First Look: Denise Burse, Lizan Mitchell, Ebony Marshall-Oliver, Nora Cole, Nandita Shenoy, Jacqueline Guillén, Kai Heath, Emily Cass McDonnell, Keilly McQuail, and Bianca Norwood in Clubbed Thumb’s Production of Angela Hanks’ BODIES THEY RITUAL; Limited Run through July 2

Denise Burse and Ebony Marshall-Oliver. Photo by Marcus Middleton

Bodies They Ritual, written by Angela Hanks and directed by Knud Adams is being presented as part of the Tony Award-nominated and five-time Obie Award-winning theater company Clubbed Thumb’s rescheduled 25th SUMMERWORKS festival of new plays at The Wild Project, 195 E 3rd St in New York. The show began previews on June 22 and will continue through July 2. Opening night is June 25.

Lizan Mitchell, Nandita Shenoy, Denise Burse, Nora Cole and Ebony Marshall-Oliver. Photo by Marcus Middleton

Bodies They Ritual stars Emmy winner Denise Burse (“Black Mirror”), Nora Cole (On the Town), Jacqueline Guillén (Man Cave), Kai Heath (On Sugarland), Ebony Marshall-Oliver (Chicken and Biscuits), Emily Cass McDonnell (The Antipodes), Keilly McQuail (Lunch Bunch), Lizan Mitchell (On Sugarland), Bianca Norwood (Seven Deadly Sins) and Nandita Shenoy (“Daredevil”).

Denise Burse, Lizan Mitchell and Jacqueline Guillén. Photo by Marcus Middleton

A Santa Fe sweat lodge lets loose what’s bottled up in a group of Texan ladies who have gathered for a birthday celebration. Will any of them taste that deep, deep spirituality only to be found in the American Southwest?

Ebony Marshall-Oliver and Lizan Mitchell. Photo by Marcus Middleton

Bodies They Ritual features set design by Jian Jung (Suicide Forest), costume design by Enver Charkartash (Is This A Room), lighting design by Stacey Derosier (The Refuge Plays), sound design by Kathy Ruvuna (Good Faith) and props by Samantha Shoffner. Allison Raynes is the production stage manager.

Ebony Marshall-Oliver and Nandita Shenoy. Photo by Marcus Middleton

Monday – Saturday at 8pm. Tickets are $25; Reserved Seats $30; Students $20. Festival passes start at $55. Tickets and passes are available here.

Keilly McQuail and Kai Heath. Photo by Marcus Middleton

Clubbed Thumb made its Broadway debut in 2019 with Heidi Schreck’s What the Constitution Means to Me, which premiered at the 2017 Summerworks festival, in partnership with True Love Productions. The play continues its national tour throughout 2022. Clubbed Thumb’s second anthology, Unusual Stories, Unusually Told, was published in 2021 by Methuen Drama / Bloomsbury.

Lizan Mitchell, Denise Burse, Nora Cole, Emily Cass McDonnell and Nandita Shenoy. Photo by Lia Chang
Playwright Angela Hanks, Associate Artistic Director Michael Bulger, Denise Burse, Lizan Mitchell, and Nandita Shenoy. Photo by Lia Chang
Denise Burse, Clubbed Thumb Producing Artistic Director Maria Striar and Pam MacKinnon. Photo by Lia Chang
Playwright Angela Hanks, Denise Burse, Director Knud Adams and Lizan Mitchell. Photo by Lia Chang
Denise Burse, Director Knud Adams and Lizan Mitchell. Photo by Lia Chang
Peter Jay Fernandez and his wife, Denise Burse. Photo by Lia Chang
Kai Heath and Peter Jay Fernandez. Photo by Lia Chang

ABOUT Clubbed Thumb
Clubbed Thumb commissions, develops and produces funny, strange and provocative new plays by living American writers. Clubbed Thumb is a groundbreaker, with a precise curatorial vision and a remarkable track record for launching artists’ careers; and an incubator, nurturing plays, collaborations, and above all artists, through thoughtfully deployed resources, opportunities, mentorship and hospitality.

Clubbed Thumb’s plays vary in style and content, but are always 90 minutes or under. They feature substantial and challenging roles for all genders, are questioning, formally inventive, theatrical, and exhibit a sense of humor. Since its founding in 1996, the company has presented over 100 productions.

Chatting with THE LAST DAYS OF PTOLEMY GREY Star and Emmy Winner Denise Burse

Denise Burse, Lia Chang and Lizan Mitchell. Photo by Peter Jay Fernandez
Lia Chang

LIA CHANG is a Chinese-American actor, a multi-media content producer, an award-winning filmmaker, and a photo activist and documentarian, who lifts up and amplifies BIPOC communities and artists and the institutions that support them.

Lia moved to New York from her home in San Francisco when she was 17 years of age and made her stage debut as Liat in a national tour of South Pacific with Barbara Eden and Robert Goulet. She spent many years working extensively Off-Broadway, including Signature Theatre’s revival of Sam Shepard’s Chicago. Her film work includes Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, and The Last Dragon. The decades of being viewed by others through the narrow lens of “Asian actor” in the industry brought Lia to a turning point, and she picked up her camera, determined to create awareness by documenting the work and the lives of her BIPOC colleagues, resulting in the creation of thousands of photographs and pieces of video. Her photo archives are housed in the AAPI collection in the Library of Congress’ Asian Reading Room under “Lia Chang Theater Portfolio collection,1989-2011” and in the “Lia Chang Photography Collection” in The Billy Rose Theatre Division of the New York Public Library.

Lia’s awards include the 2000 OCA Chinese American Journalist Award, the 2001 AAJA National Award for New Media and the 2022 Prospect Muse Award. She is also an AAJA Executive Leadership Graduate, a Western Knight Fellow at USC’s Annenberg College of Communications for Specialized Journalism on Entertainment Journalism in the Digital Age, a National Press Photographers Association Visual Edge/Visual Journalism Fellow at the Poynter Institute for New Media, and a Scripps Howard New Media Fellow at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

More recently, Lia co-founded Bev’s Girl Films, which makes films that foster inclusion and diversity on both sides of the camera. She executive produced and starred in the indie films Hide and Seek (AA Film Lab’s 2015 72 Hour Shootout Best Actress Nomination), Rom-Com Gone Wrong, and When the World Was Young (2021 DisOrient Film Audience Choice Award for Best Short Narrative).

Lia is honored to have worked with Prospect Theater Company on a shared mission of lifting up BIPOC theater artists and creating a more diverse and inclusive musical theater canon. A retrospective of Lia’s photographs will be on view at the Museum of the City of New York later this year, documenting her BIPOC colleagues and contemporaries in the performing arts, which will include photos of Prospect Theater Company artists at work. www.liachang.com, www.liachangphotography.com

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