Cornelius Macarthy born
in London but raised in Sierra Leon. Returning to England
Cornelius received his undergraduate degree at the Mountview Academy,
appearing in The Hired Man, The Voysey Inheritance, Cat on a Hot Tin
Roof, A Chorus of Disapproval and Richard III among
Upon graduation Cornelius appeared as Jim in A Taste of Honey (York Theatre Royal);
in the World Premiere of Notes Across a Small Pond (Bridewell Theatre);
as Levee in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (Liverpool Playhouse);
in Tomorrow’s World (5.5 Theatre); Tartuffe (Short Black and Sides);
Great Scot! and Drive Ride Walk (Bridewell) and as the
Prince in Cinderella (Greenwich Theatre).
On television and film Cornelius has been seen in MIT, My Hero,
Silent Night, A Touch of Frost, was featured as Gonzaga in Danny
Boyle's film Millions and played Francis Climbie in the BBC's Victoria
Cornelius most recently appeared in the West End as Aide Warren in One
Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest opposite Christian Slater and Alex
Currently Cornelius in working on a new musical being developed for
the National Theatre depicting figures from throughout British black
history as directed - written by Kwame Kwei-Armahe and composed by Errollyn Wallen.
Additionally Cornelius has enjoyed a career of over ten years as a
professional singing and recording artist. Featured media
appearances include Top of The Pops, Later with Jools
Holland, MTV, and Capital FM, BBC Radio 4 and
recordings with Madonna, Blur and Westlife.
After his audition for Lifting the Mask, the
director, Dr. Bruce Wall, wrote Cornelius the following e-mail:
and foremost - I want to thank you for a truly excellent audition -
and for taking the time to have a chat with me afterwards. Each
and all were deeply appreciated.
You quite rightly said that when you read the play aloud – as
it should be – (for that is how I see it, the music and the text
being one) – that you were ‘strangely moved but weren’t entirely
certain why’. I thought
your comment profound. That
was, in fact, the response I was looking for:
It is what Gielgud called: ‘the unanswered question’ –
what Tennessee Williams hailed as the ‘space between the bed and
chair’ – or, as he less prosaically expressed:
‘that space that draws the audience forward’.
That is ‘the poet’s vocation’.
It is what Dunbar celebrates humanely as he remembers the
most productive time of his life ‘merely going up and down’ –
not ‘twisting’ and ‘burning’.
He actively strives “to influence the heart in a gentler
way than the marks left on your loaf”. Oh, there is anger, bitterness and frustration – even
repression – but, ultimately, there is hope for a ‘gentler’
THE MASK merely paints a very real hour and ten minutes in that
struggle: Dunbar and
Williams [Tim Williams, LIFTING THE MASK's composer] are the
ones who add the flesh. In
that sense the piece is entirely classical; illustrating
what Dunbar calls ‘both the height and the end’ – without,
hopefully, ever niggling at the centre. It strives to show one man’s ‘eleven o’clock’ bout
with simple confidence. That is universal – and Dunbar’s
simplicity – as reflected in his own words – is reflective.
That’s your ‘why’, Cornelius.
Dunbar’s victory in the epilogue – explaining the
‘why’ of his own resolve – is ours.
It ‘might not come again’, says he, but ‘we can live in
hope’ knowing that ‘our deeds’ might ‘find a
record in the registry of fame; so that ‘our mutual bloods’
might be blessed – in a gentler way – to ‘cleanse
completely every blot of slavery’s shame’."
Paul Laurence Dunbar was
born on June 27, 1872. His mother, Matilda Dunbar, was a former slave
with a love for poetry. His father, Joshua Dunbar, was a civil war
veteran who had served in the '55th Volunteers for Coloureds', a famous
regiment whose ranks were composed of African-Americans. His parents
divorced in 1874 and his mother worked long hours to support her family.
Laurence Dunbar published his first poems in school
newspapers while attending Dayton’s Central High School. Orville
Wright was a classmate. Dunbar was the only black student in his
class. Indeed, Dunbar was the only black student in his
school. After his graduation in 1891, the only work he
could find was as an elevator operator in Dayton’s Callahan Building.
Many monotonous hours moving between floors allowed Dunbar’s poetic
creativity to flourish.
Throughout 1891 and 1892, Dunbar submitted his elevator poems for
publication in newspapers and popular magazines with limited success.
His first anthology, Oak
and Ivy was printed in 1893 at his own expense. This small volume of
poetry recovered his investment of $125, but by the end of 1893, the
young poet was financially despondent.
Dunbar left Dayton in 1893 and moved to Chicago. He met abolitionist
Frederick Douglass, who employed him at the World’s Columbian
Exposition. Within a few months he returned to Dayton and his position
of elevator operator.
When at his lowest, Dunbar was befriended by Dr. Henry Archibald Tobey,
the distinguished superintendent of the Toledo State Hospital for the
Insane. Dr. Tobey became Dunbar’s greatest patron, more than once
loaning the struggling poet substantial sums of money. Over the years,
Dunbar was able to repay his benefactor, and also present to his friend
a signed, inscribed copy of each of his increasingly popular works.
Dr. Tobey paid the printing costs for the private publication of
Dunbar’s second collection of poems, Majors
and Minors, in 1895. The young poet’s second anthology contained
some of his best work from Oak
and Ivy, together with original poems demonstrating a new maturity.
A small section of Majors
and Minors (the “Minors” essentially) featured humorous poems in
Kentucky black dialect, a voice which the author would find increasingly
and Minors contained many of Dunbar’s most enduring poems. Dr.
Tobey circulated copies of the book among his friends who included the
playwright James A. Herne. In turn, Herne sent a copy to an
acquaintance, William Dean Howells.
On June 27, 1896, William Dean Howells, the nation’s most prominent
literary critic, published a glowing one page review of Majors
and Minors in Harper’s Weekly. By coincidence, the issue reported
on the nomination of William McKinley for the presidency and
consequently had a tremendous circulation. Dunbar, it was said, went to
bed destitute and woke up on the morning of his twenty-fourth birthday
as one of the most famous living Americans of African descent.
In 1897 Dunbar spent six months in England, touring and making personal
appearances with the hope of furthering his career. The trip, while
critically and popularly successful, was financially ruinous for Dunbar
who was cheated of his earning. Ultimately he was forced to return
to the United States. Shortly after his return Dunbar was hired by the
Library of Congress with the assistance of Robert Ingersoll, an orator
and political speechmaker. In March of 1898, he married Alice Ruth
Moore, a poet and school teacher. The marriage only lasted four years.
After separating from Alice in 1902, Dunbar returned to Dayton, living
with his mother. Dunbar died on February 9, 1906, at the age of 33 from