motion picture, there’s no certainty, but Mr. Myles says the production’s program notes will mention this interesting footnote in Pleasant Grove’s ongoing dramatic history. For more information on the play and the church, contact Bro. Myles at 917-740-7832. BG