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Home | ArtMakers | Voza Rivers
Color: Gold
Food: Broccoli
Quote: Let My Work Speak For Itself.
Season: Spring
Vacation Destination: Cuba
New York, New York
Interview Description:

Biography |

Interview Date: 4/29/2018 |and| 10/24/2018

Theatrical director Voza Rivers was born on December 27, 1942 in Harlem, New York City. He attended Frederick Douglass Junior High School, #139 in 1956, and graduated from George Washington High School in 1959. Rivers obtained his A.S. degree in police science from the College of Police Science and served as an undercover officer. He received his B.S. degree and later received his M.A. degree in communication arts from New York Institute of Technology, in New York City.

In 1964, Rivers joined Roger Furman’s New Heritage Theatre, where he learned all the vital roles of theater production including proposal writing, negotiating contracts, producing plays, focusing lights, constructing sets, evaluating scripts, and working with actors, directors, and technicians. Rivers became New Heritage Theatre Group’s executive director in 1983. Rivers expanded New Heritage Theater Group’s focus and produced a series of South African plays and collaborated with playwright Mbongeni Ngema in the 1980s to educate theatregoers about the apartheid struggle. The first play, Woza Albert, heralded for its satirical take on Apartheid, won over twenty awards worldwide. The second collaboration, Asinamali, a political story centered around a 1983 rent strike in the country's Lamontville township, went on to Broadway. Rivers received acclaim for the introduction and presentation of the third collaboration, Sarafina! the South African musical by Ngema, depicting students involved in the Soweto Riots in opposition to apartheid. The Tony and Grammy nominated Sarafina! premiered on Broadway on January 28, 1988 at the Cort Theatre, and following 597 performances and 11 previews, closed on July 2, 1989.

Rivers has produced award-winning works on Broadway as well as productions at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Apollo Theatre and worked with artists including Nina Simone, James Brown, Ray Charles, the Count Basie Orchestra, Tony Bennett, Max Roach, and Celia Cruz.

He has produced more than 1500 events including music events and concerts featuring world-renowned artists in the United States, South Africa and Japan. He has also produced for artists such as: Nancy Wilson, Ruby Dee, Luther Vandross, Ashford and Simpson, Boy George, George Benson, Tito Puente, Lionel Hampton, Isaac Hayes, Little Jimmy Scott, Miriam Makeba, and Chaka Khan. Films produced by Rivers include A-Alike (2003), Lifted (2007) and The Savoy King: Chick Webb & the Music That Changed America (2012).

Rivers has served as chairman of the Harlem Arts Alliance and president of the New Heritage Theatre Group since 2011. From 2015, he served also as the executive producer of Gertrude Jeannette's The H.A.D.L.E.Y. Players.

Voza Rivers was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 29, 2018.

Speaker Bureau Notes: