Photos: Zainab Jah, John Ellison Conlee, Kevin Mambo and More in Suzan-Lori Parks’ VENUS at Signature Theatre

Signature Theatre presents Venus, written by Residency One playwright Suzan-Lori Parks and directed by Obie Award-winner Lear deBessonet.

Zainab Jah and the cast of Venus. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
Zainab Jah and the cast of Venus. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

The cast includes Hannah Cabell (The Father), Tony Award nominee John Ellison Conlee (The (curious case of the) Watson Intelligence), Obie Award winner Randy Danson (Love and Information), Adam Green (The Winter’s Tale), Birgit Huppuch (The Moors), Obie Award-winner Zainab Jah (Eclipsed), Kevin Mambo (The Color Purple), Patrena Murray (Signature’s The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World AKA the Negro Book of the Dead), Reynaldo Piniella (Signature’s The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World AKA the Negro Book of the Dead), Julian Rozzell (Signature’s The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World AKA the Negro Book of the Dead), and Tony Torn (Latter Days).

Zainab Jah and the cast of Venus. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
Zainab Jah and the cast of Venus. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

The creative team includes Matt Saunders (Scenic Design), Emilio Sosa (Costume Design), Justin Townsend (Lighting Design), Brandon Wolcott (Sound Design and Original Music), Danny Mefford (Choreographer), Thomas Schall (Fight Director). Evangeline Whitlock is the Production Stage Manager. Casting by Telsey + Company, Karyn Casl, CSA.

Zainab Jah. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
Zainab Jah. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Venus is the second show in Parks’ Signature residency, following the critically acclaimed, twice-extended production of The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World AKA the Negro Book of the Dead, directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz, this past fall.

The cast of Venus. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
The cast of Venus. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Traveling from her home in southern Africa for what she hoped would be a better life, Saartjie Baartman became an unfortunate star on the 19th Century London freak show circuit. This Obie Award-winning play gives vibrant life to the story of Baartman’s journey to London, her rise to fame as the “Hottentot Venus,” and her eventual relationship with a French scientist. Inspired by the true story of Baartman, Venus is a tragic-carnival, an intense and devastating journey honoring the life of Baartman and examining the way we live and love today.

John Ellison Conlee and Zainab Jah. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
John Ellison Conlee and Zainab Jah. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Venus runs April 25 – June 4, 2017 with a Monday, May 15 opening night in The Irene Diamond Stage at The Pershing Square Signature Center (480 West 42nd Street between 9th and 10th Avenues). All tickets for the initial run of the production are $30 as part of the Signature Ticket Initiative: A Generation of Access. To purchase tickets for all Signature Productions, call Ticket Services at 212-244-7529 (Tues. – Sun., 11am – 6pm) or visit www.SignatureTheatre.org.

Zainab Jah. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
Zainab Jah. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Tickets to the initial runs of all Signature Productions at The Pershing Square Signature Center are $30, part of the groundbreaking Signature Ticket Initiative: A Generation of Access, a program that guarantees affordable tickets to every Signature production through 2031. Serving as a model for theatres and performing arts organizations across the country, the Initiative was founded in 2005 and is made possible by lead partner The Pershing Square Foundation. Additional support provided by the Howard Gilman Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Margot Adams, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

Kevin Mambo. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
Kevin Mambo. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Signature celebrates playwrights and gives them an artistic home. By producing multiple plays by each of its resident writers, Signature offers an in-depth look at these writers’ bodies of work. In addition, Signature engages the writer in every aspect of the creative process.

Tony Torn (center) and the cast of Venus. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
Tony Torn (center) and the cast of Venus. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Signature serves its mission through its permanent home at The Pershing Square Signature Center, a three-theatre facility on West 42nd Street designed by Frank GehryArchitects to host Signature’s three distinct playwrights’ residencies and foster a cultural community. At the Center, opened in January 2012, Signature continues its founding Playwrights-in-Residence model as Residency One, a first-of-its-kind, intensive exploration of a single writer’s body of work. Residency Five was launched in 2012 to support multiple playwrights as they build bodies of work by guaranteeing each writer three productions over a five-year period. The Legacy Program, launched during Signature’s 10th Anniversary Season, invites writers from both residencies back for productions of premiere or earlier plays. In 2014 Signature became the first New York City theatre to receive the Regional Theatre Tony Award.

The cast of Venus. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
The cast of Venus. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

The Pershing Square Signature Center provides a venue for cultural organizations that supports and encourages collaboration among artists throughout the space. In addition to its three intimate theatres, the Center features a Studio Theatre, rehearsal studio, and a public café, bar and bookstore. Through the groundbreaking Signature Ticket Initiative: A Generation of Access, Signature has also made an unprecedented commitment to making its productions affordable by underwriting the cost of initial run tickets, currently priced at $30, through 2031. Serving as a model for theatres and performing arts organizations across the country, the Initiative was founded in 2005 and is made possible by lead partner The Pershing Square Foundation. Additional support provided by the Howard Gilman Foundation, the Ford Foundation, Margot Adams, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.

Zainab Jah and John Ellison Conlee. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
Zainab Jah and John Ellison Conlee. Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

Founded in 1991 by James Houghton, Signature has presented entire seasons of the work of Edward Albee, Lee Blessing, Horton Foote, María Irene Fornés, Athol Fugard, John Guare, A.R. Gurney, David Henry Hwang, Bill Irwin, Adrienne Kennedy, Tony Kushner, Romulus Linney, Charles Mee, Arthur Miller, Sam Shepard, Paula Vogel, Naomi Wallace, August Wilson, Lanford Wilson, and a season celebrating the historic Negro Ensemble Company. Suzan-Lori Parks is the current Residency One playwright. Signature’s current Residency Five playwrights are Annie Baker, Martha Clarke, Will Eno, Katori Hall, Quiara Alegría Hudes, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Kenneth Lonergan and ReGina Taylor. In addition to the Regional Theatre Tony Award, Signature’s productions and its resident writers have been recognized with the Pulitzer Prize, Lucille Lortel Awards, Obie Awards, Drama Desk Awards, and AUDELCO Awards, among many other distinctions.

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