North Carolina Black Repertory Company Announces Commissioned Work On The Life Of Dr. Maya Angelou By Nambi E. Kelley

Nambi E. Kelley
Nambi E. Kelley
Nambi E. Kelley

The North Carolina Black Repertory Company (NC Black Rep) has commissioned a new play on the life of Dr. Maya Angelou by Nambi E. Kelley for its 2019-2020 Season. The play will be directed by NC Black Rep’s Artistic Director Jackie Alexander.

Dr. Maya Angelou was one of literature’s most treasured voices and a key figure in the creation of NC Black Rep’s world renowned National Black Theatre Festival. Dr. Angelou was a long-time resident of Winston-Salem, home of NC Black Rep, and Artistic Director Jackie Alexander considers the company commissioning a play on her life both a labor of love and an immense responsibility, stating: “Dr. Angelou was one of NC Black Rep’s most ardent supporters and a beloved member of the community. I cannot imagine this play being birthed anywhere other than Winston-Salem, a place internationally recognized as Black Theatre Holy Ground. The biggest challenge is how to dramatize a life so grand in scope, and that’s why I’m thrilled to have Nambi Kelley on board as the writer. I believe she is the perfect choice.”

Nambi E. Kelley is a celebrated playwright who has penned plays for Steppenwolf, Goodman Theatre, and Court Theatre/American Blues Theater in Chicago; Lincoln Center and the National Black Theatre in New York; and internationally with LATT Children’s Theatre/Unibooks Publishing Company (South Korea) Teatri Sbagliati (Italy), and The Finger Players (Singapore). Her adaptations of Richard Wright’s Native Son and Toni Morrison’s Jazz have received critical acclaim nationally, with productions at theatres including The Court Theatre in Chicago, Center Stage in Baltimore, and Yale Repertory Theatre in New Haven. A lifelong admirer and a writer who draw’s inspiration from Dr. Angelou’s work, Kelley shared: “Dr. Angelou’s example of her brilliance, her eloquence, her fearlessness in the constant reinvention of who she was is the epitome of what it means to be free. I am deeply awed by her, and eternally grateful for the great honor that has been bestowed upon me to create a piece of art that is reflective of her freedom.”

Dr. Angelou’s longtime assistant, friend, and confidant Lydia Stuckey joins the team as Creative Advisor. A leader in the mission to preserve and share Dr. Angelou’s legacy, Ms. Stuckey considers Maya to be an essential theatrical project, commenting: “Dr. Angelou’s words touched and inspired people the world over; we must do everything in our power to ensure her legacy is never forgotten.”

Maya will have a First Look Celebrity Staged Reading at the 2019 National Black Theatre Festival, July 29-August 3, 2019. The world premiere production of Maya will take place in May 2020 as part of NC Black Rep’s 2019-2020 Mainstage Season.

For more information on NC Black Rep, please visit www.ncblackrep.org.

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Hailey Kilgore, Kenita R. Miller, Merle Dandridge, Quentin Earl Darrington, Darlesia Cearcy and More are set for ONCE ON THIS ISLAND Sings Ahrens and Flaherty at Feinstein’s/54 Below on July 18

Kenita R. Miller and Hailey Kilgore. Photo by Lia Chang

The cast of the 2018 Tony Award-winning Best Musical Revival, Once On This Island, will appear at Feinstein’s/54 Below to perform songs from lyricist Lynn Ahrens and composer Stephen Flaherty.

Kenita R. Miller and Hailey Kilgore. Photo by Lia Chang
Kenita R. Miller and Hailey Kilgore. Photo by Lia Chang

Tony nominee Hailey Kilgore will host the evening.

Featuring a wide range of Ahrens and Flaherty’s iconic tunes, this evening will celebrate 35 sensational years of collaboration, brought to life by the extraordinary cast of Broadway’s Once On This Island.

The cast will include Courtnee Carter, Darlesia Cearcy, Merle Dandridge, Cicily Daniels, Quentin Earl Darrington, Emerson Davis, Tyler Hardwick, Cassondra James, David Jennings, Kenita Miller, T. Oliver Reid, Ximone Rose, Aurelia Williams and Mia Williamson.

The evening is Produced by Yael Silver, Directed by Haley Bennett, with Music Direction by Alvin Hough Jr.

The concert takes place on July 18th, 2018 at 7:00 pm and 9:30 pm. There is a $35-$50 cover charge and $25 food and beverage minimum. Tickets and information are available at www.54Below.com. Tickets on the day of performance after 4:00 are only available by calling (646) 476-3551.

Now in their 35th year of collaboration, Tony Award winners Ahrens and Flaherty have created such Broadway and off-Broadway classics as Ragtime, Seussical, Lucky Stiff, My Favorite Year, A Man of No Importance, and the upcoming Little Dancer, which will have its West Coast premiere at Seattle’s 5th Avenue Theatre this coming season. Members of the American Theatre Hall of Fame, Ahrens and Flaherty have received, theatre, film, and music’s highest honors, and they are currently represented on Broadway by both Once On This Island and the long-running hit, Anastasia.

James Monroe Iglehart, Garth Kravits and Jessie Mueller Visit ONCE ON THIS ISLAND 

Lea Salonga, Kenita R. Miller, Merle Dandridge, Andy Mientus, Garth Kravits and More Celebrate ONCE ON THIS ISLAND Tony Award for Best Revival of A Musical 

James Monroe Iglehart, Garth Kravits and Jessie Mueller Visit ONCE ON THIS ISLAND

Merle Dandridge, Jessie Mueller, Kenita R. MIller, Alex Newell and Lea Salonga. Photo by Lia Chang
Alex Newell, Lea Salonga, Merle Dandridge and Quentin Earl Darrington. Photo by Lia Chang
Alex Newell, Lea Salonga, Merle Dandridge and Quentin Earl Darrington. Photo by Lia Chang

There wasn’t a dry eye in the house at the evening performance of the Tony Award-winning Revival of a Musical Once On This Island, as Tony Award-winner Lea Salonga, played her final performance as Erzulie on June 24, before heading out to the Hollywood Bowl to star as Grace Farrell in the Michael Arden helmed production of Annie, July 27 – 29.

Merle Dandridge, Jessie Mueller, Kenita R. MIller, Alex Newell and Lea Salonga. Photo by Lia Chang
Merle Dandridge, Jessie Mueller, Kenita R. MIller, Alex Newell and Lea Salonga. Photo by Lia Chang

“Greenleaf” star Merle Dandridge, who originated the role of Papa Ge in the current revival, has returned for a limited run through August 19.

Garth Kravits, Kenita R. Miller and Jessie Mueller. Photo by Lia Chang
Garth Kravits, Kenita R. Miller and Jessie Mueller. Photo by Lia Chang

 Carousel‘s Jessie Mueller, Hamiton‘s James Monroe Iglehart and Gettin’ The Band Back Together‘s Garth Kravits visited with cast after the show.

Phillip Boykin, Emerson Davis, James M. Iglehart. Photo by Lia Chang
Phillip Boykin, Emerson Davis, James M. Iglehart. Photo by Lia Chang

The production opened to rave reviews on December 3 at The Circle in the Square Theatre and received eight Tony Award® nominations including Best Musical Revival, seven Drama Desk Award nominations, six Outer Critics Circle nominations and three Chita Rivera Award nominations. In addition to Best Musical Revival, the other Tony nominations included Best Leading Actress in a Musical – Hailey Kilgore, Best Scenic Design of a Musical – Dane Laffrey, Best Costume Design of a Musical – Clint Ramos, Best Lighting Design of a Musical – Jules Fisher + Peggy Eisenhauer, Best Sound Design of a Musical – Peter Hylenski, Best Direction of a Musical – Michael Arden, and Best Orchestrations – AnnMarie Milazzo & Michael Starobin.

Deonté Lamont, James Monroe Iglehart, Lea Salonga, Juwan Alan Crawley and Anthony Murphy. Photo by Lia Chang
Deonté Lamont, James Monroe Iglehart, Lea Salonga, Juwan Alan Crawley and Anthony Murphy. Photo by Lia Chang

The current cast stars Darlesia Cearcy as Erzulie, Merle Dandridge as Papa Ge, Quentin Earl Darrington as Agwe, Alex Newell as Asaka and Tony Award nominee Hailey Kilgore as Ti Moune. The cast also features Kenita R. Miller (Mama Euralie) Phillip Boykin (Tonton Julian), Courtnee Carter (Storyteller), Rodrick Covington (Storyteller), Cicily Daniels (Storyteller), Emerson Davis (Little Girl) Alysha Deslorieux (Andrea), Tyler Hardwick (Storyteller), Cassondra James (Storyteller), David Jennings (Armand), Grasan Kingsberry (Storyteller), Isaac Powell (Daniel), T. Oliver Reid (Storyteller), Anna Uzele (Storyteller), Ximone Rose (Storyteller), Anthony Wayne (Storyteller, Aurelia Williams (Storyteller), Mia Williamson (Little Girl) and Daniel Yearwood (Storyteller).

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Kenita R. Miller and Merle Dandridge. Photo by Lia Chang
Kenita R. Miller and Merle Dandridge. Photo by Lia Chang

The new production is directed by Tony nominee Michael Arden, and choreographed by the critically-acclaimed Camille A. Brown.

Quentin Earl Darrington and Kenita R. Miller. Photo by Lia Chang
Quentin Earl Darrington and Kenita R. Miller. Photo by Lia Chang

Once On This Island is written by the Tony Award-winning team Lynn Ahrens (Book and Lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (Music), and based on the novel “My Love, My Love” by Rosa Guy. This production features new orchestrations by original orchestrator Michael Starobin who is joined by AnnMarie Milazzo.

Alex Newell, Lea Salonga, Merle Dandridge and Quentin Earl Darrington. Photo by Lia Chang
Alex Newell, Lea Salonga, Merle Dandridge and Quentin Earl Darrington. Photo by Lia Chang

The creative team also includes Dane Laffrey (Scenic Design), Clint Ramos (Costume Design), Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer (Lighting Designers), Peter Hylenski (Sound Designer), John Bertles/Bash The Trash (Unusual Instruments), Cookie Jordan (Hair/Wig & Makeup Designer), Chris Fenwick (Music Supervisor), Alvin Hough, Jr. (Music Director), David Perlow (Associate Director), Nikki M. James (Assistant Director), Rickey Tripp (Associate Choreographer) and Telsey + Co / Craig Burns, CSA (Casting Agent).

Alex Newell, Garth Kravits, Kenita R. Miller. Photo by Lia Chang
Alex Newell, Garth Kravits, Kenita R. Miller. Photo by Lia Chang

Once On This Island is the tale of Ti Moune, a fearless peasant girl who falls in love with a wealthy boy from the other side of the island. When their divided cultures keep them apart, Ti Moune is guided by the powerful island gods, Erzulie, Asaka, Papa Ge, and Agwe, on a remarkable quest to reunite with the man who has captured her heart.

Kenita R. Miller. Photo by Lia Chang
Kenita R. Miller. Photo by Lia Chang

Bursting with Caribbean colors, rhythms and dance, the story comes to vibrant life in a striking production by Tony Award®-nominated director Michael Arden (Spring Awakening revival) and acclaimed choreographer Camille A. Brown. This production transforms the reality of a tropical village devastated by a storm into a fantastical world alive with hope.

Once On This Island premiered at Playwrights Horizons in May of 1990. The Broadway production opened in October of that year and ran for 469 performances garnering eight Tony nominations including Best Featured Actress (LaChanze), Best Original Score, Best Book of a Musical and Best Musical. The 1994 West End production won the Olivier Award for Best New Musical.

Tickets for Once On This Island are on sale through Telecharge.

Kenita R. Miller. Photo by Lia Chang
Kenita R. Miller. Photo by Lia Chang

Tony Award Winner Lea Salonga to Star as Grace Farrell in ANNIE at the Hollywood Bowl, July 27 – 29 

Casts of “The Band’s Visit,” “Carousel,” “Frozen,” “Mean Girls,” “My Fair Lady,” “Once on This Island,” “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical,” “SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical,” and “Dear Evan Hansen” to Perform on 2018 Tony Awards 

Click here  for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Kenita R. Miller and Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits
Kenita R. Miller and Lia Chang. Photo by Garth Kravits

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 is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. 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 and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2018 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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Happy Trails to ONCE ON THIS ISLAND Star Tony Award-Winner Lea Salonga

Lea Salonga and Director Michael Arden. Photo by Lia Chang

Happy trails to Tony Award-winner Lea Salonga, who will play her final two performances as Erzulie in the Tony Award-winning Revival of a Musical Once On This Island, before heading out to the Hollywood Bowl to star as Grace Farrell in the Michael Arden helmed production of Annie, July 27 – 29.

I will have the opportunity to enjoy her final turn as Erzulie tonight.

Lea Salonga and Director Michael Arden. Photo by Lia Chang
Lea Salonga and Director Michael Arden. Photo by Lia Chang

“Greenleaf” star Merle Dandridge, who originated the role of Papa Ge in the current revival, has returned for a limited run through August 19.

Merle Dandridge, Aurelia Williams-Philpotts, Quentin Earl Darrington, Lea Salonga. Photo by Lia Chang
Merle Dandridge, Aurelia Williams-Philpotts, Quentin Earl Darrington, Lea Salonga. Photo by Lia Chang

Below are photos of the cast and creative team of Once On This Island celebrating taking home the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical at Vida Verde.

Ken Davenport and Hunter Arnold. Photo by Lia Chang
Producers Ken Davenport and Hunter Arnold. Photo by Lia Chang

The production opened to rave reviews on December 3 at The Circle in the Square Theatre and received eight Tony Award® nominations including Best Musical Revival, seven Drama Desk Award nominations, six Outer Critics Circle nominations and three Chita Rivera Award nominations. In addition to Best Musical Revival, the other Tony nominations included Best Leading Actress in a Musical – Hailey Kilgore, Best Scenic Design of a Musical – Dane Laffrey, Best Costume Design of a Musical – Clint Ramos, Best Lighting Design of a Musical – Jules Fisher + Peggy Eisenhauer, Best Sound Design of a Musical – Peter Hylenski, Best Direction of a Musical – Michael Arden, and Best Orchestrations – AnnMarie Milazzo & Michael Starobin.

Producer Ken Davenport. Photo by Lia Chang
Producer Ken Davenport. Photo by Lia Chang

The current cast stars Tony Award winner Lea Salonga as Erzulie, Alex Newell as Asaka, Merle Dandridge as Papa Ge, Quentin Earl Darrington as Agwe and Tony Award nominee Hailey Kilgore as Ti Moune. The cast also features Kenita R. Miller (Mama Euralie) Phillip Boykin (Tonton Julian), Darlesia Cearcy (Storyteller), Rodrick Covington (Storyteller), Emerson Davis (Little Girl) Alysha Deslorieux (Andrea), Tyler Hardwick (Storyteller), Cassondra James (Storyteller), David Jennings (Armand), Grasan Kingsberry (Storyteller), Isaac Powell (Daniel), T. Oliver Reid (Storyteller), Ximone Rose (Storyteller), Anthony Wayne (Storyteller, Aurelia Williams (Storyteller), and Mia Williamson (Little Girl). Darlesia Cearcy will portray Erzulie beginning June 25.

Victor Lirio, Director Michael Arden, Andy Mientus and Lea Salonga. Photo by Lia Chang
Victor Lirio, Director Michael Arden, Andy Mientus and Lea Salonga. Photo by Lia Chang

The new production is directed by Tony nominee Michael Arden, and choreographed by the critically-acclaimed Camille A. Brown.

Kenita R. Miller, Merle Dandridge and Justin Hicks. Photo by Lia Chang
Kenita R. Miller, Merle Dandridge and Justin Hicks. Photo by Lia Chang

Once On This Island is written by the Tony Award-winning team Lynn Ahrens (Book and Lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (Music), and based on the novel “My Love, My Love” by Rosa Guy. This production features new orchestrations by original orchestrator Michael Starobin who is joined by AnnMarie Milazzo.

Kenita R. Miller, Justin Hicks, Lynn Ahrens. Photo by Lia Chang
Kenita R. Miller, Justin Hicks, Lynn Ahrens. Photo by Lia Chang
Kenita R. Miller and Hailey Kilgore. Photo by Lia Chang
Kenita R. Miller and Hailey Kilgore. Photo by Lia Chang
Producer Ken Davenport with cast members from his new show, GETTIN' THE BAND BACK TOGETHER, Garth Kravits and Jasmin Richardson. Photo by Lia Chang
Producer Ken Davenport with cast members from his new show, GETTIN’ THE BAND BACK TOGETHER, Garth Kravits and Jasmin Richardson. Photo by Lia Chang
Hailey Kilgore, Trevor Hardwick, Kenita R. Miller and Stephen Flaherty. Photo by Lia Chang
Hailey Kilgore, Trevor Hardwick, Kenita R. Miller and Stephen Flaherty. Photo by Lia Chang

The creative team also includes Dane Laffrey (Scenic Design), Clint Ramos (Costume Design), Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer (Lighting Designers), Peter Hylenski (Sound Designer), John Bertles/Bash The Trash (Unusual Instruments), Cookie Jordan (Hair/Wig & Makeup Designer), Chris Fenwick (Music Supervisor), Alvin Hough, Jr. (Music Director), David Perlow (Associate Director), Nikki M. James (Assistant Director), Rickey Tripp (Associate Choreographer) and Telsey + Co / Craig Burns, CSA (Casting Agent).

Ken Davenport, Clint Ramos and Lea Salonga. Photo by Lia Chang
Ken Davenport, Clint Ramos and Lea Salonga. Photo by Lia Chang

Once On This Island is the tale of Ti Moune, a fearless peasant girl who falls in love with a wealthy boy from the other side of the island. When their divided cultures keep them apart, Ti Moune is guided by the powerful island gods, Erzulie, Asaka, Papa Ge, and Agwe, on a remarkable quest to reunite with the man who has captured her heart.

Lia Chang, J. Elaine Marcos, Lea Salonga, Victor Lirio at the ONCE ON THIS ISLAND Tony Party at Vida Verde in New York on June 10, 2018. Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang, J. Elaine Marcos, Lea Salonga, Victor Lirio at the ONCE ON THIS ISLAND Tony Party at Vida Verde in New York on June 10, 2018. Photo by Garth Kravits

Bursting with Caribbean colors, rhythms and dance, the story comes to vibrant life in a striking production by Tony Award®-nominated director Michael Arden (Spring Awakening revival) and acclaimed choreographer Camille A. Brown. This production transforms the reality of a tropical village devastated by a storm into a fantastical world alive with hope.

GETTIN' THE BAND BACK TOGETHER cast members J. Elaine Marcos, Jasmine Richardson, Garth Kravits at the ONCE ON THIS ISLAND Tony Party at Vida Verde in New York on June 10, 2018. Photo by Lia Chang
GETTIN’ THE BAND BACK TOGETHER cast members J. Elaine Marcos, Jasmine Richardson, Garth Kravits at the ONCE ON THIS ISLAND Tony Party at Vida Verde in New York on June 10, 2018. Photo by Lia Chang

Once On This Island premiered at Playwrights Horizons in May of 1990. The Broadway production opened in October of that year and ran for 469 performances garnering eight Tony nominations including Best Featured Actress (LaChanze), Best Original Score, Best Book of a Musical and Best Musical. The 1994 West End production won the Olivier Award for Best New Musical.

Quentin Earl Darrington, Aurelia Williams, Lea Salonga, Kenita R. Miller. Photo by Lia Chang
Quentin Earl Darrington, Aurelia Williams, Lea Salonga, Kenita R. Miller. Photo by Lia Chang
Anthony Wayne, Tyler Hardwick, Aurelia Willams, Quentin Earl Darrington, Lea Salonga, Alivin Hough, Jr., Kenita R. Miller. Photo by Lia Chang
Anthony Wayne, Tyler Hardwick, Aurelia Williams, Quentin Earl Darrington, Lea Salonga, Alivin Hough, Jr., Kenita R. Miller. Photo by Lia Chang
Phillip Boykin and Ken Davenport. Photo by Lia Chang
Phillip Boykin and Ken Davenport. Photo by Lia Chang
Lea Salonga and Director Michael Arden. Photo by Lia Chang
Lea Salonga and Director Michael Arden. Photo by Lia Chang
Clint Ramos, Lea Salonga and Victor Lirio. Photo by Lia Chang
Clint Ramos, Lea Salonga and Victor Lirio. Photo by Lia Chang
Producer Ken Davenport, Assistant Director Nikki M. James and Director Michael Arden. Photo by Lia Chang
Producer Ken Davenport, Assistant Director Nikki M. James and Director Michael Arden. Photo by Lia Chang
T. Oliver Reid, Kenita R. Miller and Tyler Hardwick. Photo by Lia Chang
T. Oliver Reid, Kenita R. Miller and Tyler Hardwick. Photo by Lia Chang
Michael Arden and Andy Mientus. Photo by Lia Chang
Michael Arden and Andy Mientus. Photo by Lia Chang

Tickets for Once On This Island are on sale through Telecharge.

Tony Award Winner Lea Salonga to Star as Grace Farrell in ANNIE at the Hollywood Bowl, July 27 – 29 

Casts of “The Band’s Visit,” “Carousel,” “Frozen,” “Mean Girls,” “My Fair Lady,” “Once on This Island,” “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical,” “SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical,” and “Dear Evan Hansen” to Perform on 2018 Tony Awards 

Click here  for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang
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 is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. 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 and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2018 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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Jocelyn Bioh, Kirsten Childs and Charles Busch To Receive Dramatists Guild Awards on July 28

The Dramatists Guild of America will present their annual awards at their national conference on Saturday, July 28, 2018, at The Hilton Midtown in New York.

This year’s awards go to Jocelyn Bioh, recipient of the Hull-Warriner Award for her play School Girls; or the African Mean Girls Play; Kirsten Childs, recipient of the Frederick Loewe Award for Dramatic Composition for her score to Bella: An American Tall Tale; Charles Busch, recipient of the Flora Roberts Award. At the awards presentation, they will join James Anthony Tyler, the previously-announced recipient of the Horton Foote Playwriting Award; the recipients of the Lanford Wilson Award and the DLDF Defender Award will be announced at a later date.

The Hull-Warriner Award is the only award given by dramatists to dramatists; it is presented annually by the Dramatists Guild Council to an author or team of authors in recognition of their play dealing with controversial subjects involving the fields of political, religious, or social mores of the times. Previous winners include Paula Vogel, Lynn Nottage, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Annie Baker, August Wilson, Stephen Karam, Marsha Norman and Dael Orlandersmith.

Jocelyn Bioh
Jocelyn Bioh

Jocelyn Bioh is a Ghanaian-American writer/performer from New York City. Her plays include 2015 Kilroys’ List selection Nollywood Dreams, which was presented in the spring of 2017 as part of the Cherry Lane Mentor Project; School Girls; or the African Mean Girls Play (Lortel Award, OCC John Gassner Award, Drama Desk nomination, Drama League nomination, Kilroys’ List 2016, produced at MCC Theater in 2017 and returning for an encore run in October, 2018), Happiness and Joe (2017), African Americans (Ruby Prize Finalist 2011), Goddess (book writer), and The Ladykiller’s Love Story, of which she conceived the story and wrote the libretto with music/lyrics by Cee Lo Green. She is a commissioned playwright with MTC, Atlantic Theater Company, and Williamstown Theater Festival (2018 Lilly Award) and is a Resident Playwright at Lincoln Center and is a Tow Foundation Playwright-in-Residence with MCC Theater for 2017/18. Jocelyn received a B.A in English/Theatre from The Ohio State University and the MFA in Playwriting.

Myra Lucretia Taylor, Palmer Hefferan, MaameYaa Boafo, Paige Gilbert, Jocelyn Bioh, Zainab Jah and Dede Ayite at the Drama Desk Awards luncheon at Friedmans inside The Hotel Edison in New York on May 9, 2018. Photo: Facebook
Myra Lucretia Taylor, Palmer Hefferan, MaameYaa Boafo, Paige Gilbert, Jocelyn Bioh, Zainab Jah and Dede Ayite at the Drama Desk Awards luncheon at Friedmans inside The Hotel Edison in New York on May 9, 2018. Photo: Facebook

The Frederick Loewe Award, given by the Frederick Loewe Foundation and presented annually by the Dramatists Guild Council to a composer, recognizes achievement in a theatrical score presented in New York during the previous theatrical season. Past winners include Benj Pasek & Justin Paul, Jeanine Tesori, Amanda Green & Trey Anastasio, Alan Menken, Michael John LaChiusa, Robert Lopez, Trey Parker & Matt Stone, John Kander, Tom Kitt, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Scott Frankel.

Kirsten Childs. Photo by Zack DeZon
Kirsten Childs. Photo by Zack DeZon

Kirsten Childs is the composer/lyricist/librettist of Bella: An American Tall Tale, The Bubbly Black Girl Sheds Her Chameleon Skin, Miracle Brothers, Fly(with Rajiv Joseph and Bill Sherman), and Funked Up Fairy Tales. For her work she has received Obie, Kleban, Larson, Richard Rodgers, Audelco, and Gilman/Gonzalez-Falla awards, as well as Lortel and Drama Desk nominations. She is a professor in NYU’s Graduate Musical Theater Writing Program, a member of both the Dramatists Guild Council and the Dramatists Guild Foundation, and is proud to be a mentor in Theatre Development Fund’s Open Doors program.

The company of BELLA: AN AMERICAN TALL TALE. Photo by Joan Marcus
The company of BELLA: AN AMERICAN TALL TALE. Photo by Joan Marcus

The Flora Roberts Award, administered by the Dramatists Guild Foundation, is presented to a dramatist in recognition of distinguished work in the theatre and to encourage the continuation of that work. Previous recipients include Mac Wellman, Dael Orlandersmith, Charles Fuller, Arthur Kopit, Philip Kan Gotanda, Michael Weller, Polly Pen, Craig Lucas, Ed Bullins, Adrienne Kennedy, and Tina Howe.

Charles Busch is the author and star of such plays as The Confession of Lily Dare, Cleopatra, The Divine Sister, The Lady in Question, Red Scare on Sunset and Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, which ran five years and is one of the longest running plays in Off-Broadway history. His play The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife ran for 777 performances on Broadway and won Mr. Busch the Outer Circle Critics John Gassner Award and received a Tony nomination for Best Play. He wrote and starred in the film versions of his plays Psycho Beach Party and Die Mommie Die, the latter of which won him the Best Performance Award at the Sundance Film Festival. In 2003, Mr. Busch received a special Drama Desk Award for career achievement as both performer and playwright. He is also the subject of the documentary film The Lady in Question is Charles Busch.

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May Adrales Receives The Alan Schneider Director Award

May Adrales. Photo by Lia Chang

Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Associate Artistic Director May Adrales is the recipient of this year’s Alan Schneider Director Award. The award was presented late yesterday at Theatre Communications Group’s national conference in St. Louis, MS. The award is designed to identify and assist exceptional directors whose talent has been demonstrated through work in specific regions, but who may not be well known nationally. With it comes a cash prize of $7,500, which may be used for travel, research or other activities specifically focused on the directing craft or related career opportunities.

May Adrales. Photo by Lia Chang
May Adrales. Photo by Lia Chang

May Adrales joined Milwaukee Rep as Associate Artistic Director in 2016 directing past season’s The Who & The What and Animal Farm. This fall she is directing the much-anticipated musical In The Heights which is a co-production with Seattle Repertory Theater and Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park. Adrales has worked nationally, primarily directing new plays including Qui Nguyen’s award-winning Vietgone (Manhattan Theatre Club, South Coast Rep, Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Seattle Rep), JC Lee’s Luce (LCT3), Katori Hall’s Whaddabloodclot!!! (Williamstown Theatre Festival), A. Rey Pamatmat’s Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them (Actors Theatre of Louisville), Thomas Bradshaw’s Mary (The Goodman Theatre), The Bereaved (Partial Comfort Productions), In This House (Two River Theater Company), Richard Dresser’s Trouble Cometh (SF Playhouse), Qui Nguyen’s Five Days ‘Til Saturday (NYU Tisch) and Tommy Smith’s The Wife (Access Theater). She is currently at Oregon Shakespeare Festival directing Idris Goodwin’s The Way the Mountain Moved.

Jon Hoche, Raymond Lee, Paco Tolson, Jennifer Ikeda and Samantha Quan. Photo: Carol Rosegg
Jon Hoche, Raymond Lee, Paco Tolson, Jennifer Ikeda and Samantha Quan in VIETGONE. Photo: Carol Rosegg

Click here to watch the video of her speech.

The Alan Schneider Director Award was established in honor of Alan Schneider’s significant contribution to the American theatre and his lifelong concern for the development of career opportunities for freelance directors. A prolific director and mentor, Alan Schneider was responsible for over one hundred productions in the American theatre, introducing American audiences to playwrights such as Samuel Beckett (Schneider directed the 1956 American premiere of Waiting for Godot); Edward Albee (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?); Michael Weller (Moonchildren and Loose Ends); Harold Pinter (The Birthday Party, The Dumb Waiter and The Collection); and Bertolt Brecht (The Caucasian Chalk Circle). Schneider taught at Catholic University, the Juilliard School, and the University of California at San Diego; was associated with Arena Stage for thirty years; was the co-artistic director of The Acting Company; and at the time of his death was the president of the Board of Directors for Theatre Communications Group. Following his death in a 1984 London traffic accident, the Alan Schneider Memorial Fund was established by TCG, The Acting Company and the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers. Proceeds from the Fund go to the Alan Schneider Director Award, which provides national visibility to the recipient as well as a grant to support activities specifically tied to the development of the craft of directing.

For more information about Milwaukee Repertory Theater, please visit www.MilwaukeeRep.com

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Lea Salonga, Kenita R. Miller, Merle Dandridge, Andy Mientus, Garth Kravits and More Celebrate ONCE ON THIS ISLAND Tony Award for Best Revival of A Musical

Ken Davenport and Kenita Miller. Photo by Lia Chang
Kenita R. Miller, Justin Hicks, Lynn Ahrens. Photo by Lia Chang
Kenita R. Miller, Justin Hicks, Lynn Ahrens. Photo by Lia Chang

It was party central at Vida Verde on Sunday night when I met up with Kenita R. Miller and her husband Justin Hicks, where the Once On This Island Tony party was in full swing.

Earlier in the evening, Ms. Miller, who plays Mama Euralie, had performed on the Tony Awards with Tony Award winner Lea Salonga as Erzulie, Alex Newell as Asaka, Tamyra Gray as Papa Ge, Quentin Earl Darrington as Agwe, Tony Award nominee Hailey Kilgore as Ti Moune and the full cast.

The revival of Once On This Island, produced by Ken Davenport and Hunter Arnold, won the Tony Award for Best Musical Revival.

The production opened to rave reviews on December 3 at The Circle in the Square Theatre and received eight Tony Award® nominations including Best Musical Revival, seven Drama Desk Award nominations, six Outer Critics Circle nominations and three Chita Rivera Award nominations.

The cast also features Phillip Boykin (Tonton Julian), Darlesia Cearcy (Storyteller), Rodrick Covington (Storyteller), Emerson Davis (Little Girl) Alysha Deslorieux (Andrea), Tyler Hardwick (Storyteller), Cassondra James (Storyteller), David Jennings (Armand), Grasan Kingsberry (Storyteller), Isaac Powell (Daniel), T. Oliver Reid (Storyteller), Ximone Rose (Storyteller), Anthony Wayne (Storyteller, Aurelia Williams (Storyteller), and Mia Williamson (Little Girl).

The new production is directed by Tony nominee Michael Arden, and choreographed by the critically-acclaimed Camille A. Brown.

Once On This Island is written by the Tony Award-winning team Lynn Ahrens (Book and Lyrics) and Stephen Flaherty (Music), and based on the novel “My Love, My Love” by Rosa Guy. This production features new orchestrations by original orchestrator Michael Starobin who is joined by AnnMarie Milazzo.

Hailey Kilgore, Trevor Hardwick, Kenita R. Miller and Stephen Flaherty. Photo by Lia Chang
Hailey Kilgore, Trevor Hardwick, Kenita R. Miller and Stephen Flaherty. Photo by Lia Chang

The creative team also includes Dane Laffrey (Scenic Design), Clint Ramos (Costume Design), Jules Fisher and Peggy Eisenhauer (Lighting Designers), Peter Hylenski (Sound Designer), John Bertles/Bash The Trash (Unusual Instruments), Cookie Jordan (Hair/Wig & Makeup Designer), Chris Fenwick (Music Supervisor), Alvin Hough, Jr. (Music Director), David Perlow (Associate Director), Nikki M. James (Assistant Director), Rickey Tripp (Associate Choreographer) and Telsey + Co / Craig Burns, CSA (Casting Agent).

Corey Brunish and Jessica Rose Brunish. Photo by Lia Chang
Corey Brunish and Jessica Rose Brunish. Photo by Lia Chang

Additional producers include Carl Daikeler, Roy Putrino, Broadway Strategic Return Fund, Caiola Productions, H. Richard Hopper, Sandi Moran, Diego Kolankowsky, Brian Cromwell Smith, Ron Kastner, Rob Kolson, Judith Manocherian, Kevin Lyle, Jay Alix, Una Jackman, Jeff Wise, Witzend Productions, Jeff Grove, Wishnie-Strasberg, Mark Ferris, Michelle Riley, Marie Stevenson, Mojgan Fajiram, Jesse McKendry, Silva Theatrical Group, Conor Bagley, Brendan C. Tetro, Invisible Wall Productions,The Harbert Family, Keith Cromwell, and Red Mountain Theatre Company. The associate producers are Kayla Greenspan and Valerie Novakoff.

Producer Ken Davenport, Assistant Director Nikki M. James and Director Michael Arden. Photo by Lia Chang
Producer Ken Davenport, Assistant Director Nikki M. James and Director Michael Arden. Photo by Lia Chang

Once On This Island is the tale of Ti Moune, a fearless peasant girl who falls in love with a wealthy boy from the other side of the island. When their divided cultures keep them apart, Ti Moune is guided by the powerful island gods, Erzulie, Asaka, Papa Ge, and Agwe, on a remarkable quest to reunite with the man who has captured her heart.

Bursting with Caribbean colors, rhythms and dance, the story comes to vibrant life in a striking production by Tony Award®-nominated director Michael Arden (Spring Awakening revival) and acclaimed choreographer Camille A. Brown. This production transforms the reality of a tropical village devastated by a storm into a fantastical world alive with hope.

Tickets for Once On This Island are on sale through Telecharge.

Once On This Island premiered at Playwrights Horizons in May of 1990. The Broadway production opened in October of that year and ran for 469 performances garnering eight Tony nominations including Best Featured Actress (LaChanze), Best Original Score, Best Book of a Musical and Best Musical. The 1994 West End production won the Olivier Award for Best New Musical.

Lia Chang, J. Elaine Marcos, Lea Salonga, Victor Lirio. Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang, J. Elaine Marcos, Lea Salonga, Victor Lirio. Photo by Garth Kravits

Tony Award Winner Lea Salonga to Star as Grace Farrell in ANNIE at the Hollywood Bowl, July 27 – 29 

Casts of “The Band’s Visit,” “Carousel,” “Frozen,” “Mean Girls,” “My Fair Lady,” “Once on This Island,” “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical,” “SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical,” and “Dear Evan Hansen” to Perform on 2018 Tony Awards 

Click here  for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

Lia Chang
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 is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. 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 and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2018 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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Casts of “The Band’s Visit,” “Carousel,” “Frozen,” “Mean Girls,” “My Fair Lady,” “Once on This Island,” “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical,” “SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical,” and “Dear Evan Hansen” to Perform on 2018 Tony Awards

Lea Salonga as Erzulie in ONCE ON THIS ISLAND. Photo by Joan Marcus
Tony Shalhoub and Katrina Lenk in THE BAND's VISIT (Photo: Ahron R. Foster)
Tony Shalhoub and Katrina Lenk in THE BAND’s VISIT (Photo: Ahron R. Foster)

The Tony Awards have announced the show stopping numbers that will perform live at the 2018 Tony Awards, on stage from Radio City Music Hall, Sunday, June 10th, 8:00 – 11:00 p.m. (ET/PT time delay), on CBS.

Lea Salonga as Erzulie in ONCE ON THIS ISLAND. Photo by Joan Marcus
Lea Salonga as Erzulie in ONCE ON THIS ISLAND. Photo by Joan Marcus

The high-energy evening will feature performances by the casts of the 2018 Tony Award-nominated shows “The Band’s Visit,” “Carousel,” “Frozen,” “Mean Girls,” “My Fair Lady,” “Once on This Island,” “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical” and “SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical.” Also, the show will feature a special performance from the 2017 Tony Award-winning musical “Dear Evan Hansen.”

Sean Carvajal, Ricardo Chavira and Edi Gathegi. Photo: Joan Marcus
The Company of SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS. Photo by Joan Marcus

As previously announced, Bruce Springsteen will make a rare television appearance, performing live on the show, and will receive a Special Tony Award for his ongoing engagement, “Springsteen on Broadway,” a once-in-a lifetime theater-going experience for the Broadway stage.

Hosted by Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban, the evening will feature appearances by: Uzo Aduba, Christine Baranski, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Melissa Benoist, Erich Bergen, Rachel Bloom, Matt Bomer, Rachel Brosnahan, Tituss Burgess, Claire Danes, Jeff Daniels, Robert De Niro, Brandon Victor Dixon, James Monroe Iglehart, Christopher Jackson, Billy Joel, Patti LuPone, Tatiana Maslany, Katharine McPhee, Matthew Morrison, Carey Mulligan, Leslie Odom, Jr., Kelli O’Hara, Jim Parsons, Zachary Quinto, Bernadette Peters, Andrew Rannells, Kerry Washington, Ming-Na Wen, Marisa Jaret Winokur; Tony Nominees Tina Fey, John Leguizamo and Amy Schumer as well as Tony Award Lifetime Achievement recipients Andrew Lloyd Webber and Chita Rivera.

Chita Rivera and Andrew Lloyd Webber
Chita Rivera and Andrew Lloyd Webber

The American Theatre Wing’s 72nd Annual Tony Awards, will air live from Radio City Music Hall on the CBS Television Network on Sunday, June 10, 2018 (8:00-11:00 PM, ET/delayed PT). The Tony Awards, which honors theatre professionals for distinguished achievement on Broadway, has been broadcast on CBS since 1978. The Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing.

Tickets for the 2018 Tony Awards are now available at TonyAwards.com and TicketMaster.com.

For more information on the Tony Awards, visit TonyAwards.com and Facebook.com/TheTonyAwards and follow @TheTonyAwards on Instagram and Twitter.

About the Tony Awards
The American Theatre Wing’s Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing. At The Broadway League, Thomas Schumacher is Chairman and Charlotte St. Martin is President. At the American Theatre Wing, David Henry Hwang is Chair and Heather A. Hitchens is President & CEO. Ricky Kirshner and Glenn Weiss of White Cherry Entertainment are the Executive Producers of the 2018 Tony Awards. Mr. Weiss will also serve as Director of the 2018 Tony Awards.

Sponsors for the 2018 Tony Awards include: IBM – develops, designs, and hosts the official Tony Awards digital experience anchored by TonyAwards.com; Carnegie Mellon University – the first-ever, exclusive higher education partner; Grant Thornton LLP – official accounting services partner; City National – official bank of the Tony Awards and presenting sponsor of the Creative Arts Awards; Nordstrom – official sponsor of the Red Carpet; Sofitel New York – the official hotel of the Tony Awards; Rainbow Room – official partner of the Tony Nominee Luncheon; United Airlines – the official airline of the Tony Awards for the last 18 years, Entertainment Benefits Group – exclusive VIP package sponsor of the Tony Awards and People/Entertainment Weekly – official magazine partners of the Tony Awards.

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La MaMa E.T.C. to Receive the 2018 Regional Theatre Tony Award

La MaMa E.T.C. (Experimental Theatre Club) in New York, NY, will be the recipient of the 2018 Regional Theatre Tony Award. The honor is accompanied by a grant of $25,000.

In a joint statement, Charlotte St. Martin, president of the Broadway League and Heather Hitchens, president of the American Theatre Wing, said: “La MaMA E.T.C. is a staple of the New York theatre scene. It is an exciting space where artists can grow, create, and push boundaries, and we are thrilled to be able to honor them this year.”

The award is bestowed based on a recommendation by the American Theatre Critics Association.

About La MaMa E.T.C.
La MaMa E.T.C. is one of the original theatres that gave birth to the Off-Off Broadway movement in the 1960s under the leadership of its founder and artistic director, Ellen Stewart. Since its inception it has embodied the celebration of diversity and art by supporting more than 150,000 artists from over 70 countries. Well-known artists such as Sam Shepard, Diane Lane, Lanford Wilson, Elizabeth Swados, Phillip Glass, Julie Taymor, Robert Wilson, Harvey Fierstein, Adrienne Kennedy and David and Amy Sedaris began their careers at La MaMa E.T.C.

Today La MaMa E.T.C. continues to celebrate diversity and encourage artists to take risks creating new theatre forms that transcend boundaries of language, race and culture. The theatre presents more than 70 productions a year, and houses four separate theaters, an art gallery, a dorm for traveling artists and an extensive archive catalog. La MaMa E.T.C. has expanded to become a global organization with partners around the world.

“La MaMa E.T.C. is a staple of the New York theatre scene,” said Charlotte St. Martin, President of the Broadway League and Heather Hitchens, President of the American Theatre Wing, in a statement. “It is an exciting space where artists can grow, create and push boundaries, and we are thrilled to be able to honor them this year.”

The 2018 Tony Awards
The American Theatre Wing’s 72nd Annual Tony Awards will be hosted by Sara Bareilles and Josh Groban, and air on the CBS Television Network on Sunday, June 10, 2018 (8:00-11:00 PM, ET/delayed PT) live from Radio City Music Hall in New York City. The Tony Awards, which honors theatre professionals for distinguished achievement on Broadway, has been broadcast on CBS since 1978. The Tony Awards are presented by The Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing.

TonyAwards.com

Casts of “The Band’s Visit,” “Carousel,” “Frozen,” “Mean Girls,” “My Fair Lady,” “Once on This Island,” “SpongeBob SquarePants: The Musical,” “SUMMER: The Donna Summer Musical,” and “Dear Evan Hansen” to Perform on 2018 Tony Awards

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Up Close and Personal with Sean Carvajal, Award-Winning Star of JESUS HOPPED THE ‘A’ TRAIN

Sean Carvajal. Photo by Lia Chang
Sean Carvajal as Angel Cruz in Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train. Joan Marcus
Sean Carvajal as Angel Cruz in Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train. Joan Marcus

Last October, I sat in the front row of The Irene Diamond Stage at The Pershing Square Signature Center and witnessed Sean Carvajal’s raw and visceral performance as Angel Cruz, a 30-year-old bicycle messenger awaiting trial for the death of the leader of a religious cult, in the critically acclaimed revival of Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train, by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Stephen Adly Guirgis. 

 Sean Carvajal, Ricardo Chavira and Edi Gathegi in Jesus Hopped the A Train. Photo: Joan Marcus

Sean Carvajal, Ricardo Chavira and Edi Gathegi in Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train. Photo: Joan Marcus

The play takes place inside Rikers Island where a terrified Angel is befriended by a charismatic serial killer named Lucius Jenkins played by Edi Gathegi. Lucius has found God and been born again, and now, Angel’s life and the course of his trial will be changed forever.

Helmed by Obie Award-winner Mark Brokaw, the cast also featured Ricardo Chavira, Stephanie DiMaggio and Erick Betancourt.

Director Mark Brokaw, Edi Gathegi, Ricardo Chavira, Stephanie DiMaggio and Erick Betancourt after the opening night performance of Jesus Hopped the 'A' Train at The Pershing Square Signature Center in New York on October 23, 2017. Photo by Elz Cuya Jones
Director Mark Brokaw, Edi Gathegi, Ricardo Chavira, Stephanie DiMaggio and Erick Betancourt after the opening night performance of Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train at The Pershing Square Signature Center in New York on October 23, 2017. Photo by Elz Cuya Jones

Austin Crowley of Auditorium Magazine wrote, “Due to unforeseen circumstances, Victor Rasuk who was originally cast as Angel Cruz in this production had to withdraw at the last minute. The production found a replacement in Sean Carvajal after the first few preview performances had been cancelled. Luckily, Carvajal is a force of nature. He brings thoroughly intense fury to his character, while also delivering some hysterically funny moments that are iconic of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ work.”

Stephanie DiMaggio, Sean Carvajal in Signature's revival of Stephen Adly Guirgis' JESUS HOPPED THE 'A' TRAIN. Photo by Joan Marcus
Stephanie DiMaggio, Sean Carvajal in Signature’s revival of Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train. Photo by Joan Marcus
Sean Carvajal at The Drama Desk Awards on June 3, 2018 at Town Hall. Photo: Instagram
Sean Carvajal at The Drama Desk Awards on June 3, 2018 at Town Hall. Photo: Instagram

Carvajal’s turn as Angel has garnered him numerous awards this season including the 2018 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Play and The Actors Equity Foundation’s 2018 Clarence Derwent Award for most promising male performer on the New York metropolitan scene. He and his co-star Edi Gathegi received a 2018 Obie Award for Performance and a 2018 Special Drama Desk Award because their “last-minute entrances into the Signature production of this powerful play ensured it had a happy real-life ending.”

Stephen Adly Guirgis also received the 2018 Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Revival. The production was nominated for two Outer Critics Circle Awards in the categories of Outstanding Actor in a Play for Sean Carvajal and Outstanding Revival of a Play (Broadway of Off-Broadway). In addition, Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train has just been included on the New York Times‘ list of The 25 Best American Plays Since Angels in America.

Sean Carvajal. Photo by Lia Chang
Sean Carvajal. Photo by Lia Chang

I caught up with Sean in Riverside Park to talk about his remarkable journey, overcoming adversity and finding community with LAByrinth Theater Company. 

Lia: What would you say was the jumping off point for your formative artistic life?
Sean: I think my artistic journey came in waves. The first wave was while working at a youth theater company when I was in high school called Teatro El Puente. It was a theater company where we were not only Peer Educators, but would also write and perform one-act plays about HIV/STI’s, and other social issues. We performed them all over New York City. They paid me. It was my job. I used to make about $250 every two weeks, which I thought was decent for a high school student who’s part-time job was just writing and acting in plays. But what got me was how this community of artists and educators that I met through this organization helped me get through hard times in my youth. I was basically on my own at the age of 17.

It was also there that I found my voice as a young activist. I even had the opportunity to co-write and co-direct their annual 3 Kings Event for the community at age 20.

It meant a lot, and it was a huge deal since it involved me directing a cast of over 100+students, for a show that would be performed for over 2,000+ people of the community. I remember how impactful the work was. I mean this organization (El Puente) was founded by the Young Lords, and with the help of other activists and artists from the community, they were able to leave this remarkable impact within the surrounding Brooklyn neighborhoods.

Liza Colón-Zayas, Russell G. Jones, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Neil Tyrone Pritchard and Elz Cuya Jones attend the 2014 Steinberg Playwright Awards hosted by the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust on November 17, 2014 in New York City. Photo by Lia Chang
LAByrinth Theater Company members Liza Colón-Zayas, Russell G. Jones, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Neil Tyrone Pritchard and Elz Cuya Jones attend the 2014 Steinberg Playwright Awards hosted by the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust on November 17, 2014 in New York City. Photo by Lia Chang

My second wave was when I met the artists from the LAByrinth Theater Company. I would say that the LAB was my jump-off because it was there that I understood the craft of being an artist. They taught me that what we do is WORK, that it’s ALL about the WORK, and that we’re of SERVICE to the work. These artists generously took me under their wing, and mentored me. They instilled the many lessons that made me into the artist that I am today.

LAByrinth Theater Company celebrate the opening night of the revival of Our Lady of 121st St with Stephen Adly Guirgis and cast members at The Pershing Square Signature Center in New York on May 20, 2018. Photo courtesy of Elz Cuya Jones/Facebook
LAByrinth Theater Company members celebrate the opening night of the revival of Our Lady of 121st St with Stephen Adly Guirgis and cast members at The Pershing Square Signature Center in New York on May 20, 2018. Photo courtesy of Elz Cuya Jones/Facebook

Lia: What was your first Stephen Adly Guirgis play?
Sean: The first play that I did was Dominica, That Fat Ugly Ho, at the LAByrinth Intensive Ensemble. Stephen’s work blew my mind. I can’t thank Portia enough for that process because, not only did she teach me to “always f***ck shit up”, but she taught me how to do a Guirgis play. When you get the music, his words are just so beautiful. It’s poetry.

Sean Carvajal and Jojo Gonzalez in HOLY LAND. Photos by Michael Palma
Sean Carvajal and Jojo Gonzalez in HOLY LAND. Photos by Michael Palma

Lia: Catch me up on the last four years.
Sean: When we met, I was in the 2014 U.S. premiere of Mohamed Kacimi’s Holy Land, translated by award-winning NY-based playwright Chantal Bilodeau at Here Arts Center.

The cast of 'Holy Land' after the opening night performance on the set at Here in New York on April 23, 2014. (L-R) Gil Perez-Abraham Jr., Pia Haddad, Jojo Gonzalez, Ana Grosse, Sean Carvajal. Photo by Lia Chang
The cast of ‘Holy Land’ after the opening night performance on the set at Here Arts Center in New York on April 23, 2014. (L-R) Gil Perez-Abraham Jr., Pia Haddad, Jojo Gonzalez, Ana Grosse, Sean Carvajal. Photo by Lia Chang

Prior to Holy Land, I performed in the world premiere of Martin Zimmerman’s Seven Spots on the Sun at the Cincinnati Playhouse.

Jamie Rezanour, Arturo Soria, and Sean Carvajal in ‘Seven Spots On The Sun’ at Cincinnati Playhouse In The Park. Photo by Sandy Underwood.
Jamie Rezanour, Arturo Soria, and Sean Carvajal in Seven Spots On The Sun at Cincinnati Playhouse In The Park. Photo by Sandy Underwood.

Around that time I was also doing a bunch of Off-Off Broadway Equity showcases.

Sean Carvajal and Frankie R. Faison in Between Riverside and Crazy at Studio Theatre. Photo by Igor Dmitry.
Sean Carvajal and Frankie R. Faison in Between Riverside and Crazy at Studio Theatre. Photo by Igor Dmitry.

I did some regional gigs like Stephen Adly Guirgis’ Between Riverside and Crazy in Washington DC.; De Novo in Austin TX.; and Quiara Alegría Hudes’ Water By the Spoonful at Premiere Stages.

Talene Monahon, Sean Carvajal, Juan Carlos Hernández, Lisa Ramirez, Victor Almanzar, Yadira Guevara-Prip, Alexander Flores, Luis Vega, Flaco Navaja, Dascha Polanco, Selenis Leyva, and Analisa Velez
Talene Monahon, Sean Carvajal, Juan Carlos Hernández, Lisa Ramirez, Victor Almanzar, Yadira Guevara-Prip, Alexander Flores, Luis Vega, Flaco Navaja, Dascha Polanco, Selenis Leyva, and Analisa Velez in Tell Hector I Miss Him by Paola Lázaro. Photo by Ahron R. Foster

In 2017, I did some pretty bad-ass/life changing productions in New York’s Off-Broadway scene like Atlantic Theater’s World Premiere of Tell Hector I Miss Him, by Paola Lázaro; the New York premiere of Seven Spots on the Sun at The Rattlestick and Signature Theatre’s revival of Jesus Hopped the A Train.

Socorro Santiago, Flor De Liz Perez, Sean Carvajal, Peter Jay Fernandez in ‘Seven Spots On The Sun’ at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. Photo by Russ Rowland
Socorro Santiago, Flor De Liz Perez, Sean Carvajal, Peter Jay Fernandez in ‘Seven Spots On The Sun’ at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. Photo by Russ Rowland

I recently completed a run of Water by the Spoonful at the Mark Taper Forum.

From left to right: Josh Braaten (Fountainhead) offers to pay for funeral flowers but is turned down by Elliot, (Sean Carvajal) as Cousin Yazmin (Keren Lugo) and Elliot’s birth mother Odessa (Luna Lauren Vélez) look on. Photo: Craig Schwartz
From left to right: Josh Braaten (Fountainhead) offers to pay for funeral flowers but is turned down by Elliot, (Sean Carvajal) as Cousin Yazmin (Keren Lugo) and Elliot’s birth mother Odessa (Luna Lauren Vélez) look on in Water By The Spoonful. Photo: Craig Schwartz

OH! And I produced the LAByrinth Theatre Company’s re-boot of Queen Latina and Her Power Posse at The Cherry Lane!

Lia: How did you book Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train?
Sean: I was preparing for this audition for Light Shining In Buckinghamshire at NYTW. I was really excited to do that play because I love Rachel Chavkin, and she’s a genius. I took a break and bumped into Stephen. That’s when he mentioned that they would need to recast the role of Angel.

I said, “I’ll show them how your work should be done” and I get the sides within an hour. I thought, “I just told Stephen I’m going to knock it out of the park, I better do a good job.” So I get to work.

At some point in my prep, Stephen gives me the heads up that there were two actors already being considered because they had performed the role. I had done so much work already and felt dumb backing out. I believed it was worth a shot, and worse case scenario Signature Theater and casting would have the opportunity to see me work. I had 12 hours to memorize the first two scenes.

I go in for my audition. I got a call that they wanted to see me again. Mark Brokaw, the director told me, “You don’t have the part yet. If the other actor doesn’t want to do the play, be ready. You are on standby to step in tonight.” He said he would let me know by 5pm. Stephen texted me that I had the part. I came to the theater, we had our first read thru and I jumped in. Rehearsal began on a Tuesday, Friday was my dress rehearsal, and on Saturday I stepped into previews. I had two shows on Saturday, another show on Sunday and that night was the alumni night performance-the best night of my life!

Edi Gathegi, Tony Plano, Ricardo Chavira, Erick Betancourt and Sean Carvajal. Photo by Lia Chang
Edi Gathegi, Tony Plano, Ricardo Chavira, Erick Betancourt and Sean Carvajal after the Signature alumni performance at The Pershing Square Signature Center in New York on October 15, 2018. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia:What went through your mind when you learned of your Lortel nomination?
Sean: I would never think in a million years that I would get nominated. I feel like my process with Jesus, I felt like it was a play that was incomplete. During that process, I was always asking myself, did I do a good job? I also didn’t know what these awards meant. I was taken aback. I didn’t think I was going to win. I was in the same category as Michael Urie, Namir Smallwood, Peter Friedman and Chukwudi Iwuji!

KPOP, “School Girls,” ‘Cost of Living,” and “Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train,” Take Top Honors at Lortel Awards 

Holy Land cast members Jojo Gonzalez and Sean Carvajal. Photo by Lia Chang
Holy Land cast members Jojo Gonzalez and Sean Carvajal. Photo by Lia Chang

It was crazy when I learned about the special Drama Desk Award and I was so honored. I froze when I got the e-mail about the Obie’s–I knew about the Obie Awards because of Jojo Gonzalez. If you win one of those, that makes you a New York artist. With the Outer Critics Award nomination, Stephen texted me. I thought, “I’m being nominated next to Andrew Garfield – really?”

Sean Carvajal and Edi Gathegi of “Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train” to Receive Special 2018 Drama Desk Award 

Sean Carvajal receives the 2018 Obie Award for Performance at the 63rd Annual Obie Awards® on May 21 at Terminal 5 in New York. Photo by Lia Chang
Sean Carvajal receives the 2018 Obie Award for Performance at the 63rd Annual Obie Awards® on May 21 at Terminal 5 in New York.
Sean Carvajal. Photo by Lia Chang
Sean Carvajal. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia: In your Obie Awards speech, you dedicated the award to your  mom and thanked Stephen. You also mentioned that she used to take you to see theater. Can you elaborate more about her and how the experience affected your life path?
Sean: She was a single mom. She worked really hard all her life. She wakes up at 4 or 5 every morning and she works until 1am.

The quality time I did spend with her was when we went to church (I grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness), or when she would take us out for a fancy night to see theater.  Those nights meant so much to her–to save enough money to buy us nice clothing, see theater and then take us to eat at Olive Garden. I didn’t understand why and I still don’t understand why.

Part of the reason I think I became an actor is because she would take us to see these plays. She would make it an event and I knew it meant so much to her.

I remember one time I got into this fit. We went to see Aida. I did not want to see this musical. I wanted to stay home and watch cartoons. My mom bought us clothing from the Gap, which to us was really fancy. But as the night continued, I had such an amazing time. I saw Toni Braxton and Will Chase. Will Chase changed my life. There was something about their performance that was so free. But more importantly, I saw what those performances did for her. And that’s what got me. My mom was an immigrant. She came from the Dominican Republic. These musicals made her feel things. They made her laugh; made her cry in ways I had never seen her before. All I knew was this hard working mom. I felt like I needed her to know that.

I thanked Stephen for a lot of things, not just for Jesus. That man… there are no words. He’s been like a great father figure in so many ways. I will always be grateful for him.

Stephen Adly Guirgis. Photo by Lia Chang
Stephen Adly Guirgis. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia: What was your mother’s reaction at the Obies?
Sean: The Obie Awards ceremony was a long evening. My mother is really religious. I could tell some things really annoyed her. There was an open bar. She saw me drinking and she wasn’t happy about that. She was watching all of these weird people in this concert hall. There were moments when she was impressed – when she saw John Leguizamo there, and then Matthew Broderick. But she was most affected as she watched how people respected me, her son. That left the impression that I might be doing something right. She had to work the next day at 4am, so I gave her the award and she was off to work.

Matthew Broderick presented the 2018 Obie Award for Performance to Sean Carvajal at the 63rd Annual Obie Awards® on May 21 at Terminal 5 in New York. Photo: Instagram
Matthew Broderick presented the 2018 Obie Award for Performance to Sean Carvajal at the 63rd Annual Obie Awards® on May 21 at Terminal 5 in New York. Photo: Instagram
Sean Carvajal. Photo by Lia Chang
Sean Carvajal. Photo by Lia Chang

Lia: What did you mean when you said that going to theater at an early age opened you up to other possibilities?
Sean: When you are an immigrant, one thing you instill upon your kids is the sacrifices you went through to give us a better life. I was aware from a young age of the expectations to be a doctor or a lawyer. You have to be good in school. You have to work hard. I saw my mom work hard all my life. I barely saw her. And so I thought that money and schooling was the dream and the goal.

However, I’ve discovered that the dream and the goal is having the luxury to dream. She worked her ass off to buy $100+ tickets to see Broadway’s show that taught me to dream, That’s the biggest gift that she was able to give me.

Lia: Who are your inspirations?
Sean: My mom is my inspiration.

I would also say my mentors, especially: Stephen Guirgis, Ron Cephas Jones, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Frank Vitolo. Those men helped raised me, and I’m forever grateful to them.

Francis Vitolo, Neil Tyrone Pritchard, Stephen Adly Guirgis and Sean Carvajal. Photo courtesy of Stephen Adly Guirgis/Facebook
Francis Vitolo, Neil Tyrone Pritchard, Stephen Adly Guirgis and Sean Carvajal. Photo courtesy of Stephen Adly Guirgis/Facebook

I know I just said his name, but Ron Cephas Jones is an inspiration. That man taught me so much of what I know, and I love him dearly.

Actors Stephen McKinley Henderson, Ron C. Jones and Neil Tyrone Pritchard perform on stage at the 2014 Steinberg Playwright Awards hosted by the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust on November 17, 2014 in New York City. Photo by Lia Chang
Actors Stephen McKinley Henderson, Ron Cephas Jones and Neil Tyrone Pritchard perform on stage at the 2014 Steinberg Playwright Awards hosted by the Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust on November 17, 2014 in New York City. Photo by Lia Chang

My friends are inspirations to me and they feed me in so many ways.

Lia: Are there any directors you would like to work with, theater companies you would like to work with?
Sean: I would love to work with directors like Ava DuVernay, Reinaldo Green. If I were to dream big, I would want to work with Ryan Coogler, I find him to be so impressive. He’s 31 years old and he has such a wonderful career as a black man. I really admire a man who is a visionary like that. He’s a go-getter.

I would want to work with the Steppenwolf Theatre.

Dominique Morisseau at The Drama Bookshop in New York on May 7, 2018. Photo by Lia Chang
Dominique Morisseau at The Drama Bookshop in New York on May 7, 2018. Photo by Lia Chang

I want to do a Dominique Morisseau play! I admire that woman so much. Not only who she is and her work, but also who she is as an artist. It would be an honor to do one of her plays.  She’s such an important playwright of our time. She’s such a wonderful artist. Her mind is so on the money about how we should behave and how we should treat each other as artists.

Lia: You are receiving the Clarence Derwent Award from the Actors Equity Foundation.
Sean: It’s crazy. When Actors Equity called me to give me $5000 along with Clarence Derwent Award that was insane to me. You do plays for $250 for the entire run! I’m so honored. Honored and humbled by all of this.

Like Ron would always say “Life’s a bummer when you’re a plumber”. And grateful that I’m an artist.

Sean Carvajal and Ashley Park Receive Actors Equity’s Clarence Derwent Award

Claudia Acosta, Flor De Liz Perez, Sean Carvajal, Peter Jay Fernandez, Rey Lucas, Flora Diaz and Cesar J. Rosado on the set of Martin Zimmerman’s ‘Seven Spots On the Sun” at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre. Photo by Lia Chang
Claudia Acosta, Flor De Liz Perez, Sean Carvajal, Peter Jay Fernandez, Rey Lucas, Flora Diaz and Cesar J. Rosado on the set of Martin Zimmerman’s Seven Spots On the Sun at Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre in May, 2017. Photo by Lia Chang

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Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits

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 is also an internationally published and exhibited photographer, a multi-platform journalist, and a publicist. 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 and Hide and Seek. She is profiled in Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2018 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at liachangpr@gmail.com

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