Production Photos: Phylicia Rashad, John Earl Jelks, Alana Arenas, Francois Battiste, J. Bernard Calloway and More in HEAD OF PASSES at the Mark Taper through October 22

Kyle Beltran, John Earl Jelks, Phylicia Rashad and Jacqueline Williams Photo by Craig Schwartz

Academy Award winner and playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Head of Passes opens Sunday, September 24 at 7 p.m. at the Mark Taper Forum. Directed by Tina Landau, the poetic and powerful new play, which is part of Center Theatre Group’s 50th anniversary season at the Taper, continues through October 22, 2017.

 

Phylicia Rashad  Photo by  Craig Schwartz
Phylicia Rashad  Photo by  Craig Schwartz

Phylicia Rashad, Alana Arenas, Francois Battiste, Kyle Beltran, J. Bernard Calloway, John Earl Jelks have reprised their roles from the critically-acclaimed production at The Public Theater, and are joined by James Carpenter and Jacqueline Williams.

 

Phylicia Rashad  Photo by Craig Schwartz
Phylicia Rashad  Photo by Craig Schwartz

Family and friends are gathering to celebrate Shelah’s (portrayed by Rashad) birthday under the leaky roof of her home at the mouth of the Mississippi River. But an unwanted birthday party and unrelenting rains are only the first challenges in this contemporary parable inspired by the Book of Job in which unexpected events turn the reunion into the ultimate test of faith and love. As her world seems to collapse around her, Shelah must fight to survive the rising flood of life’s greatest challenges in this poetic and piercing new play.

Kyle Beltran, John Earl Jelks, Phylicia Rashad and Jacqueline Williams Photo by Craig Schwartz
Kyle Beltran, John Earl Jelks, Phylicia Rashad and Jacqueline Williams
Photo by Craig Schwartz

Tickets to “Head of Passes” are available by calling (213) 628-2772, online at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org or at the Center Theatre Group Box Office located at the Ahmanson Theatre. Tickets range from $25 – $95 (ticket prices are subject to change). The Mark Taper Forum is located at The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown L.A. 90012.

Phylicia Rashad and J. Bernard Calloway Photo by Craig Schwartz
Phylicia Rashad and J. Bernard Calloway Photo by Craig Schwartz
Phylicia Rashad and J. Bernard Calloway Photo by Craig Schwartz
Phylicia Rashad and J. Bernard Calloway Photo by Craig Schwartz
Francois Battiste and Phylicia Rashad  Photo by Craig Schwartz
Francois Battiste and Phylicia Rashad  Photo by Craig Schwartz
Francois Battiste and James Carpenter Photo by  Craig Schwartz
Francois Battiste and James Carpenter Photo by  Craig Schwartz
Phylicia Rashad and Jacqueline Williams  Photo by Craig Schwartz
Phylicia Rashad and Jacqueline Williams  Photo by Craig Schwartz
Alana Arenas and Phylicia Rashad  Photo by Craig Schwartz
Alana Arenas and Phylicia Rashad  Photo by Craig Schwartz
Kyle Beltran and John Earl Jelks Photo by Craig Schwartz
Kyle Beltran and John Earl Jelks Photo by Craig Schwartz
Kyle Beltran and Phylicia Rashad  Photo by Craig Schwartz
Kyle Beltran and Phylicia Rashad  Photo by Craig Schwartz
James Carpenter and Phylicia Rashad  Photo by Craig Schwartz
James Carpenter and Phylicia Rashad  Photo by Craig Schwartz
James Carpenter, Jacqueline Williams and John Earl Jelks Photo by Craig Schwartz
James Carpenter, Jacqueline Williams and John Earl Jelks  Photo by Craig Schwartz

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Brandon J. Dirden, Crystal A. Dickinson, Willie Dirden, Brenda Pressley and More in Two River Theater’s A RAISIN IN THE SUN, Opens September 15

Jasmine Batchelor (Beneatha Younger), Owen Tabaka (Travis Younger), Brenda Pressley (Lena Younger), Brandon J. Dirden (Walter Lee Younger) and Crystal A. Dickinson (Ruth Younger) in A Raisin in the Sun at Two River Theater. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Two River Theater (Artistic Director John Dias, Managing Director Michael Hurst) presents A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, directed by Carl Cofield. The press opening is Friday, September 15 at 7pm and performances will continue through Sunday, October 8 in Two River’s Rechnitz Theater, 21 Bridge Avenue, Red Bank, NJ.  Tickets are available from 732.345.1400 or tworivertheater.org

Brandon J. Dirden (Walter Lee Younger), Crystal A. Dickinson (Ruth Younger), Brenda Pressley (Lena Younger) and Owen Tabaka (Travis Younger) in A Raisin in the Sun at Two River Theater. Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Brandon J. Dirden (Walter Lee Younger), Crystal A. Dickinson (Ruth Younger), Brenda Pressley (Lena Younger) and Owen Tabaka (Travis Younger) in A Raisin in the Sun at Two River Theater. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

The cast includes Jasmine Batchelor (Beneatha Younger), Nat DeWolf (Karl Lindner), Crystal A. Dickinson(Ruth Younger), Brandon J. Dirden (Walter Lee Younger), Willie Dirden (Bobo), Charlie Hudson III (Joseph Asagai), Brenda Pressley (Lena Younger), Owen Tabaka (Travis Younger), and York Walker (George Murchison). Andrew Binger and David Joel Rivera play the Moving Men.

Crystal A. Dickinson (Ruth Younger) and Brandon J. Dirden (Walter Lee Younger) in in A Raisin in the Sun at Two River Theater. Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Crystal A. Dickinson (Ruth Younger) and Brandon J. Dirden (Walter Lee Younger) in in A Raisin in the Sun at Two River Theater. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

The creative team includes scenic designers Christopher Swader & Justin Swader, costume designer Elivia Bovenzi, lighting designer Kathy A. Perkins, sound designer Karin Graybash, and wigs designer Valerie Gladstone. The casting is by Jack Doulin + Sharky, and the stage manager is Lloyd Davis, Jr.

Jasmine Batchelor (Beneatha Younger), Owen Tabaka (Travis Younger), Brenda Pressley (Lena Younger), Brandon J. Dirden (Walter Lee Younger) and Crystal A. Dickinson (Ruth Younger) in A Raisin in the Sun at Two River Theater. Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Jasmine Batchelor (Beneatha Younger), Owen Tabaka (Travis Younger), Brenda Pressley (Lena Younger), Brandon J. Dirden (Walter Lee Younger) and Crystal A. Dickinson (Ruth Younger) in A Raisin in the Sun at Two River Theater. Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Crystal A. Dickinson (Ruth Younger), Brenda Pressley (Lena Younger) and Owen Tabaka (Travis Younger) in A Raisin in the Sun at Two River Theater. Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Crystal A. Dickinson (Ruth Younger), Brenda Pressley (Lena Younger) and Owen Tabaka (Travis Younger) in A Raisin in the Sun at Two River Theater. Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Brandon J. Dirden (Walter Lee Younger), Crystal A. Dickinson (Ruth Younger), Nat DeWolf (Karl Lindner) and Jasmine Batchelor (Beneatha Younger) in A Raisin in the Sun at Two River Theater. Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Brandon J. Dirden (Walter Lee Younger), Crystal A. Dickinson (Ruth Younger), Nat DeWolf (Karl Lindner) and Jasmine Batchelor (Beneatha Younger) in A Raisin in the Sun at Two River Theater. Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Charlie Hudson III (Joseph Asagai) and Jasmine Batchelor (Beneatha Younger) in A Raisin in the Sun at Two River Theater. Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Charlie Hudson III (Joseph Asagai) and Jasmine Batchelor (Beneatha Younger) in A Raisin in the Sun at Two River Theater. Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Jasmine Batchelor (Beneatha Younger) and York Walker (George Murchison) in A Raisin in the Sun at Two River Theater. Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Jasmine Batchelor (Beneatha Younger) and York Walker (George Murchison) in A Raisin in the Sun at Two River Theater. Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Willie Dirden (Bobo) and Brandon J. Dirden (Walter Lee Younger) in A Raisin in the Sun at Two River Theater. Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Willie Dirden (Bobo) and Brandon J. Dirden (Walter Lee Younger) in A Raisin in the Sun at Two River Theater. Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Brenda Pressley (Lena Younger) and Crystal A. Dickinson (Ruth Younger) in A Raisin in the Sun at Two River Theater. Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Brenda Pressley (Lena Younger) and Crystal A. Dickinson (Ruth Younger) in A Raisin in the Sun at Two River Theater. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

In the Rehearsal Room with Brandon J. Dirden, Crystal A. Dickinson, Willie Dirden, Brenda Pressley and More in Two River Theater’s A RAISIN IN THE SUN 

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Danny Burstein, Rebecca Naomi Jones and More to Star in Rajiv Joseph’s DESCRIBE THE NIGHT at the Atlantic Theater, November 10 – December 24

Rajiv Joseph and Giovanna Sardelli. Photo by Lia Chang
Rajiv Joseph and Giovanna Sardelli. Photo by Lia Chang
Rajiv Joseph and Giovanna Sardelli. Photo by Lia Chang

Atlantic Theater Company has announced casting for The New York premiere of Pulitzer Prize finalist and Lortel and Obie Award winner Rajiv Joseph’s (Guards at the Taj) play Describe the Night, directed by Giovanna Sardelli (Animals Out of Paper).

Describe the Night will feature Tina Benko (The Crucible), Nadia Bowers (The Farnsworth Invention), six-time Tony Award nominee Danny Burstein (Fiddler on the Roof, Cabaret), Rebecca Naomi Jones (Significant Other, Marie and Rosetta), Max Gordon Moore (Indecent) and Stephen Stocking (Off-Broadway debut).

In 1920, the Russian writer Isaac Babel (Burstein) wanders the countryside with the Red Cavalry. Seventy years later, a mysterious KGB agent spies on a woman in Dresden and falls in love. In 2010, an aircraft carrying most of the Polish government crashes in the Russian city of Smolensk.

Set in Russia over the course of 90 years, this thrilling and epic new play traces the stories of seven men and women connected by history, myth and conspiracy theories.

Describe the Night will begin previews Friday, November 10, officially open Tuesday, December 5 and play a limited engagement through Sunday, December 24, 2017, Off-Broadway at Atlantic Theater Company’s Linda Gross Theater (336 West 20th Street).

Rajiv Joseph returns to Atlantic following the critically acclaimed production of his Lortel and Obie Award-winning play Guards at the Taj. His plays include Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo (Pulitzer Prize finalist), The North Pool, Gruesome Playground Injuries and Animals Out of Paper. He has been awarded artistic grants from the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation, the Whiting Foundation, United States Artists and The Harold & Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust.

Director Giovanna Sardelli has staged Rajiv Joseph’s Off-Broadway world premieres of Huck & Holden, Animals Out of Paper, All This Intimacy and The Leopard and The Fox, as well as the world premiere of Archduke at The Mark Taper Forum and the West Coast premiere of Guards at the Taj at The Geffen Playhouse, which received the 2017 Ovation Award for Best Production of a Play.

Tina Benko recently starred in Julius Caesar at The Public Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park and has appeared on Broadway in The Crucible and The Cherry Orchard. Nadia Bowers has appeared on Broadway in The Farnsworth Invention, Doubt and Metamorphoses. Six-time Tony Award nominee Danny Burstein has starred on Broadway in Fiddler on the Roof, Follies, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, South Pacific andThe Drowsy Chaperone. Rebecca Naomi Jones last starred at Atlantic in the acclaimed play Marie and Rosetta and has appeared on Broadway in Significant Other, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, American Idiot and Passing Strange. Max Gordon Moore has appeared on Broadway in Indecent and Relatively Speaking and Off-Broadway in Man from Nebraska. Stephen Stocking makes his Off-Broadway debut and recently appeared in the world premiere of Rajiv Joseph’s Archduke at The Mark Taper Forum.

Describe the Night will feature scenic design by Tim Mackabee, costume design by Amy Clark, lighting design by Lap Chi Chu, sound design and original compositions by Daniel Kluger and casting by Telsey+Company; Adam Caldwell, CSA; Will Cantler, CSA; Karyn Casl, CSA.

The World Premiere of Describe the Night was commissioned and produced by the Alley Theatre, Houston, TX (Gregory Boyd, Artistic Director; Dean R. Gladden, Managing Director).

ABOUT THE ARTISTS:

Rajiv Joseph’s (Playwright) play Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo was a 2010 Pulitzer Prize finalist for Drama and was also awarded a grant for Outstanding New American Play by the National Endowment for the Arts. His play Guards at the Taj was a 2016 Obie Winner for Best New American Play and a 2016 Lucille Lortel Winner for Best Play. His play Archduke received its world premiere at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. Other plays include Gruesome Playground Injuries, The Monster at the Door, Animals Out of Paper, The Lake Effect, The North Pool, and Mr. Wolf. Rajiv has been awarded artistic grants from the Whiting Foundation, United States Artists and the Harold & Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust. He is a board member of the Lark Play Development Center in New York City, where he develops all his plays. He served for three years in the Peace Corps in Senegal and now lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Giovanna Sardelli (Director). With Rajiv Joseph: Los Angeles: Archduke (World Premiere at the Taper, CTG), Guards at the Taj (Geffen Playhouse, 2017 Ovation Award for Best Production of a Play). Off-Broadway World Premieres: Huck & Holden (Cherry Lane); Animals Out of Paper and All This Intimacy (Second Stage); The Leopard and The Fox (AlterEgo). Regional: Mr. Wolf (Cleveland Play House); The Lake Effect (TheatreWorks Silicon Valley); The North Pool (TheatreWorks Silicon Valley World Premiere, Barrington Stage Company). Other Select Off-Broadway World Premieres: Little Children Dream of God (Roundabout); Wildflower (Second Stage); Finks (Ensemble Studio Theatre); Apple Cove (Women’s Project). Other Select Regional: All The Way, The Whipping Man (Cleveland Play House); The Mountaintop, Absalom (Actor’s Theatre of Louisville); Clybourne Park, Lord of the Flies, Muckrakers (Barrington Stage Company); Crimes of the Heart, Velocity of Autumn, Somewhere (TheatreWorks Silicon Valley). Though based in New York, Sardelli is the Director of New Works for TheatreWorks Silicon Valley. Education: MFA Graduate Acting Program, NYU and graduate of their Director’s Lab. Upcoming: Constellations (Geffen Playhouse), Describe the Night by Rajiv Joseph (Alley Theatre), Skeleton Crew (Marin Theatre/TheatreWorks Silicon Valley), Finks (TheatreWorks Silicon Valley).

Tina Benko (Yevgenia) played Calpurnia in Julius Caesar this summer for The Public Theatre’s Shakespeare in the Park. Recent Broadway credits include Ivo Van Hove’s production of The Crucible and The Cherry Orchard at Roundabout. Off-Broadway includes Scenes from a Marriage at New York Theatre Workshop, Informed Consent at Primary Stages, A Midsummer Night’s Dream at TFANA, Who Left This Fork Here? at Baryshnikov Arts Center, Jackie at The Women’s Project and The New York, Los Angeles and International productions of Toni Morrison’s play Desdemona. TV and Film credits include “Mapplethorpe,” “Hot Air,” The Greatest Showman, “Fair Market Value,” “Blindspot,” “NCIS: New Orleans,” “Vinyl” and “Flesh and Bone.”

Nadia Bowers (Mariya, Mrs. Petrovna). Broadway: The Farnsworth Invention, Doubt, Metamorphoses. Other NYC credits: Recently, Church and State at New World Stages, The Way West by Mona Mansour at Labyrinth. Other NYC theater: Collapse (The Women’s Project), Julius Caesar (Public Theater; NYSF), Wildflower (Second Stage), Dog and Wolf (Watson Arts@59E59), Eyes of the Heart (NAATCO), The Netflix Plays (Ars Nova), Romania. Kiss Me! (The Play Company). Regional: The Farnsworth Invention, Sideways (LaJolla Playhouse), Blood Wedding, Boston Marriage (Guthrie Theater), Circle Mirror Transformation (Huntington Theater), Chapter Two (Bucks County Playhouse), Tartuffe (Westport Country Playhouse) and many others. TV: “Quantico,” “Orange is the New Black,” “The Strain,” “NCIS,” every incarnation of “Law and Order.” Film: (upcoming) Unintended. B.A: Dartmouth College – Sociology/French. M.F.A: Tisch School of the Arts, NYU’s Graduate Acting Program. http://www.nadiabowers.com

Danny Burstein (Isaac) is a six-time Tony Award and two-time Grammy Award nominee whose sixteen Broadway credits include: Fiddler on the Roof; Cabaret; The Snow Geese; Golden Boy; Follies; Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown; South Pacific; The Drowsy Chaperone; Saint Joan; The Seagull; Three Men on a Horse; A Little Hotel on the Side; Titanic and Company. Off-Broadway credits include: Bottom in Midsummer…; Talley’s Folly; Mrs. Farnsworth; Psych; All in the Timing; Merrily We Roll Along; Weird Romance and I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. Film/TV includes: Indignation (directed by James Schamus); The Family Fang (directed by Jason Bateman); Blackhat (directed by Michael Mann); Transamerica; Deception; Affluenza; Nor’easter; The Sounding; “Boardwalk Empire” (directed by Martin Scorsese); “Louie”; “Absolutely Fabulous”; “Law & Order”; “The Good Wife”,etc. In 2014 he made his Metropolitan Opera debut as Frosch in the Jeremy Sams/Douglas Carter Beane production of Die Fledermaus.

Rebecca Naomi Jones (Urzula) was last at Atlantic in the acclaimed new play Marie and Rosetta. She has performed on Broadway in Significant Other, Hedwig and The Angry Inch, American Idiot and Passing Strange. Other New York work includes Murder Ballad at Manhattan Theatre Club (Lilly Award and Lucille Lortel nomination), Signature Theater’s production of Big Love (Drama League nomination), The Fortress of Solitude (Public Theater), Love’s Labour’s Lost (Shakespeare in the Park), Wig Out! (Vineyard Theatre), God Bless You Mr. Rosewater (Encores), and the recent Public Works production of As You Like It. Films: Most Likely To Murder, The Big Sick, Ratter, Ordinary World, Passing Strange and the documentary Broadway Idiot. Select TV: “High Maintenance,” “Sex&Drugs&Rock&Roll,” “Inside Amy Schumer,” “Limitless,” “Difficult People,” “Blue Bloods.” Solo concerts: Lincoln Center American Songbook, Apollo Cafe. Rebecca holds a BFA in Drama from the North Carolina School of the Arts.

Max Gordon MOORE (Vova) is pleased to be making his Atlantic Theater Company debut. Broadway: Indecent, Relatively Speaking. Off-Broadway: Man from Nebraska (Second Stage); Indecent (Vineyard); Man and Superman, It’s A Wonderful Life (Irish Rep). Recent: The Master Builder (BAM); Arcadia, The Caucasian Chalk Circle (Yale Rep); Time and the Conways (Old Globe); Constellations (Seattle Rep); Tragedy: A Tragedy (Berkeley Rep); As You Like It, Merchant of Venice, Merry Wives of Windsor, Richard III (California Shakespeare); Pleasure and Pain (Magic Theatre); Bach at Leipzig (ACT Theatre); The Seagull (Cleveland Playhouse). Film/TV: Gods Behaving Badly, “Madam Secretary,” “The Good Wife.” MFA, Yale School of Drama, Hershel Williams Prize in Acting.

Stephen Stocking (Felix) is thrilled to be making his Atlantic Theater Company debut. Most recently: Gavrilo Princip in the world premiere of Rajiv Joseph’s Archduke directed by Giovanna Sardelli at Center Theatre Group. New York and Regional theater: Describe the Night (Alley Theatre and NYU); Great Expectations (Portland Center Stage); A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Shakespeare Theatre Co., DC and Macau); Every Good Girl Deserves Fun (by Heidi Armbruster); The Casebook of Rudolf H- (NYTW Studio); Dance Dance Revolution (Alex Timbers, Dir.); Romeo & Juliet, Anything Goes (Williamstown). NYU: Desire, Three Sisters, Plenty, Landscape of the Body, The Beaux’ Strategem, Pale Fires. TV: “Z: The Beginning of Everything.” MFA: NYU Grad Acting. stephenstocking.com

Atlantic Theater Company (Neil Pepe, Artistic Director; Jeffory Lawson, Managing Director) Formed in 1985 by David Mamet and William H. Macy, Atlantic is an award-winning Off-Broadway theater dedicated to producing great plays simply and truthfully while utilizing an artistic ensemble. At Atlantic, we believe that the story of a play and the intent of its playwright are at the core of the creative process. Each season, we aim to produce plays and musicals that are vital and thought-provoking – from premieres by emerging and established writers to classics that speak to modern audiences. Alongside being an award-winning producing organization, we’ve also been teaching theater since our inception. Today, the Atlantic Acting School has grown into one of the most respected training institutions in New York City – offering a diverse range of programming including an accredited conservatory program, a BFA program through NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and after school and summer programs for kids and teens. We also bring theater into the classroom through robust arts education initiatives that serve as many as 4,200 public school students each year. Since its inception, Atlantic has produced more than 150 plays including Tony Award-winning productions of Spring Awakening (Steven Sater, Duncan Sheik) and The Beauty Queen of Leenane (Martin McDonagh); Pulitzer Prize recipient Between Riverside and Crazy (Stephen Adly Guirgis); New York Drama Critics’ Circle winner for Best New Play The Night Alive (Conor McPherson); and Lucille Lortel, Obie, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award-winning The Band’s Visit (David Yazbek, Itamar Moses); among many others. Atlantic has garnered 12 Tony Awards, 24 Obie Awards, 21 Lucille Lortel Awards, 10 Drama Desk Awards, 8 Outer Critics Circle Awards, 4 New York Drama Critics’ Circle Awards, 3 Drama League Awards, 3 Theater World Awards and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Atlantic Theater Company’S LINDA GROSS THEATER is located at 336 West 20th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenues).

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SAG-AFTRA Mourns the Passing of New York Local President Mike Hodge

Courtesy of SAG/AFTRA
Courtesy of SAG/AFTRA
Courtesy of SAG/AFTRA

Source: www.sagaftra.org

SAG-AFTRA mourns the passing of Mike Hodge, an accomplished actor, stalwart unionist and New York president of SAG-AFTRA, who passed away on September 9. He was 70.
Hodge had a long career as a Broadway, TV, film and commercial actor.
Oso Tayri Casel, Peter Kwong, SAG-Aftra New York local President Mike Hodge, Lia Chang and Fred “The Hammer” Williamson at the Cinemax® VIP Welcome Red Carpet Reception and UAS IAFF Awards at HBO in New York on November 11, 2016.
Oso Tayri Casel, Peter Kwong, SAG-Aftra New York local President Mike Hodge, Lia Chang and Fred “The Hammer” Williamson at the Cinemax® VIP Welcome Red Carpet Reception and UAS IAFF Awards at HBO in New York on November 11, 2016.

A SAG-AFTRA National Board member since 2001, Hodge was first elected New York president in 2009 and continued in that role until his death. He was instrumental in jumpstarting the effort that ultimately led to the merging of Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists in 2012. In 2013 and again in 2015, he was elected at the SAG-AFTRA National Convention to two-year terms as the union’s National Vice President representing New York.

“Mike’s spirit shone brightly, and he was greatly admired by those he worked with, whether in the union’s boardroom or on set. He will be remembered for his professionalism, conviction and remarkable strength of purpose,” said SAG-AFTRA President Gabrielle Carteris. “His perseverance and ability to rally members helped make merger possible, and in that regard, SAG-AFTRA stands as a memorial to his accomplishments, leadership of the New York Local and everything he believed in.”
Hodge attended West Virginia University where he was part of the integrating class at the School of Journalism. After earning a B.A. in journalism with a minor in theater, he went to work for The Washington Post. Later, he continued his theater studies at the DC Black Repertory Theater. After he earned his Equity, SAG and AFTRA cards while working in Washington, D.C., he decided to make a move to New York.
That opened the doors to commercial work, while also allowing him to pursue theater roles. With that foundation in place, Hodge began appearing on nighttime and daytime TV series. Soon his career expanded to include work in film. Among his credits, he appeared on Broadway in Fences and A Few Good Men; the film To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar; and often appeared on television as a doctor, lawyer or judge on shows such as “Law & Order”. He was also an award-winning audiobook narrator, having narrated books by Steve Harvey, Mitch Albom and others.
Everything changed with the commercials strike in 2000. Friends encouraged Hodge to run for SAG’s national board. Inspired by his union-member father, Hodge launched his campaign and in 2001 won a seat. Eight years later, Hodge was again asked to run – this time for the SAG New York Local presidency. In 2009, he was elected president, now moving to co-chair several negotiating committees on which he had previously been serving. He served on the union’s G1 committee that created the framework for the 2012 merger of SAG and AFTRA, helping lead the campaign in New York.
Urban Action Showcase IAFF Awards at HBO in New York on November 11, 2016.
Urban Action Showcase IAFF Awards at HBO in New York on November 11, 2016.

During his many years of union leadership, Hodge was also active in several union committees: National and New York Executive; Professional Representatives; TV/Theatrical Negotiating; Basic Cable Negotiating; Network Code Negotiating; Corporate/Educational and Non-Broadcast Negotiating; Organizing; Government Review; and Communications.

Hodge also served as a member of the New York State AFL-CIO Executive Council, the City Labor Council and as a trustee to the Industry Advancement Cooperative Fund. He was instrumental in establishing and extending the N.Y. film production tax incentive through 2022, and he worked to strengthen the N.Y. Right of Publicity law for all members. He also worked with New York’s elected officials to create the city’s entertainment industry internship program, which has helped improve diversity behind the camera.
Hodge was born February 24, 1947 in McComas, West Virginia. He graduated from Gary District High School as valedictorian of the class of 1965.
Countless relatives, friends, professional colleagues and the N.Y. Local staff will miss his warm smile, hearty laughter, generosity and big personality. He loved life and spending time with his family. Together, they enjoyed Thanksgiving and Christmas, with rare exceptions. Memorable family vacations with mom, siblings, nieces and nephews included trips to Hawaii, New Zealand, New Orleans, the Caribbean Islands, and family reunions in Ohio and Virginia.
Hodge was predeceased by his father, Rev. Ulysses G. Hodge and is survived by his mother, Roberta Hodge Johnson of Mint Hill, N.C.; brother, Joseph Hodge (Jacqueline) of Dayton, Ohio; sisters, Karen Hodge Thomas (Chester) of Mint Hill, N.C. and Vicki Hodge Lynch of Waxhaw, N.C.; two nephews, Justin Thomas (Julie) of Mint Hill, N.C. and Jordan Lynch of Waxhaw, N.C.; two nieces, Courtney Thomas Evans (Gabriel) and Dayna Hodge Lynch of Waxhaw, N.C.; a great niece, Zoey Thomas and a great nephew, Gabriel Thomas Evans, Jr., whose arrival on Sept. 8 provided great joy to him.

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Deanna Dunagan, Peter Friedman, Pun Bandhu and Marinda Anderson Set for World Premiere of Max Posner’s THE TREASURER at Playwrights Horizons, September 6 – October 22

Pun Bandhu
Pun Bandhu
Pun Bandhu

Playwrights Horizons is presenting the world premiere of Max Posner’s new play THE TREASURER, directed by three-time Lortel Award winner David Cromer (The Band’s Visit, Our Town, Adding Machine). Commissioned by Playwrights Horizons, the play will be the second production of the theater company’s 2017/2018 Season.

The cast of THE TREASURER will feature Marinda Anderson (Bella: An American Tall Tale, A Life, Far From Heaven at Playwrights; Every Good Girl), Pun Bandhu (Wit on Broadway, Plenty, Informed Consent, True and Solid Ground, Faust), Tony Award winner and Olivier Award nominee Deanna Dunagan (August: Osage County, Man and Superman, regionally in Other Desert Cities, James Joyce’s The Dead) and Tony Award nominee and Obie Award winner Peter Friedman (Fly By Night, The Great God Pan, The Shaggs, After the Revolution, Circle Mirror Transformation, The Heidi Chronicles at Playwrights; Ragtime; The Open House).

The production will begin previews Wednesday, September 6 with an Opening Night set for Tuesday, September 26 at 8PM at the company’s Peter Jay Sharp Theater (416 West 42nd Street). The limited engagement is currently scheduled to play through Sunday, October 22.

Ida Armstrong (Ms. Dunagan) is broke, lonely and fading fast. And she’s spending all of her children’s money, forcing her son (Mr. Friedman) to assume the unwanted role of The Treasurer: an arrangement that becomes untenable the more he questions his devotion to her. In this darkly funny, sharply intimate portrait, Max Posner chronicles the strained ties between a son and his aging mother, and the hell of a guilty conscience.

The production will feature scenic design by Lortel Award winner Laura Jellinek, costume design by David Hyman, lighting design by Tony Award winner Bradley King, sound design by two-time Lortel Award winner Mikhail Fiksel and projection design by Lucy Mackinnon. Production Stage Manager is Brett Anders.

THE TREASURER was commissioned by Playwrights Horizons with the support of Duke/Mellon Leading National Theaters.

The performance schedule for THE TREASURER will be Tuesdays through Fridays at 8PM, Saturdays at 2:30 & 8PM and Sundays at 2:30 & 7:30 PM. Beginning Tuesday, August 8, single tickets, $49-89, may be purchased online via www.phnyc.org, by phone at (212) 279-4200 (Noon-8pm daily) and in person at the Ticket Central Box Office, 416 West 42nd Street (between Ninth & Tenth Avenues).

Opening the Playwrights Horizons 2017/2018 Season will be FOR PETER PAN ON HER 70th BIRTHDAY, the New York premiere of a new play by two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist and Tony Award nominee Sarah Ruhl, directed by Obie Award winner Les Waters, featuring three-time Obie Award winner Kathleen Chalfant in the title role, David Chandler, Ron Crawford, two-time Obie Award winner Lisa Emery, Tony Award nominee Daniel Jenkins and Keith Reddin (August 2017). Following FOR PETER PAN… and THE TREASURER will be MANKIND, the world premiere of a Playwrights Horizons commissioned new play written and directed by two-time Obie Award winner Robert O’Hara (December 2017); THIS FLAT EARTH, the world premiere of a new play by Lindsey Ferrentino, directed by Tony Award winner Rebecca Taichman (March 2018); DANCE NATION, the world premiere of a new play by Obie Award winner Clare Barron, directed by Obie Award winner Lee Sunday Evans (April 2018); and LOG CABIN, the world premiere of a new play by Pulitzer Prize finalist Jordan Harrison, directed by Tony Award and Obie Award winner Pam MacKinnon (June 2018). For more information, visit .phnyc.org.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS:

Max Posner’s (Playwright) play Judy premiered Off-Broadway in 2015 (Page 73, directed by Ken Rus Schmoll). Recent productions include Snore (Juilliard, directed by Knud Adams), Sisters on the Ground (Playwrights Horizons Theater School at NYU, directed by Ken Rus Schmoll) and Gun Logistics (Drama League, directed by Knud Adams). He is the recipient of the Helen Merrill Emerging Playwright Award, the Heideman Award from Actors Theatre of Louisville, the P73 Fellowship and two Lecomte du Nouy awards from Lincoln Center. Max is a Sundance Institute Theatre Fellow, a two-time MacDowell Colony Fellow and was the Writer-In-Residence at Williamstown. He’s an alumnus of the Soho Rep. Writer/Director Lab, Ars Nova’s Playgroup, The Working Farm at SPACE on Ryder Farm and I-73. He contributed to John Early’s episode of “The Characters” (Netflix) and is working on a libretto for the Brooklyn Youth Chorus with composer Ellis Ludwig Leone. Max’s plays have been developed by Playwrights Horizons, Soho Rep., Page 73, Clubbed Thumb, Williamstown, The Atlantic, Ars Nova, The Bushwick Starr, NYTW, American Theater Co., The Juilliard School and SPACE on Ryder Farm. He is a frequent volunteer at Manhattan’s 52nd Street Project. He studied writing as an undergrad at Brown, and recently completed a two-year Lila Acheson Wallace Playwriting Fellowship at The Juilliard School. Max was born and raised in Denver and lives in Brooklyn.

David Cromer (Director). Recent credits include Man from Nebraska (Second Stage), The Band’s Visit (Atlantic, opening on Broadway this fall); The Effect (Barrow Street Theatre), Come Back, Little Sheba (Huntington Theatre), Angels in America (Kansas City Rep) and Our Town at the Almeida Theatre in London. New York Credits include Women or Nothing at Atlantic, Really Really at MCC, The House of Blue Leaves and Brighton Beach Memoirs on Broadway, When the Rain Stops Falling and Nikolai and the Others at Lincoln Center Theater. Also at the Barrow Street Theatre, he has directed Tribes, Our Town and Orson’s Shadow, as well as Adding Machine, which was a BST production at the Minetta Lane. Originally from Chicago, his credits there include Sweet Bird of Youth (The Goodman); A Streetcar Named Desire, Picnic and The Price (Writers Theatre); Cherrywood, Mojo and The Hot l Baltimore (Mary-Arrchie); The Cider House Rules (co-directed with Marc Grapey at Famous Door); and Angels in America (The Journeymen); among others. For Michael Ira Cromer (1966-2015).

Marinda Anderson (The Women). Playwrights: Bella: An American Tall Tale, A Life, Far From Heaven. Off-Broadway: Sex of the Baby (Access Theater), Macbeth (Lincoln Center Interactive Theatre), Obama-ology (The Juilliard School). Regional: Airness (Humana), A Doll’s House (Huntington), Three Sisters (PlayMakers Repertory), Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill (Berkshire Theatre Award nominee, Outstanding Female Performance), Intimate Apparel (Dorset Theatre Festival), Fairfield (Cleveland Play House). TV: “Horace and Pete,” “Gotham.” BFA: Howard University. MFA: NYU Graduate Acting Program. marindaanderson.com

Pun Bandhu (The Men). Playwrights Horizons debut. Broadway: Wit. Off-Broadway: Plenty, Informed Consent, True and Solid Ground, Faust, The Master Builder, Last of the Sons, Vengeance Can Wait. Film: Money Monster, The Judge, Frozen River, Burn After Reading, Michael Clayton. TV: “Allegiance,” “Elementary,” “The Good Wife,” “Nurse Jackie.” Winner of the 2015 New Dramatist’s Charles Bowden Actor Award.

Deanna Dunagan (Ida). Playwrights Horizons debut. Broadway: August: Osage County (also Chicago, London, Sydney; Tony, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Theatre World, Drama League, Jefferson awards; Olivier nomination), Man and Superman. Regional: Other Desert Cities, A Little Night Music, I Never Sang for My Father (Jefferson Award), James Joyce’s The Dead (Jefferson Award), Bounce, A Delicate Balance (After Dark Award), Was, The Glamour House (After Dark Award), Sunday in the Park with George. National tour: Children of a Lesser God. Film: The Visit, The Company, Losing Isaiah. TV: “House of Cards,” “Private Practice,” “Prison Break,” “Mitch Albom’s Have a Little Faith.”

Peter Friedman (The Son). Playwrights: Fly By Night, The Shaggs, After the Revolution, The Great God Pan, Circle Mirror Transformation (Obie Award), The Heidi Chronicles (also Broadway). Broadway: Ragtime (Tony nom.), Twelve Angry Men. Off-Broadway: Hamlet, Her Requiem, The Jacuzzi Play, The Open House (Drama Desk Award), Uncle Vanya, End Days, Body Awareness, The Hatmaker’s Wife, The Common Pursuit, A Soldier’s Play, and a Nightingale Sang…, The Loman Family Picnic, The Slug Bearers of Kayrol Island. Film: The Savages; Single White Female; Side Effects; Safe; Synecdoche, New York; Keep In Touch. TV: “Succession,” “The Muppet Show,” “Brooklyn Bridge.”

Playwrights Horizons is dedicated to cultivating the most important American Playwrights, composers and lyricists, as well as developing and producing their bold new plays and musicals. Under Artistic Director Tim Sanford and Managing Director Leslie Marcus, Playwrights builds upon its diverse and renowned body of work, counting 400 writers among its artistic roster. In addition to its onstage work each season, Playwrights’ singular commitment to nurturing American theater artists guides all of the institution’s multifaceted initiatives: our acclaimed New Works Lab, a robust commissioning program, an innovative curriculum at its Theater School and more. Playwrights has been recognized with numerous awards and honors, including six Pulitzer Prizes, 13 Tony Awards and 39 Obie Awards. Prior artistic directors include André Bishop and Don Scardino. Robert Moss founded Playwrights Horizons in 1971 and oversaw its first decade, cementing the mission that continues to guide the institution today.

Notable productions include six Pulitzer Prize winners – Annie Baker’s The Flick (2013 Obie Award, 2013 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize), Bruce Norris’s Clybourne Park (2012 Tony Award, Best Play), Doug Wright’s I Am My Own Wife (2004 Tony Award, Best Play), Wendy Wasserstein’s The Heidi Chronicles (1989 Tony Award, Best Play), Alfred Uhry’s Driving Miss Daisy and Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine’s Sunday in the Park with George – as well as Ms. Baker’s Circle Mirror Transformation (three 2010 Obie Awards including Best New American Play); Lisa D’Amour’s Detroit (2013 Obie Award, Best New American Play); Samuel D. Hunter’s The Whale (2013 Lortel Award, Best Play); Kirsten Greenidge’s Milk Like Sugar (2012 Obie Award); JorDan Harrison’s Marjorie Prime (2015 Pulitzer finalist); Lucas Hnath’s The Christians (2016 Obie Award, 2016 Outer Critics Circle Award, 2015 Kesselring Prize); Robert O’Hara’s Bootycandy (two 2015 Obie Awards); Adam Bock’s A Life and A Small Fire; Taylor Mac’s Hir; Danai Gurira’s Familiar; Anne Washburn’s Mr. Burns, a post-electric play; Sarah Ruhl’s Stage Kiss and Dead Man’s Cell Phone; Gina Gionfriddo’s Rapture, Blister, Burn; Dan LeFranc’s The Big Meal; Amy Herzog’s The Great God Pan and After the Revolution; Bathsheba Doran’s Kin; Edward Albee’s Me, Myself & I; Melissa James Gibson’s This (2010 Susan Smith Blackburn Prize finalist); Doug Wright, Scott Frankel and Michael Korie’s Grey Gardens (three 2007 Tony Awards); Craig Lucas’s Prayer For My Enemy and Small Tragedy (2004 Obie Award, Best American Play); Adam Rapp’s Kindness; Lynn Nottage’s Fabulation (2005 Obie Award for Playwriting); Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero; David Greenspan’s She Stoops to Comedy (2003 Obie Award); Kirsten Childs’s The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin (2000 Obie Award); Richard Nelson and Shaun Davey’s James Joyce’s The Dead (2000 Tony Award, Best Book); Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman’s Assassins; William Finn’s March of the Falsettos and Falsettoland; Christopher Durang’s Betty’s Summer Vacation and Sister Mary Ignatius Explains It All For You; Richard Nelson’s Goodnight Children Everywhere; Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty’s Once on This Island; Jon Robin Baitz’s The Substance of Fire; Scott McPherson’s Marvin’s Room; A.R. Gurney’s Later Life; Adam Guettel and Tina Landau’s Floyd Collins; and Jeanine Tesori and Brian Crawley’s Violet.

Ariel Estrada Set for David Ball Adaptation of TARTUFFE at Phoenix Theatre Ensemble, October 21 – November 12

Ariel Estrada
Ariel Estrada
Ariel Estrada

Phoenix Theatre Ensemble is presenting Moliere’s great comedy Tartuffe in an adaptation by David Ball. Tartuffe will begin previews on October 21st and open on Friday, October 27st and will run for 22 performances only through November 12th at The Wild Project in NYC.

PTE Producing Artistic Director Craig Smith directs a new staging of Tartuffe in David Ball’s dynamic adaptation, which was developed originally for Theatre de la Jeune Lune. The production will feature Phoenix Theatre Ensemble resident actors, Alicia Marie Beatty, Matt Baguth, Ariel Estrada, Eileen Glenn, Oscar Klausner, John Lenartz, Morgan Rosse, Wes Spencer, Elise Stone, and Josh Tyson.

The design team for Tartuffe includes Debbi Hobson for costumes, Ellen Mandel for original music and sound, Attilio Rigotti for projection and video design, Tsubasa Kamei for Lights. Karen Case Cook is assistant director, Carrigan O’Brien is dramaturg, and Meghan McVann is production stage manager.

Smith states “PTE’s Season 2017-18 is ‘the year of the charismatic’ – we’re asking why seemingly smart people often lose their way, their moral center, and blindly follow bad people or dogmas. The season starts off with the great classic comedy Tartuffe in which a religious con-man dupes a once reasonable man out of his house, home and even his wife. But our approach to the play is not conventional-we want to see Tartuffe through the eyes of the victim. Our Tartuffe is handsome, charismatic and sexy. He channels the Divine and is miraculous.”

Previews: October 21-26; Opening October 27 and playing through November 12; performances Tues-Sat @8:00 PM; Sunday matinees at 3:00 pm; and special Wednesday and Saturday matinees at 2:00 pm Oct 25, Nov 4 & 8.

Full Schedule: Sat 10/21 8pm; Sun 10/22 3pm; 10/24-28 8pm; Sun 10/29 3pm; Nov 1-4 8pm; Nov 5 3pm; Nov 7-11 8pm; Sun Nov 12 3pm; Wed matinee 10/25 & 11/8 2pm; Sat matinee 11/4 2pm.

For more information visit http://www.phoenixtheatreensemble.org/.

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Negro Ensemble Company Gala Benefit on September 11; A SOLDIER’S PLAY Revival Set for 50th Season, September 27 – October 8

Original cast of "A Soldier's Play" by Charles Fuller, presented by Negro Ensemble Company at Theatre Four, 1981. Brent Jennings, Steven Jones, Eugene Lee, Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Jame Pickens and Reyno Shine. Photo by Bert Andrews

For its 50th season, The Negro Ensemble Company, Inc. (NEC) has been presenting a retrospective of some of the troupe’s signature works.

The culminating event of this landmark season will be NEC’s most famous and successful production, “A Soldier’s Play” by Charles Fuller, which NEC first presented in 1981 at Theatre Four. That production ran for two years, earned unanimous praise and launched the careers of many current stars, but has never again had a major production in New York.

Original cast of "A Soldier's Play" by Charles Fuller, presented by Negro Ensemble Company at Theatre Four, 1981. Brent Jennings, Steven Jones, Eugene Lee, Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Jame Pickens and Reyno Shine. Photo by Bert Andrews
Original cast of “A Soldier’s Play” by Charles Fuller, presented by Negro Ensemble Company at Theatre Four, 1981. Brent Jennings, Steven Jones, Eugene Lee, Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Jame Pickens and Reyno Shine. Photo by Bert Andrews

NEC will revive the play September 27 to October 8 at Theatre 80 St. Marks, directed by Charles Weldon, the troupe’s current Artistic Director.

The play uses a murder mystery in a segregated U.S. Army base during World War II to expose angers and resentments among African Americans that curiously mimic white racist attitudes. A black Captain is sent to investigate the murder of a black Sergeant. The setting is a segregated Army base in Louisiana where a black officer wielding authority is unprecedented and bitterly resented. The Sargent is revealed as tyrannical in nature and disgusted with his fellow black soldiers, particularly those from the rural South. The unit is comprised of former Negro Leagues players who were grouped as a unit in order to provide entertainment. Their success playing against white soldiers makes them so popular that it generates talk of them playing against the Yankees in an exhibition game. Nevertheless, they are assigned to menial jobs. The Sargent’s murder at first seems attributable to the local KKK. But when the true murderers are found, surprising and unsettling divisions among the black troops will be revealed. Social forces that might be unveiled, however, will be swept under the rug of history, since the platoon is about to deploy to Europe for the honor of participating in the great Allied invasion. The play won the Pulitzer Prize, an Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Off-Broadway Play, a New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best American Play and three Obie Awards.

“A Soldier’s Play” ran for two years Off-Broadway and became the most acclaimed production in NEC’s body of work. It gave birth, so to speak, to the careers of Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Adolph Caesar and James Pickens, Jr. NEC’s co-founder Douglas Turner Ward, who was the play’s original director, has written that he was certain of the play’s success from the very beginning, not least because he was so certain of its casting, most of the actors having already appeared at the NEC.

In 1984, a faithful adaptation of the play was filmed Columbia Pictures as “A Soldier’s Story,” directed by Norman Jewison, adapted by Fuller from his Pulitzer Prize-winning script. It won prestigious festival prizes and was nominated for three Academy Awards: Best Picture, Supporting Actor (Adolph Caesar), and Screenplay Adaptation (Fuller).

This 50th Season production will be directed by Charles Weldon, who acted in “A Soldier’s Story” in 1983 at the Mark Taper Forum. His cast-mates also included Robert Hooks, Denny Holiday, Earl Billings, Adolph Caesar, Denzel Washington and Larry Riley. In revisiting the play, Weldon has cast actors who are similar in their effect to those who played the original characters in 1981. The 2017 cast is: Gilbert Tucker, Layon Gray, P.J. Max, Horace Glasper, Buck Hinkle, Derek Dean, Jay Ward, Arron Lloyd, Adrain Washington, Fulton Hodges, Aaron Sparks and Jimmy Gary, Jr. Their 1981 counterparts were: Adolph Caesar, CharLes Brown, Brent Jennings, Samuel L. Jackson, Peter Friedman, Cotter Smith, Eugene Lee, James Pickens, Jr., Denzel Washington, Steven A. Jones, Stephen Zettler and Larry Riley.

Set design is by Chris Cumberbatch. Lighting Design is by Melody A. Beal. Costume Design is by Ali Turns. Sound Design is by Jacqui Anscombe.

Presented by Negro Ensemble Company, Inc. (www.necinc.org)
Performance Schedule: Wednesdays through Fridays at 7:00 PM, Saturdays and Sundays at 3:00 PM and 7:00 PM. Tickets: $25 General Admission; $20 Students, Seniors and Groups of 10 or more. Previews September 27 & 28, opens September 29. Opening night celebration $20 additional.
Box office: 866-811-4111, www.necinc.org. Group sales 212-582-5860.

NEC GALA SEPTEMBER 11

Director/actor Michelle Shay and actor Brandon Dirden, joined by comedian Rhonda Hansome and jazz musicians Pam Hamilton/Rob Dors Duo, will host Negro Ensemble Company’s Golden Celebration September 11 from 6:00 to 10:00 PM at Dwyer Cultural Center: 258 St Nicholas Avenue (enter 123rd Street between St. Nicholas Ave & Fredrick Douglas Blvd.). There will be a photo exhibit by Carmen de Jesus curated by Debra Vanderberg Spencer and a screening of “A Soldier’s Play and Beyond,” produced and directed by Susan Watson-Turner. Lighting designer Shirley Prendergast will be honored. Tickets are $150 – $50 and can be purchased on the NEC website, necinc.org, or by calling Ovation Tix at 866-811-4111.

Playwright Charles Fuller has been a prominent contributor to the repertory of the NEC, beginning with “In the Deepest Part of Sleep,” a four-character domestic drama, and a succession of larger, more historical plays with themes of justice, including “The Brownsville Raid” and “Zooman and the Sign.” Other productions with NEC include two epic cycles, “In My Many Names and Days” and “We.” He has written about twenty major theatrical works. Although in recent years, he has concentrated mostly on writing for the screen, he tackled the searing subject of sexual assault in the armed forces with a new play, “One Night …,” which was produced at the Cherry Lane Theater in 2013. He was born and raised in Philadelphia and served in the U.S. Army from 1959 to 1962, after which he studied at La Salle University (1965-1967), earning a DFA. He has received a Guggenheim Award and NEA fellowship for playwriting, taught playwriting at Temple University and co-founded the Afro-American Arts Theatre Philadelphia.

Director Charles Weldon has been Artistic Director of Negro Ensemble Company, Inc. for twelve years. He has directed the company’s productions of “Colored People Time” by Leslie Lee, “The Waiting Room” by Samm-Art Williams, “Savanna Black and Blue” by Raymond Jones, “Ceremonies in Dark Old Men” by Lonnie Elder and “Hercules Didn’t Wade in the Water” by Michael A. Jones. He has also directed and acted prolifically in regional theaters. Weldon began his performance career in 1960 as lead singer with The Paradons, a Doo-Wop group from Bakersfield, CA, and co-wrote and recorded the smash hit “Diamonds and Pearls.” He performed in the original San Francisco production of “Hair” and the Broadway musical “Buck Time Buck White” with Mohammed Ali. He joined the Negro Ensemble Company in 1970 and acted in many of its classic plays including “A Soldier’s Play,” “The Great McDaddy,” “The Offering,” “The Brownsville Raid” and the Company’s Broadway production of “The River Niger.” His films include “Stir Crazy,” “Serpico,” “The River Niger,” “Malcolm X” and Showtime’s “The Wishing Tree.” He has won a “HENRY” (Excellence inRegional Theater) for Best Supporting Actor in “Gem of the Ocean” by August Wilson and an Audelco Award for Best Supporting Actor in “Seven Guitars” by August Wilson at Signature Theater. His TV credits include “Roots: The Next Generation” and many NYC-based police dramas. He co-founded the Alumni of the Negro Ensemble Company.

Theater 80 St. Marks became the home theater of The Negro Ensemble, Inc. (NEC) in 2016 and all of the company’s 50th Anniversary mainstage productions are being presented there. The season began December 4-11, 2016 with a revival of NEC’s very first production, “Day of Absence” (1966) by Douglas Turner Ward. The company returned May 24 to June 10 with “Daughters of the Mock” by Judi Ann Mason (original production March 3, 1976), directed by Denise Dowse.

NEC’s first plays were produced at St. Mark’s Playhouse, which was one flight up over a the old movie house at Second Avenue and St. Marks Place, a stone’s throw from Theatre 80 St. Marks. Today the old St. Marks Playhouse building at 133 Second Avenue has shops and restaurants on the ground floor and condominiums on the upper levels. Lorcan Otway, owner of Theater 80, beams that he is “proud and honored to host and welcome back the The Negro Ensemble Company, Inc. to the street upon which they changed the face of New York Theater.”

NEC’s awards include a Pulitzer Prize (1982, “A Soldier’s Play”), two Tony Awards, eleven Obies and many more. Its legacy reads like a Who’s Who of America’s Black theater artists. In 2009, Signature Theatre presented a season of readings of various plays from the NEC canon, with Douglas Turner Ward as curator and Ruben Santiago-Hudson as associated artist.

Prior to the 1960s, there were virtually no outlets for the wealth of black theatrical talent in America. In 1965, Playwright Douglas Turner Ward, producer/actor Robert Hooks, and theater manager Gerald Krone founded The Negro Ensemble Company, Inc. (NEC). The River Niger by Joe Walker, originally produced at, St. Marks Playhouse (NEC’s home theatre), moved to Broadway and was awarded 1973 Obie Awards for Distinguished Performance by Douglas Turner Ward; Best American Play, Joseph A. Walker, and Distinguished Performance by Roxie Roker. Other works include Peter Weiss’ “Song of the Lucitanian Bogey” (1967), Lonnie Elder’s “Ceremonies in Dark Old Men” (1969) and Charles Fuller’s “Zooman and the Sign” (1980). In 1981, NEC mounted “A Soldier’s Play” by Charles Fuller, which won the Pulitzer Prize. A film version, “A Soldier’s Story,” was released in 1984 and nominated for three Academy Awards. NEC has produced more than two hundred new plays and provided a theatrical home for more than four thousand cast and crew members. Among its ranks have been some of the best black actors in television and film, including Louis Gossett Jr., Sherman Hemsley, Denise Nichols, Esther Rolle, Adolph Caesar, Laurence Fishburne, Glynn Turman, Reuben Santiago-Hudson, S. Epatha Merkerson, and Phylicia Rashad; playwrights include Steve Carter (intentionally lower case), Samm-Art Williams, Leslie Lee. NEC continues to be a constant source and sustenance for black actors, directors, and writers as they have worked to break down walls of racial prejudice.

In July, the company presented the 2017 edition of its NEC Alumni Summer Showcase, “The Cost” by Aquaila Shene Barnes, directed by Barbara Montgomery, in Summer Shares at La MaMa. On July 31, the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, NC conferred an award on The Negro Ensemble Inc. for 50 years of excellence in theater. The honor was accepted for the company by its current Artistic Director, Charles Weldon.

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George Takei, Gedde Watanabe, Melody Butiu, Amy Hill, Hudson Yang, Krista Marie Yu, Beau Sia and More Set for ONE NIGHT ONLY: EWP MARKET Benefit on September 9

George Takei. Photo by Luke Fontana
George Takei. Photo by Luke Fontana
George Takei. Photo by Luke Fontana

East West Players (EWP), the nation’s longest-running professional theatre of color and the largest producing organization of Asian American artistic work, is pleased to announce its signature One Night Only season kick-off fundraising event, to be held on Saturday, September 9, 2017. The event is themed “EWP Night Market” and will include tasting stations hosted by local restaurants, followed by an evening of performances featuring Asian American Broadway stars George Takei (Allegiance and Pacific Overtures), Gedde Watanabe (Pacific Overtures), Melody Butiu (Here Lies Love), and more. Proceeds of One Night Only: EWP Night Market support EWP’s artistic and educational programs.

“This year’s One Night Only ushers in the start of our 52nd Anniversary Season, The Company We Keep,” says Snehal Desai. “In my second season as EWP’s Producing Artistic Director, I wanted to celebrate the vital artistic and community partnerships that have supported us over the past 52 years and also honor where we are today. One Night Only: EWP Night Market features a fusion of Asian cultures and traditions, and an amazing evening of songs, spoken word, and comedy performed by a stellar, multi-generational lineup of Asian American performers familiar to East West Players audiences.”

Additional performers include Amy Hill (CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”), Krista Marie Yu (ABC’s “Dr. Ken”), Hudson Yang and Forrest Wheeler (ABC’s “Fresh Off The Boat”), Araceli Prasarttongosoth and MichAyla Brown (EWP’s The Who’s Tommy), Tony Award-winning poet Beau Sia (Broadway’s Def Poetry Jam), and performance artist Kristina Wong (Wong Street Journal). More performers will be announced soon.

One Night Only: EWP Night Market will be held on Saturday, September 9, 2017 at East West Players’ David Henry Hwang Theater at the Union Center of the Arts at 120 Judge John Aiso Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Cocktails and tasting stations will be available starting at 6:00PM. The evening continues with performances at 7:30PM. One Night Only: EWP Night Market is a benefit performance. Levels of sponsorships are available ranging from $1,000 to $3,500 with VIP tickets, reserved seating, and a program ad. Individual tickets for cocktails and the show are available for $200 VIP for reserved seating in the Preferred Orchestra section, $150 General for reserved seating in the Orchestra section, and $100 Balcony for reserved seating in the balcony. For information about sponsorship and ticket opportunities, please email Development Manager Monika Ramnath at mramnath@eastwestplayers.org.

Sponsorship packages and individual tickets may be purchased at http://www.eastwestplayers.org or please call (213) 625-7000. Dates, details, and ticket prices are subject to change.

For more information about East West Players or One Night Only: EWP Night Market, please visit www.eastwestplayers.org.

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GETTIN’ THE BAND BACK TOGETHER Set for Broadway in August 2018

Ryan Duncan, Brandon Williams and Garth Kravits in Getting The Band Back Together at George Street Playhouse in September, 2013. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Producers Hunter Arnold, Carl Daikeler, Ken Davenport, Richard Hopper, Roy Putrino and Richard Roth have announced that Gettin’ The Band Back Together will open on Broadway next year at the Belasco Theatre (111 W 44th Street) on August 13, 2018 with previews starting July 19, 2018.

Ryan Duncan, Brandon Williams and Garth Kravits in Getting The Band Back Together at George Street Playhouse in September, 2013. Photo by T. Charles Erickson
Ryan Duncan, Brandon Williams and Garth Kravits in Getting The Band Back Together at George Street Playhouse in September, 2013. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Directed by John Rando (Tony Award Best Director, Urinetown), Gettin’ The Band Back Together has music and lyrics by Mark Allen and a book by Ken Davenport and The Grundleshotz with additional material by Sarah Saltzberg.

The design for the musical includes sets by Derek McLane (Tony Awards for Anything Goes and 33 Variations) and lighting by Ken Billington (Tony Award Chicago).

Casting will be announced in the coming months.

Single tickets will go on sale this fall. Group tickets are available now at www.YourBroadwayGenius.com or by calling 855-329-2932.

Mitch Papadopolous always dreamed about being the next Bon Jovi, but he chose security over stardom and left those daydreams behind for a day job. For a while he thought he had everything – the high paying job, the high-rise apartment – until his 40th birthday when he got handed a pink slip and had to move back in with his Mom in Sayreville, New Jersey.

And when his high school arch nemesis (with a 20-year-old grudge and a tangerine spray tan) threatens to foreclose on their house, this big-shot banker must save his small-town home the only way he can… by winning The Battle of the Bands.

So he dusts off his guitar, gathers his old gang (the math teacher who isn’t good at math, the Irish cop who dreams about being on Broadway, the dermatologist who can’t get a date, and a 16-year-old Jewish rapper who makes Vanilla Ice look cool), and sets out to win the battle… and maybe even win back the high school sweetheart he left behind… proving it’s never too late to give your dreams one last shot.

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Phylicia Rashad, John Earl Jelks, Alana Arenas, Francois Battiste, J. Bernard Calloway and More Set for HEAD OF PASSES at the Mark Taper, September 13 – October 22

(top) Cast members Francois Battiste, J. Bernard Calloway, director Tina Landau, cast members John Earl Jelks, Kyle Beltran; (bottom) cast members James Carpenter, Jacqueline Williams, Phylicia Rashad and Alana Arenas. Photo Credit: Craig Schwartz

Center Theatre Group is presenting “Head of Passes” by Oscar winner and playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney. Directed by Tina Landau and featuring Tony winner Phylicia Rashad, “Head of Passes” begins previews September 13, opens September 24 and continues through October 22, 2017, at the Mark Taper Forum. Click here for tickets.

(top) Cast members Francois Battiste, J. Bernard Calloway, director Tina Landau, cast members John Earl Jelks, Kyle Beltran; (bottom) cast members James Carpenter, Jacqueline Williams, Phylicia Rashad and Alana Arenas. Photo Credit: Craig Schwartz
(top) Cast members Francois Battiste, J. Bernard Calloway, director Tina Landau, cast members John Earl Jelks, Kyle Beltran; (bottom) cast members James Carpenter, Jacqueline Williams, Phylicia Rashad and Alana Arenas. Photo Credit: Craig Schwartz

Rashad will be reunited with her Public Theater cast mates Alana Arenas, Francois Battiste, Kyle Beltran, J. Bernard Calloway and John Earl Jelks with James Carpenter and Jacqueline Williams completing the cast.

The creative team includes scenic design by G.W. Mercier, costume design by Toni-Leslie James, lighting design by Jeff Croiter and sound design by Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen. The production stage manager is David S. Franklin.

Family and friends are gathering to celebrate Shelah’s (Rashad) birthday under the leaky roof of her home at the mouth of the Mississippi River. But an unwanted birthday party and unrelenting rains are only the first challenges in this contemporary parable inspired by the Book of Job in which unexpected events turn the reunion into the ultimate test of faith and love. As her world seems to collapse around her, Shelah must fight to survive the rising flood of life’s greatest challenges in this poetic and piercing new play.

When “Head of Passes” was presented at The Public Theater, Ben Brantley of The New York Times said, “… in her remarkable, pull-out-all-the-stops performance in Tarell Alvin McCraney’s ‘Head of Passes,’ Ms. Rashad gives the impression that she could definitely hold her own on Shakespeare’s blasted heath. Portraying a sorely tested Southern matriarch, she can be found railing against God and the elements with a harrowingly Lear-like rage.” Linda Winer of Newsday observed, “If Phylicia Rashad had not already taken us on formidable journeys through the world of August Wilson and so many other formidable dramas, it would be tempting to call Shelah, the matriarch in ‘Head of Passes,’ the role of a lifetime.”

Phylicia Rashad last performed at the Taper in 2003 in the world premiere production of August Wilson’s “Gem of the Ocean,” a role that would earn her a 2005 Tony nomination. She won the 2004 Tony for Best Actress in a Play for her performance as Lena Younger in “A Raisin in the Sun.”

Tarell Alvin McCraney co-wrote the Oscar-winning film “Moonlight,” which is based on his play “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue.” The film earned him an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay. McCraney is an ensemble member at Steppenwolf Theatre Company and founding member of Teo Castellanos/D-Projects. In addition to the MacArthur “Genius” Grant, he has received the Doris Duke Artist Award, Whiting Award, Steinberg Playwright Award, Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright, The New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award, the Paula Vogel Playwriting Award and the Windham Campbell Award. He was International Writer in Residence for the Royal Shakespeare Company (2009 to 2011) where he remains an associate artist. He is a professor of theatre and civic engagement for the University of Miami’s department of theatre. McCraney is the Artistic Director of the Youth Arts Leadership Summer Program. His Public Theater productions include “Head of Passes,” “The Brother/Sister Plays” and an edit of “Antony and Cleopatra.” “The Brothers Size” was a part of the Under the Radar Festival and other credits include “Choir Boy” and “Wig Out.”

Center Theatre Group, one of the nation’s preeminent arts and cultural organizations, is Los Angeles’ leading nonprofit theatre company, programming seasons at the 736-seat Mark Taper Forum and 1600 to 2000-seat Ahmanson Theatre at The Music Center in Downtown Los Angeles, and the 317-seat Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City. In addition to presenting and producing the broadest range of theatrical entertainment in the country, Center Theatre Group is one of the nation’s leading producers of ambitious new works through commissions and world premiere productions and a leader in interactive community engagement and education programs that reach across generations, demographics and circumstance to serve Los Angeles.

Tickets to “Head of Passes” are available by calling (213) 628-2772, online at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org or at the Center Theatre Group Box Office located at the Ahmanson Theatre. Tickets range from $25 – $95 (ticket prices are subject to change). The Mark Taper Forum is located at The Music Center, 135 N. Grand Avenue in Downtown L.A. 90012.

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