Step Right Up, Folks! The stories of one of America’s most successful traveling shows that helped launch the careers of music legends Chuck Berry, Rufus Thomas, Mercedes Valdez and Fontella Bass, and had a huge impact on entertainment and popular culture around the globe, are finally being told by the last remaining great troupers. In this untold triumph of the spirit story, intrepid road show producer Leon Claxton and his brown-skin troupe navigate “whites only” audiences and state-sanctioned segregation on the railways, fight immigration laws, and vie for the hearts of America's changing popular culture to have the best outdoor attraction in North America. But, will social revolutions in the U.S. and Cuba be the end of Harlem in Havana, one of the greatest variety shows of our time?
A magical journey into the complexity of American entertainment and race history, JIG SHOW | Leon Claxton’s Harlem in Havana is a compelling documentary film by director Leslie Cunningham that shines a spotlight on a little known aspect of black culture in America, the traveling “Jig Show”. The film takes viewers on a personal tour under the big top of the leading carnival midway attraction in the 1940s, 50s and 60s. An exotic and exciting presentation of Black and Cuban music, dance and comedy, Harlem in Havana rose above the segregated carnival stage and achieved mainstream and international recognition, despite America's most turbulent social times. Also unearthed is the story top African American showman Leon Claxton, a world-renowned stage producer and frontiersman whose vision, passion and determination produced a show that still resonates today. Coming 2016.
Leslie Cunningham is an independent filmmaker, artist, writer, journalist and founder of TRIBES Entertainment, an award-winning digital media and production company based in Durham, North Carolina. Leslie is a graduate of The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University with a Certificate in Documentary Arts. Her debut feature film documentary, M.I., A Different Kind of Girl (2012), was selected for the 2014 Gender Reel film festival; The 2012 North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and Atlanta’s Out On Film, 2012. Leslie’s second feature length film, JIG SHOW | Leon Claxton’s Harlem in Havana, is a historical documentary about her grandfather Leon Claxton’s Black and Cuban stage show that influenced American entertainment and popular culture.