Nov. 22: Voza Rivers/New Heritage Theatre Group and Blueprint Theater Project in Partnership with Community Works NYC will Livestream Marilyn Jaye Lewis’s TELL MY BONES Featuring Debra Ann Byrd, Elijah Caldwell, Sandra Caldwell, Michael Flood, Jacie Johnson, Jalen Johnson, Tom Martin, Ryan Metzger, Kevyn Morrow and Zach Stephens

On Sunday, November 22nd at 7:00 p.m., Voza Rivers/New Heritage Theatre Group and Blueprint Theater Project in partnership with Community Works NYC will livestream Marilyn Jaye Lewis’s TELL MY BONES, based on the life of Helen LaFrance. Directed by Kevin Connell, the play is an uplifting drama set to the stirring music of specially arranged African-American Spirituals that celebrates the tenacity of the human spirit.  Click here to RSVP.

Debra Ann Byrd stars as Helen LaFrance, the celebrated self-taught Kentucky Folk Artist and is joined by Elijah Caldwell (Music Director/The Ghost of Junior), Sandra Caldwell (Wanda), Michael Flood, Jacie Johnson, Jalen Johnson, Tom Martin (King Clay/James/Male Voice #1), Ryan Metzger, Kevyn Morrow and Zach Stephens.

Descended from runaway slaves, Helen LaFrance was born in 1918, on a farm in Graves County, Kentucky, in a log cabin built by her father. When Helen was 3-years old, her mother taught her how to paint, using berries and laundry bluing as “paints” and twigs for paint brushes. Needed as helpers on the farm, Helen and her three sisters received only one year of formal schooling, with most of their education coming from their parents, who taught them to read and write from the only book they owned – the Bible.

Upon the death of her mother, Helen was sent off the farm to earn her living in the nearby town, first as a live-in maid, then as a factory worker. Fostering other people’s children along the way, her five marriages did not bear children of her own. Some of her foster children bring her great joy, while others bedevil her -– robbing her and burning her house to the ground. Throughout the trials of life, Helen pursues the chance to paint at every opportunity. She finally achieved success as an artist at the age of 89, but then suffered a paralyzing stroke. Helen turned 100-years young, on November 2, 2019.

Please help to support the development and producing of TELL MY BONES by making a donation with your registration. All donations will nurture the future success of this project and the talented artists bringing this important play to life.

This program will be hosted via YouTube. You will receive additional details upon registration.

The production team includes Lainie Cooke (Associate Producer), Norman Small (Production Stage Manager), Kaila M. Stokes  (Content Manager), Leigh Berenis (Production Director/ Production Coordinator) and Natalie Clarke (Marketing & Promotions).

This program is supported in part by public funds
from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and Con Edison

NEW HERITAGE THEATRE GROUP (Producer) Celebrating its 56th Anniversary, New Heritage Theatre Group (NHTG) is the oldest Black nonprofit theater company in New York City. It was established in 1964 by the late Roger Furman. In 1983, Voza Rivers, an award winning music and theatre producer took over the company. In 1991, Rivers co-produced with Haworth Shakespeare Festival, The Tragedy of Macbeth at the historic St. Bartholomew’s church and in 1996 Romeo & Juliet, featuring leading black actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal National Theatre in England. In 1997 Jamal Joseph, a playwright, director, author, award-winning documentary filmmaker and educator joined NHTG as Executive Artistic Director. New Heritage is composed of three major divisions: IMPACT Repertory Theatre, New Heritage Films / Harlemwood Film Festival and Furman Theatre Rep. New Heritage Theatre Group has been Executive Producer of the Harlem Shakespeare Festival since its inception. For more information please visit

BLUEPRINT THEATER PROJECT (Producer) examines adaptation in all its forms – genre, style and content – with source materials that range from the classical to the hyper-contemporary. Our goal is to create theater that rethinks, reorganizes and reconstructs to explore the process of change from one form to another. Significant in this exploration are the many perspectives and means for communication that accompany each specific art form and the ways in which various mediums elucidate storytelling. Further, our work investigates why stories get retold, sometimes decades or centuries later, in vastly different ways while still being produced for public consumption.

Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an actor, a multi-media content producer and co-founder of Bev’s Girl Films, making films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. Bev’s Girl Films’ debut short film, Hide and Seek was a top ten film in the Asian American Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Filmmaking Competition, and she received a Best Actress nomination. BGF collaborates with and produces multi-media content for artists, actors, designers, theatrical productions, composers, musicians and corporations. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman. She stars in and served as Executive Producer for the short independent films Hide and Seek, Balancing Act, Rom-Com Gone Wrong, Belongingness and When the World was Young. She is also the Executive Producer for The Cactus, The Language Lesson, The Writer and Cream and 2 Shugahs.

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