Multimedia: André De Shields Helmed SOPHISTICATED LADIES at NJPAC, March 21 – 24

Director André De Shields with his SOPHISTICATED LADIES cast (Seated) C.K. Edwards, Tommy Scrivens, Lamont Brown and Wesley J. Barnes. (Standing) Jenny Laroche, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang.
André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

Two-time Tony nominee and Emmy winner André De Shields, currently in rehearsal for the Broadway production of Anais Mitchell’s Hadestown, is simultaneously at the helm of Crossroads Theatre Company and New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC)’s co-production of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies at NJPAC, 1 Center Street in Newark, Thursday, March 21 – Sunday, March 24, 2019. Click here to purchase tickets.

Costume Designer Gail Brassard, Director Andre De Shields, Choreographer Kimberly Schafer, Tommy Scrivens, Wesley Barnes, Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards with Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Costume Designer Gail Brassard, Director Andre De Shields, Choreographer Kimberly Schafer, Tommy Scrivens, Wesley Barnes, Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards with Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang

The high-style music of “The Duke” is the heart and soul of this 1981 Tony-winning Broadway hit, featuring choreography by Kimberly Schafer and musical direction by Nat Adderley, Jr.

Kimberly Schafer and André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
Kimberly Schafer and André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

Presented in the year marking the 120th anniversary of Ellington’s birth, Sophisticated Ladies is a first-class excursion back to the heyday of Harlem’s swanky Cotton Club. According to legend, the great bandleader and composer Duke Ellington once told his musicians that they had to play their best because they were about to open in Newark. All those glorious numbers – “Satin Doll,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” “Cotton Tail,” “Take the A Train” and “Mood Indigo” – return to the city in full swing with the arrival of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, a co-production of NJPAC and Crossroads Theatre Company.

(Seated) C.K. Edwards, Tommy Scrivens, Lamont Brown and Wesley J. Barnes. (Standing) Jenny Laroche, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
(Seated) C.K. Edwards, Tommy Scrivens, Lamont Brown and Wesley J. Barnes. (Standing) Jenny Laroche, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang

A glamorous cast of Broadway veterans and bright young stars performs with an onstage band versed in the tradition of the orchestras of Duke Ellington and his son, Mercer. The cast features Johmaalya Adelekan, Ken Ard, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Wesley J. Barnes, Lamont Brown, Kaleigh Cronin, Lianne Marie Dobbs, C.K. Edwards, Danielle Kelsey, Jenny Laroche, N’Kenge, and Tommy Scrivens.

André De Shields in front of the Walter Kerr Theatre in New York, where HADESTOWN begins previews on March 22, 2019. Photo by Lia Chang
André De Shields in front of the Walter Kerr Theatre in New York, where HADESTOWN begins previews on March 22, 2019. Photo by Lia Chang

André De Shields made his NJPAC debut six years ago in Prudential Hall as Zeus during an orchestral performance of The Creatures of Prometheus. He returned in 2017 to direct and choreograph the first co-production between NJPAC and The Crossroads Theatre Company, the critically acclaimed Ain’t Misbehavin’. In his half-century artistic career, Mr. De Shields has distinguished himself as an unparalleled actor, director, choreographer and educator. His numerous accolades include an OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance, the 2009 National Black Theatre Festival’s Living Legend Award, the Black Theatre Network’s 2016 Winona Lee Fletcher Award, and many more. His body of work includes Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional theatre, feature films, television, and cabaret. Mr. De Shields is best known for his show stopping performances in four legendary Broadway musicals: The Full Monty, Play On!, Ain’t Misbehavin’, and The Wiz (title role). De Shields heads back to Broadway in March as Hermes in Anais Mitchell’s Hadestown at the Walter Kerr.

Seated: Costume Designer Gail Brassard, Kayla Votapek, Production Stage Manager Rick Steiger. Standing: Choreographer Kimberly Schafer, Crossroads Producing Artistic Director Marshall Jones, III, Director André De Shields, Lighting and Set Designer Burke Wilmore and Chelsea. Photo by Lia Chang
Seated: Costume Designer Gail Brassard, Associate Producer Kayla Kim Votapek, Production Stage Manager Rick Steiger. Standing: Choreographer Kimberly Schafer, Crossroads Producing Artistic Director Marshall Jones, III, Director André De Shields, Lighting and Set Designer Burke J. Wilmore and Assistant Stage Manager Chelsea Olivia Friday. Photo by Lia Chang

Mr. De Shields’ creative team also includes Burke J. Wilmore (Set and Lighting Design), Gail Brassard (Costume Design), Production Stage Manager Rick Steiger and Assistant Stage Manager Chelsea Olivia Friday.

Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge. Photo by Lia Chang
Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge. Photo by Lia Chang

Performances for Sophisticated Ladies are on Thursday, March 21st @ 7pm, Friday, March 22 @ 7pm, Saturday, March 23rd @ 2pm and 7pm and Sunday, March 24 @ 2pm. Click here to purchase tickets.

Seated: Wesley J. Barnes, Kaleigh Cronin, Ken Ard, Lamont Brown. Standing C.K. Edwards, Jenny Laroche, Danielle Kelsey and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang
(Seated) Wesley J. Barnes, Kaleigh Cronin, Ken Ard, Lamont Brown. (Standing) C.K. Edwards, Jenny Laroche, Danielle Kelsey and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang

Below De Shields reveals his vision for Sophisticated Ladies.

André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

Q: How was Sophisticated Ladies relevant in 1981?
In terms of cultural agency, the 1980s in America are remembered as The Golden Decade, when bigger was better: big television, big Rock & Roll, big Wall Street, big hair, big soul . . . big fame, big film and–yes– big Broadway musicals. Duke Ellington’sSophisticated Ladies was one of those opulent productions that ruled The Great White Way during the 80s. I still have vivid, visceral recollection of the spring of 1981. I was returning from having performed a six-month engagement of Ain’t Misbehavin’ in Paris. Once in New York, I discovered The Grapevine alight with rapturous acclaim for the lavish and glamorous Ellington revue. Inspired by the discography of Edward Kennedy Ellington–later to adopt the moniker “Duke”–Sophisticated Ladies played its first preview on February 16, 1981, at The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, opened on March 1, 1981, and closed on January 2, 1983, having run a total of 767 performances. Arguably the greatest American composer of the Twentieth century, Duke Ellington had finally become a player on America’s main stage for live theatre. Audiences and critics alike were hard-pressed to find the adjective that possessed just the right amount of panache and gravitas to describe the lavish production that was Sophisticated Ladies. The word “fabulous” would soon acquire an even more prodigious connotation.

N'Kenge, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Jenny LaRoche, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
N’Kenge, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Jenny Laroche, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, N'Kenge and Jacqueline B. Arnold. Photo by Lia Chang
Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, N’Kenge and Jacqueline B. Arnold. Photo by Lia Chang
Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, N'Kenge and Jacqueline B. Arnold. Photo by Lia Chang
Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, N’Kenge and Jacqueline B. Arnold. Photo by Lia Chang
Lianne Marie Dobbs, Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Jacqueline B. Arnold, and N'Kenge. Photo by Lia Chang
Lianne Marie Dobbs, Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Jacqueline B. Arnold, and N’Kenge. Photo by Lia Chang

Q: And what is your vision for making it relevant to 2019?
Fast forward nearly another two decades to 2019, and the culture has gone through a tectonic shift. No longer made solely of the solidly impervious fabric of male dominance, contemporary American culture has been stretched to the point of porosity. And those porous imperfections are currently being mended by the stitch work of twenty-first century, self-empowered womanhood. Flipping the script has become a necessary tool of the postmodern female. And since it is the responsibility of my generation to explain to the prior and succeeding generations how we got from There to Here, I searched for a piece of entertainment that could be unpacked for its implicit information regarding the psychological, emotional and intellectual relationships between men and women. It occurred to me that Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies was ripe for the picking. The title alone begs to be parsed. For example, have we actually ever heard from the sophisticated ladies referenced in the title? Isn’t it about time that we get to better know the women that the Duke and his collaborators apotheosized in song for sixty years? One of the several definitions of “sophisticated” is “enlightened.” I suggest that we all lean forward, and open our eyes, ears, hearts and minds to the perspective of the enlightened woman, wherever she is encountered. I am convinced that we will find her revelations “beyond category.”

Ken Ard and N'Kenge. photo by Lia Chang
Ken Ard and N’Kenge. photo by Lia Chang

Q: What can the audience expect from this new production of Sophisticated Ladies?
From this new production of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, NJPAC audiences can expect dynamic entertainment, sparkling enlightenment and nuanced ecstasy. My creative team and I have not changed any lyric or adulterated any melody. We have great respect for the integrity of the original Broadway show. What we have done is made the choice of not drenching the production in luxury. A simple yet elegant set with Art Deco highlights has been designed by Burke J. Wilmore, who also serves as lighting designer. Our choreographer, Kimberly Schafer, has created a palette of dance genres, featuring tap, to keep the audience’s feet patting, fingers snapping and shoulders shaking. And costume designer Gail Brassard has taken the approach of not anchoring the production in a singular historical period, but rather to allow the costume design to subtly reflect the changing status of the female over various windows if time. The entire physical production is meant to reveal a minimalist set of core design values in order to emphasize our investigation into the seed of the seed: what the authentic sophisticated lady has to say about herself?

Jenny LaRoche, Kaleigh Cronin and Danielle Kelsey. Photo by Lia Chang
Jenny Laroche, Kaleigh Cronin and Danielle Kelsey. Photo by Lia Chang

Q: What are four words that best describe this newly conceptualized production?
The four words that best describe this newly conceptualized production are original, imaginative, unpredictable and inventive.

Wesley J. Barnes, C.K. Edwards and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
Wesley J. Barnes, C.K. Edwards and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
Lianne Marie Dobbs, Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Danielle Kelsey, Ken Ard and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
Lianne Marie Dobbs, Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Danielle Kelsey, Ken Ard and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lamont Brown and Johmaalya Adelekan. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lamont Brown and Johmaalya Adelekan. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lamont Brown and Johmaalya Adelekan. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lamont Brown and Johmaalya Adelekan. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lamont Brown and Johmaalya Adelekan. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lamont Brown and Johmaalya Adelekan. Photo by Lia Chang

Q: What most excites you about returning to NJPAC following a successful run of Ain’t Misbehavin’ last season?
Following last season’s successful run of Ain’t Misbehavin’, that which most excites me about returning to NJPAC is the opportunity to continue expanding and solidifying the network of collaborators dedicated to the mission of Crossroads Theatre Company: To create and present professional theatre of the highest standards of artistic excellence that celebrates the culture, history, spirit and voices of the entire African Diaspora.

C.K. Edwards, Lamont Brown, Tomm Scrivens and Wesley J. Barnes. Photo by Lia Chang
C.K. Edwards, Lamont Brown, Tomm Scrivens and Wesley J. Barnes. Photo by Lia Chang
Wesley J. Barnes. Photo by Lia Chang
Wesley J. Barnes. Photo by Lia Chang

About Crossroads Theatre Company
Crossroads Theatre Company continues to lead the nation with its commitment to literary works that examine the African American experience so that it may be understood and appreciated by all people. When co-founders Ricardo Khan and L. Kenneth Richardson envisioned a space where, as actors, the two young men could work on substantive, non-stereotypical roles, little did they realize that their vision would grow into the major institution that it is today. Crossroads has filled an otherwise empty space on the cultural canvas of the country and the world, with a collective body of work that remains unparalleled by any other of culturally-specific theater in the nation by presenting over 50 world premieres. Crossroads forged its vision into reality through the development, production and touring of new works from throughout the African Diaspora where positive images of African American life, history and culture is celebrated. These honest theatrical portrayals helped move the consciousness of the nation forward. Crossroads continues to lead twenty-first century story-telling by building bridges of understanding and veracity between people of all backgrounds in this society and the world. Find out more at CrossroadsTheatreCompany.org.

About NJPAC
New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), located in downtown Newark, N.J., is America’s most diverse performing arts center, and the artistic, cultural, educational and civic center of New Jersey, where great performances and events enhance and transform lives every day. NJPAC brings diverse communities together, providing access to all and showcasing the state’s and the world’s best artists while acting as a leading catalyst in the revitalization of its home city. Through its extensive Arts Education programs, NJPAC is shaping the next generation of artists and arts enthusiasts. NJPAC has attracted more than 9 million visitors (including over 1.7 million children) since opening its doors in 1997, and nurtures meaningful and lasting relationships with each of its constituents.

Director André De Shields with his SOPHISTICATED LADIES cast (Seated) C.K. Edwards, Tommy Scrivens, Lamont Brown and Wesley J. Barnes. (Standing) Jenny Laroche, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang.
Director André De Shields with his SOPHISTICATED LADIES cast (Seated) C.K. Edwards, Tommy Scrivens, Lamont Brown and Wesley J. Barnes. (Standing) Jenny Laroche, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang.
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Johmaalya Adelekan, Ken Ard, N'Kenge, Lianne Marie Dobbs. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Johmaalya Adelekan, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Lianne Marie Dobbs. Photo by Lia Chang
C.K. Edwards, Wesley J. Barnes, Lamont Brown and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang
C.K. Edwards, Wesley J. Barnes, Lamont Brown and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang
Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards, Wesley J. Barnes and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang
Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards, Wesley J. Barnes and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang

Location and Directions: NJPAC is located at 1 Center Street, Newark, New Jersey; a short walk from the Newark Penn Station stop by Newark-bound PATH Train or Amtrak.

Detailed instructions on approaching the venue by car, by bus, by foot or by rail:
NJPAC directions
NJPAC public transportation
NJOAC parking

C.K. Edwards, Lamont Brown, Wesley J. Barnes and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang
C.K. Edwards, Lamont Brown, Wesley J. Barnes and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang

Nat Adderley, Jr. Joins NJPAC and Crossroads Theatre Co-production of SOPHISTICATED LADIES as Musical Director 

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: © 2000-2019 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

Nat Adderley, Jr. Joins NJPAC and Crossroads Theatre Co-production of SOPHISTICATED LADIES as Musical Director

Costume Designer Gail Brassard, Director Andre De Shields, Choreographer Kimberly Schafer, Tommy Scrivens, Wesley Barnes, Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards with Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
André De Shields in front of the Walter Kerr Theatre in New York, where HADESTOWN begins previews on March 22, 2019. Photo by Lia Chang
André De Shields in front of the Walter Kerr Theatre in New York, where HADESTOWN begins previews on March 22, 2019. Photo by Lia Chang

Two-time Tony nominee and Emmy winner André De Shields, currently in rehearsal for the Broadway production of Anais Mitchell’s Hadestown, is simultaneously at the helm of  Crossroads Theatre Company and New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC)’s co-production of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies at NJPAC, 1 Center Street in Newark, Thursday, March 21 – Sunday, March 24, 2019. Click here to purchase tickets.

The high-style music of “The Duke” is the heart and soul of this 1981 Tony-winning Broadway hit, featuring choreography by Kimberly Schafer and musical direction by Nat Adderley, Jr. Scroll down for photos of rehearsal.

Costume Designer Gail Brassard, Director Andre De Shields, Choreographer Kimberly Schafer, Tommy Scrivens, Wesley Barnes, Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards with Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Costume Designer Gail Brassard, Director Andre De Shields, Choreographer Kimberly Schafer, Tommy Scrivens, Wesley Barnes, Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards with Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang

Presented in the year marking the 120th anniversary of Ellington’s birth, Sophisticated Ladies is a first-class excursion back to the heyday of Harlem’s swanky Cotton Club. According to legend, the great bandleader and composer Duke Ellington once told his musicians that they had to play their best because they were about to open in Newark. All those glorious numbers – “Satin Doll,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” “Cotton Tail,” “Take the A Train” and “Mood Indigo” – return to the city in full swing with the arrival of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, a co-production of NJPAC and Crossroads Theatre Company.

(Seated) C.K. Edwards, Tommy Scrivens, Lamont Brown and Wesley J. Barnes. (Standing) Jenny Laroche, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
(Seated) C.K. Edwards, Tommy Scrivens, Lamont Brown and Wesley J. Barnes. (Standing) Jenny Laroche, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang

A glamorous cast of Broadway veterans and bright young stars performs with an onstage band versed in the tradition of the orchestras of Duke Ellington and his son, Mercer. The cast features Johmaalya Adelekan, Ken Ard, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Wesley J. Barnes, Lamont Brown, Kaleigh Cronin, Lianne Marie Dobbs, C.K. Edwards, Danielle Kelsey, Jenny Laroche, N’Kenge, and Tommy Scrivens.

André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

André De Shields made his NJPAC debut six years ago in Prudential Hall as Zeus during an orchestral performance of The Creatures of Prometheus. He returned in 2017 to direct and choreograph the first co-production between NJPAC and The Crossroads Theatre Company, the critically acclaimed Ain’t Misbehavin’. In his half-century artistic career, Mr. De Shields has distinguished himself as an unparalleled actor, director, choreographer and educator. His numerous accolades include an OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance, the 2009 National Black Theatre Festival’s Living Legend Award, the Black Theatre Network’s 2016 Winona Lee Fletcher Award, and many more. His body of work includes Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional theatre, feature films, television, and cabaret. Mr. De Shields is best known for his show stopping performances in four legendary Broadway musicals: The Full Monty,Play On!, Ain’t Misbehavin’, and The Wiz (title role). De Shields heads back to Broadway in March as Hermes in Anais Mitchell’s Hadestown at the Walter Kerr.Mr. De Shields’ creative team also includes Burke J. Wilmore (Set and Lighting Design), Gail Brassard (Costume Design), Production Stage Manager Rick Steiger and Assistant Stage Manager Chelsea Olivia Friday.

Performances for Sophisticated Ladies are on Thursday, March 21st @ 7pm, Friday, March 22 @ 7pm, Saturday, March 23rd @ 2pm and 7pm and Sunday, March 24 @ 2pm. Click here to purchase tickets.

Director André De Shields and Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Director André De Shields and Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards, Wesley Barnes Jim Mirrione, Director André De Shields and Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards, Wesley Barnes Jim Mirrione, Director André De Shields and Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr., Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards. Wesley Barnes and Director André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr., Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards. Wesley Barnes and Director André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
Director André De Shields and Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Director André De Shields and Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr., Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards and Wesley Barnes. Photo by Lia Chang
Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr., Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards and Wesley Barnes. Photo by Lia Chang
Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr., Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards and Wesley Barnes. Photo by Lia Chang
Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr., Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards and Wesley Barnes. Photo by Lia Chang
Director André De Shields, Costume Designer Gail Brassard, Choreographer Kimberly Schafer, Tommy Scrivens, Wesley Barnes with Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Director André De Shields, Costume Designer Gail Brassard, Choreographer Kimberly Schafer, Tommy Scrivens, Wesley Barnes with Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Director André De Shields and Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Director André De Shields and Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang
Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. and Director André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr. and Director André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
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: © 2000-2019 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

In the Rehearsal Room and an Interview with André De Shields, Director of Crossroads Theatre Company and NJPAC’s Co-Production of Duke Ellington’s SOPHISTICATED LADIES

Tommy Scrivens, N'Kenge, C.K. Edwards, Ken Ard, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Kimberly Schafer, André De Shields, Lamont Brown, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Kaleigh Cronin, Danielle Kelsey, Wesley J. Barnes and Jenny LaRoche. Photo by Lia Chang

Photos by Lia Chang

Crossroads Theatre Company and New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) are presenting a co-production of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies at NJPAC, 1 Center Street in Newark, Thursday, March 21 – Sunday, March 24, 2019. Click here to purchase tickets.

Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge. Photo by Lia Chang
Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge. Photo by Lia Chang

The high-style music of “The Duke” is the heart and soul of this 1981 Tony-winning Broadway hit, directed with dazzle by two-time Tony nominee and Emmy winner André De Shields (The Wiz, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Play On, The Full Monty) and choreographed by Kimberly Schafer.

Kimberly Schafer and André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
Kimberly Schafer and André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

Presented in the year marking the 120th anniversary of Ellington’s birth, Sophisticated Ladies is a first-class excursion back to the heyday of Harlem’s swanky Cotton Club. According to legend, the great bandleader and composer Duke Ellington once told his musicians that they had to play their best because they were about to open in Newark. All those glorious numbers – “Satin Doll,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” “Cotton Tail,” “Take the A Train” and “Mood Indigo” – return to the city in full swing with the arrival of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, a co-production of NJPAC and Crossroads Theatre Company.

(Seated) C.K. Edwards, Tommy Scrivens, Lamont Brown and Wesley J. Barnes. (Standing) Jenny Laroche, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
(Seated) C.K. Edwards, Tommy Scrivens, Lamont Brown and Wesley J. Barnes. (Standing) Jenny Laroche, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang

A glamorous cast of Broadway veterans and bright young stars performs with an onstage band versed in the tradition of the orchestras of Duke Ellington and his son, Mercer. Talents from some of Broadway’s hottest shows are featured including Johmaalya Adelekan (Ain’t Misbehavin’, Ragtime); Ken Ard (Smokey Joe’s Café); Kaleigh Cronin (Summer: The Donna Summer Musical, A Bronx Tale); Jenny Laroche (Summer: The Donna Summer Musical); and N’Kenge (Motown). The cast also includes Jacqueline B. Arnold (Moulin Rouge!), Wesley J. Barnes (Pamela’s First Musical), Lamont Brown (42nd Street), Lianne Marie Dobbs (Himself & Nora), C.K. Edwards (Shuffle Along, Or The Making of the Musical Sensation of 1921 and All That Followed, After Midnight, Bill Elliot: The Musical), Danielle Kelsey (Village Theatre’s The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes) and Tommy Scrivens (Muny’s A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum).

Seated: Wesley J. Barnes, Kaleigh Cronin, Ken Ard, Lamont Brown. Standing C.K. Edwards, Jenny Laroche, Danielle Kelsey and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang
(Seated) Wesley J. Barnes, Kaleigh Cronin, Ken Ard, Lamont Brown. (Standing) C.K. Edwards, Jenny Laroche, Danielle Kelsey and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang

The New York Times described the original Sophisticated Ladies as “the only Broadway revue of recent vintage that operates on a truly grand scale.”

André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

André De Shields made his NJPAC debut six years ago in Prudential Hall as Zeus during an orchestral performance of The Creatures of Prometheus. He returned in 2017 to direct and choreograph the first co-production between NJPAC and The Crossroads Theatre Company, the critically acclaimed Ain’t Misbehavin’. In his half-century artistic career, Mr. De Shields has distinguished himself as an unparalleled actor, director, choreographer and educator. His numerous accolades include an OBIE Award for Sustained Excellence of Performance, the 2009 National Black Theatre Festival’s Living Legend Award, the Black Theatre Network’s 2016 Winona Lee Fletcher Award, and many more. His body of work includes Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional theatre, feature films, television, and cabaret. Mr. De Shields is best known for his show stopping performances in four legendary Broadway musicals: The Full Monty, Play On!, Ain’t Misbehavin’, and The Wiz (title role). De Shields heads back to Broadway in March as Hermes in Anais Mitchell’s Hadestown at the Walter Kerr.

Seated: Costume Designer Gail Brassard, Kayla Votapek, Production Stage Manager Rick Steiger. Standing: Choreographer Kimberly Schafer, Crossroads Producing Artistic Director Marshall Jones, III, Director André De Shields, Lighting and Set Designer Burke Wilmore and Chelsea. Photo by Lia Chang
Seated: Costume Designer Gail Brassard, Associate Producer Kayla Kim Votapek, Production Stage Manager Rick Steiger. Standing: Choreographer Kimberly Schafer, Crossroads Producing Artistic Director Marshall Jones, III, Director André De Shields, Lighting and Set Designer Burke J. Wilmore and Assistant Stage Manager Chelsea Olivia Friday. Photo by Lia Chang

Mr. De Shields’ creative team includes Burke J. Wilmore (Set and Lighting Design), Kimberly Schafer (Choreography), Gail Brassard (Costume Design), Musical Director Nat Adderley, Jr.,  Production Stage Manager Rick Steiger and Assistant Stage Manager Chelsea Olivia Friday.

Tommy Scrivens, N'Kenge, C.K. Edwards, Ken Ard, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Kimberly Schafer, André De Shields, Lamont Brown, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Kaleigh Cronin, Danielle Kelsey, Wesley J. Barnes and Jenny LaRoche. Photo by Lia Chang
Tommy Scrivens, N’Kenge, C.K. Edwards, Ken Ard, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Kimberly Schafer, André De Shields, Lamont Brown, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Kaleigh Cronin, Danielle Kelsey, Wesley J. Barnes and Jenny Laroche. Photo by Lia Chang

Performances for Sophisticated Ladies are on Thursday, March 21st @ 7pm, Friday, March 22 @ 7pm, Saturday, March 23rd @ 2pm and 7pm and Sunday, March 24 @ 2pm. Click here to purchase tickets.

Below De Shields reveals his vision for Sophisticated Ladies.

André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

Q: How was Sophisticated Ladies relevant in 1981?
In terms of cultural agency, the 1980s in America are remembered as The Golden Decade, when bigger was better: big television, big Rock & Roll, big Wall Street, big hair, big soul . . . big fame, big film and–yes– big Broadway musicals. Duke Ellington’sSophisticated Ladies was one of those opulent productions that ruled The Great White Way during the 80s. I still have vivid, visceral recollection of the spring of 1981. I was returning from having performed a six-month engagement of Ain’t Misbehavin’ in Paris. Once in New York, I discovered The Grapevine alight with rapturous acclaim for the lavish and glamorous Ellington revue. Inspired by the discography of Edward Kennedy Ellington–later to adopt the moniker “Duke”–Sophisticated Ladies played its first preview on February 16, 1981, at The Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, opened on March 1, 1981, and closed on January 2, 1983, having run a total of 767 performances. Arguably the greatest American composer of the Twentieth century, Duke Ellington had finally become a player on America’s main stage for live theatre. Audiences and critics alike were hard-pressed to find the adjective that possessed just the right amount of panache and gravitas to describe the lavish production that was Sophisticated Ladies. The word “fabulous” would soon acquire an even more prodigious connotation.

N'Kenge, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Jenny LaRoche, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
N’Kenge, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Jenny Laroche, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, N'Kenge and Jacqueline B. Arnold. Photo by Lia Chang
Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, N’Kenge and Jacqueline B. Arnold. Photo by Lia Chang
Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, N'Kenge and Jacqueline B. Arnold. Photo by Lia Chang
Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, N’Kenge and Jacqueline B. Arnold. Photo by Lia Chang
Lianne Marie Dobbs, Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Jacqueline B. Arnold, and N'Kenge. Photo by Lia Chang
Lianne Marie Dobbs, Johmaalya Adelekan, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Jacqueline B. Arnold, and N’Kenge. Photo by Lia Chang

Q: And what is your vision for making it relevant to 2019?
Fast forward nearly another two decades to 2019, and the culture has gone through a tectonic shift. No longer made solely of the solidly impervious fabric of male dominance, contemporary American culture has been stretched to the point of porosity. And those porous imperfections are currently being mended by the stitch work of twenty-first century, self-empowered womanhood. Flipping the script has become a necessary tool of the postmodern female. And since it is the responsibility of my generation to explain to the prior and succeeding generations how we got from There to Here, I searched for a piece of entertainment that could be unpacked for its implicit information regarding the psychological, emotional and intellectual relationships between men and women. It occurred to me that Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies was ripe for the picking. The title alone begs to be parsed. For example, have we actually ever heard from the sophisticated ladies referenced in the title? Isn’t it about time that we get to better know the women that the Duke and his collaborators apotheosized in song for sixty years? One of the several definitions of “sophisticated” is “enlightened.” I suggest that we all lean forward, and open our eyes, ears, hearts and minds to the perspective of the enlightened woman, wherever she is encountered. I am convinced that we will find her revelations “beyond category.”

Ken Ard and N'Kenge. photo by Lia Chang
Ken Ard and N’Kenge. photo by Lia Chang

Q: What can the audience expect from this new production of Sophisticated Ladies?
From this new production of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, NJPAC audiences can expect dynamic entertainment, sparkling enlightenment and nuanced ecstasy. My creative team and I have not changed any lyric or adulterated any melody. We have great respect for the integrity of the original Broadway show. What we have done is made the choice of not drenching the production in luxury. A simple yet elegant set with Art Deco highlights has been designed by Burke J. Wilmore, who also serves as lighting designer. Our choreographer, Kimberly Schafer, has created a palette of dance genres, featuring tap, to keep the audience’s feet patting, fingers snapping and shoulders shaking. And costume designer Gail Brassard has taken the approach of not anchoring the production in a singular historical period, but rather to allow the costume design to subtly reflect the changing status of the female over various windows if time. The entire physical production is meant to reveal a minimalist set of core design values in order to emphasize our investigation into the seed of the seed: what the authentic sophisticated lady has to say about herself?

Jenny LaRoche, Kaleigh Cronin and Danielle Kelsey. Photo by Lia Chang
Jenny Laroche, Kaleigh Cronin and Danielle Kelsey. Photo by Lia Chang

Q: What are four words that best describe this newly conceptualized production?
The four words that best describe this newly conceptualized production are original, imaginative, unpredictable and inventive.

Wesley J. Barnes, C.K. Edwards and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
Wesley J. Barnes, C.K. Edwards and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
Lianne Marie Dobbs, Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Danielle Kelsey, Ken Ard and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
Lianne Marie Dobbs, Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Danielle Kelsey, Ken Ard and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lamont Brown and Johmaalya Adelekan. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lamont Brown and Johmaalya Adelekan. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lamont Brown and Johmaalya Adelekan. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lamont Brown and Johmaalya Adelekan. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lamont Brown and Johmaalya Adelekan. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lamont Brown and Johmaalya Adelekan. Photo by Lia Chang

Q: What most excites you about returning to NJPAC following a successful run of Ain’t Misbehavin’ last season?
Following last season’s successful run of Ain’t Misbehavin’, that which most excites me about returning to NJPAC is the opportunity to continue expanding and solidifying the network of collaborators dedicated to the mission of Crossroads Theatre Company: To create and present professional theatre of the highest standards of artistic excellence that celebrates the culture, history, spirit and voices of the entire African Diaspora.

C.K. Edwards, Lamont Brown, Tomm Scrivens and Wesley J. Barnes. Photo by Lia Chang
C.K. Edwards, Lamont Brown, Tomm Scrivens and Wesley J. Barnes. Photo by Lia Chang
Wesley J. Barnes. Photo by Lia Chang
Wesley J. Barnes. Photo by Lia Chang

About Crossroads Theatre Company
Crossroads Theatre Company continues to lead the nation with its commitment to literary works that examine the African American experience so that it may be understood and appreciated by all people. When co-founders Ricardo Khan and L. Kenneth Richardson envisioned a space where, as actors, the two young men could work on substantive, non-stereotypical roles, little did they realize that their vision would grow into the major institution that it is today. Crossroads has filled an otherwise empty space on the cultural canvas of the country and the world, with a collective body of work that remains unparalleled by any other of culturally-specific theater in the nation by presenting over 50 world premieres. Crossroads forged its vision into reality through the development, production and touring of new works from throughout the African Diaspora where positive images of African American life, history and culture is celebrated. These honest theatrical portrayals helped move the consciousness of the nation forward. Crossroads continues to lead twenty-first century story-telling by building bridges of understanding and veracity between people of all backgrounds in this society and the world. Find out more at CrossroadsTheatreCompany.org.

About NJPAC
New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), located in downtown Newark, N.J., is America’s most diverse performing arts center, and the artistic, cultural, educational and civic center of New Jersey, where great performances and events enhance and transform lives every day. NJPAC brings diverse communities together, providing access to all and showcasing the state’s and the world’s best artists while acting as a leading catalyst in the revitalization of its home city. Through its extensive Arts Education programs, NJPAC is shaping the next generation of artists and arts enthusiasts. NJPAC has attracted more than 9 million visitors (including over 1.7 million children) since opening its doors in 1997, and nurtures meaningful and lasting relationships with each of its constituents.

Director André De Shields with his SOPHISTICATED LADIES cast (Seated) C.K. Edwards, Tommy Scrivens, Lamont Brown and Wesley J. Barnes. (Standing) Jenny Laroche, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang.
Director André De Shields with his SOPHISTICATED LADIES cast (Seated) C.K. Edwards, Tommy Scrivens, Lamont Brown and Wesley J. Barnes. (Standing) Jenny Laroche, Johmaalya Adelekan, Jacqueline B. Arnold, Lianne Marie Dobbs, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Danielle Kelsey and Kaleigh Cronin. Photo by Lia Chang.
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Johmaalya Adelekan, Ken Ard, N'Kenge, Lianne Marie Dobbs. Photo by Lia Chang
Jacqueline B. Arnold, Johmaalya Adelekan, Ken Ard, N’Kenge, Lianne Marie Dobbs. Photo by Lia Chang
C.K. Edwards, Wesley J. Barnes, Lamont Brown and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang
C.K. Edwards, Wesley J. Barnes, Lamont Brown and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang
Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards, Wesley J. Barnes and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang
Lamont Brown, C.K. Edwards, Wesley J. Barnes and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang

Location and Directions: NJPAC is located at 1 Center Street, Newark, New Jersey; a short walk from the Newark Penn Station stop by Newark-bound PATH Train or Amtrak.

Detailed instructions on approaching the venue by car, by bus, by foot or by rail:
NJPAC directions
NJPAC public transportation
NJOAC parking

C.K. Edwards, Lamont Brown, Wesley J. Barnes and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang
C.K. Edwards, Lamont Brown, Wesley J. Barnes and Tommy Scrivens. Photo by Lia Chang
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: © 2000-2019 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

André De Shields to Helm Duke Ellington’s SOPHISTICATED LADIES at NJPAC, March 21 – 24

André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

Crossroads Theatre Company and New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) are presenting a co-production of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies at NJPAC, 1 Center Street in Newark, Thursday, March 21 – Sunday, March 24, 2019. Click here to purchase tickets.

André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang
André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

The high-style music of “The Duke” is the heart and soul of this 1981 Tony-winning Broadway hit, directed with dazzle by André De Shields (The Wiz, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Play On, The Full Monty) and choreographed by Kimberly Schafer.

According to legend, the great bandleader and composer Duke Ellington once told his musicians that they had to play their best because they were about to open in Newark. All those glorious numbers – “Satin Doll,” “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” “Cotton Tail,” “Take the A Train” and “Mood Indigo” – return to the city in full swing with the arrival of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, a co-production of NJPAC and Crossroads Theatre Company.

Presented in the year marking the 120th anniversary of Ellington’s birth, Sophisticated Ladies is a first-class excursion back to the heyday of Harlem’s swanky Cotton Club. For this revival, a glamorous cast of singers and dancers performs with an onstage band versed in the tradition of the orchestras of Duke Ellington and his son, Mercer.

The New York Times described the original Sophisticated Ladies as “the only Broadway revue of recent vintage that operates on a truly grand scale.”

Actor and director André De Shields, an Emmy winner and two-time Tony Award nominee, returns to NJPAC, where he directed the successful Ain’t Misbehavin’ in February 2018. In the past, he directed Play On!, another musical celebration of Ellingtonia, at Crossroads Theatre Company. De Shields heads back to Broadway in March as Hermes in Anais Mitchell’s Hadestown at the Walter Kerr.

Performances for Sophisticated Ladies are on Thursday, March 21st @ 7pm, Friday, March 22 @ 7pm, Saturday, March 23rd @ 2pm and 7pm and Sunday, March 24 @ 2pm. Click here to purchase tickets.

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: © 2000-2019 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

Jon Hoche, Olivia Oguma, Jeffrey Omura, Dana Berger and Kaaron Briscoe in The Playwrights Realm’s Production of Don Nguyen’s HELLO, FROM THE CHILDREN OF PLANET EARTH through March 24

Director Jade King Carroll, Jon Hoche, Dana Berger, Jeffrey Omura, Kaaron Briscoe, Olivia Oguma and Playwright Don Nguyen at Bowlmor Lanes. Photo courtesy of Playwrights Realm/Facebook
Olivia Oguma. Photo by Daniel Vasquez
Olivia Oguma. Photo by Daniel Vasquez

The Playwrights Realm is presenting the world premiere of Don Nguyen’s Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth, at The Duke on 42nd Street, 229 W 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036, through Saturday, March 24th.

Director Jade King Carroll, Jon Hoche, Dana Berger, Jeffrey Omura, Kaaron Briscoe, Olivia Oguma and Playwright Don Nguyen at Bowlmor Lanes. Photo courtesy of Playwrights Realm/Facebook
Director Jade King Carroll, Jon Hoche, Dana Berger, Jeffrey Omura, Kaaron Briscoe, Olivia Oguma and Playwright Don Nguyen at Bowlmor Lanes. Photo courtesy of Playwrights Realm/Facebook

The cast features Jon Hoche, Olivia Oguma, Jeffrey Omura, Dana Berger and Kaaron Briscoe. Jade King Carroll directs.

Dana Berger, Jon Hoche, Jeffrey Omura, Kaaron Briscoe. Photo by Daniel Vasquez
Dana Berger, Jon Hoche, Jeffrey Omura, Kaaron Briscoe. Photo by Daniel Vasquez

The Playwrights Realm (Katherine Kovner, Founding Artistic Director; Roberta Pereira, Producing Director) continues its 2017-2018 season this Spring with Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth, a quirky, philosophical, and tender comedy from Queens-based playwright Don Nguyen. Split between the perspectives of a lesbian couple trying to conceive, and their potential-sperm-donor/aerospace engineer friend, Nguyen’s characters are stretched to contemplate the unknowns of their future.

Dana Berger, Kaaron Briscoe. Photo by Daniel Vasquez
Dana Berger, Kaaron Briscoe. Photo by Daniel Vasquez

Betsy (Kaaron Briscoe) and Shoshana (Dana Berger) are looking for a sperm donor to participate in this emotionally confusing and intimate process. They contact a friend from Betsy’s past, William (Jeffrey Omura), an aerospace engineer tasked with tracking Voyager 1 as it journeys to the edge of our solar system. The idea of being responsible for a fragile object millions of miles away is dizzying-but it turns out, so is being asked to create an individual, and to wait, uncertain as to whether it will even work at all. Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth finds mystery and depth by juxtaposing the microscopic intimacies of creating life against the vastness of space. The highly unpredictable journeys of space exploration and conception provoke a raw whirlwind of emotion for all.

Jon Hoche, Jeffrey Omura. Photo by Daniel Vasquez
Jon Hoche, Jeffrey Omura. Photo by Daniel Vasquez

Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth sets its own precedent at The Playwrights Realm: it’s their first production by a former fellow that did not originate in the program-another opportunity for the organization to help actualize Nguyen’s work and be a continued champion of his exciting career. Nguyen’s play features characters brought forward in time from another of his works: William and Betsy’s high school friendship is explored in his earlier play The Commencement of William Tan (which premiered at Yale Cabaret in 2015). As he did with that work, about an Asian American high schooler in Nebraska in the ’80s (Nguyen was born in Vietnam, and moved to Nebraska with his family as refugees of the Vietnam War when he was three), Nguyen likewise laces Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth with questions from his own life. Nguyen was himself presented with the very adult experience of being asked by two friends to be a sperm donor, and he decided to evolve these characters along with him to get a more lucid understanding of his own situation -tracking their lives as career and family threaten to become mutually exclusive, as idealism starts giving way to realism. “I had to take stock of my entire life and ask myself questions I didn’t think I was ready to ask. What I found is artificial insemination is not an easy thing-there are complications involved that you really have to discuss,” says Nguyen.

Olivia Oguma. Photo by Daniel Vasquez
Olivia Oguma. Photo by Daniel Vasquez

The creative team includes Kimie Nishikawa (Set Designer), Nicole Pearce (Lighting Designer), Elisheba Ittoop (Sound Designer), and Ari Fulton (Costume Designer). Kara Kaufman is Production Stage Manager, and Lily Perlmutter is Assistant Stage Manager.

General tickets will be priced at $30-$60; tickets for students with valid ID are $15, and group tickets are $25 per seat for groups of six or more. To purchase, please visit http://dukeon42.org/ or call 646-223-3010. For more details, please visit playwrightsrealm.org.

 

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Production Photos: Jon Hoche, Olivia Oguma, Jeffrey Omura, Dana Berger and Kaaron Briscoe in The Playwrights Realm’s Production of Don Nguyen’s HELLO, FROM THE CHILDREN OF PLANET EARTH; Opens March 7

Dana Berger, Jon Hoche, Jeffrey Omura, Kaaron Briscoe. Photo by Daniel Vasquez
Olivia Oguma. Photo by Daniel Vasquez
Olivia Oguma. Photo by Daniel Vasquez

The Playwrights Realm is presenting the world premiere of Don Nguyen’s Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth, at The Duke on 42nd Street, 229 W 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036, through Saturday, March 24th. Opening night is March 7th.

Dana Berger, Jon Hoche, Jeffrey Omura, Kaaron Briscoe. Photo by Daniel Vasquez
Dana Berger, Jon Hoche, Jeffrey Omura, Kaaron Briscoe. Photo by Daniel Vasquez

The cast features Jon Hoche, Olivia Oguma, Jeffrey Omura, Dana Berger and Kaaron Briscoe. Jade King Carroll directs.

Jon Hoche, Jeffrey Omura. Photo by Daniel Vasquez
Jon Hoche, Jeffrey Omura. Photo by Daniel Vasquez

The Playwrights Realm (Katherine Kovner, Founding Artistic Director; Roberta Pereira, Producing Director) continues its 2017-2018 season this Spring with Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth, a quirky, philosophical, and tender comedy from Queens-based playwright Don Nguyen. Split between the perspectives of a lesbian couple trying to conceive, and their potential-sperm-donor/aerospace engineer friend, Nguyen’s characters are stretched to contemplate the unknowns of their future. Nguyen was part of The Playwrights Realm’s Writing Fellowship in the 2012-13 Season, and the organization is thrilled to welcome him back in this fresh capacity, pairing him with director Jade King Carroll, who will bring Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth to life in her Playwrights Realm debut.

Dana Berger, Kaaron Briscoe. Photo by Daniel Vasquez
Dana Berger, Kaaron Briscoe. Photo by Daniel Vasquez

Betsy (Kaaron Briscoe) and Shoshana (Dana Berger) are looking for a sperm donor to participate in this emotionally confusing and intimate process. They contact a friend from Betsy’s past, William (Jeffrey Omura), an aerospace engineer tasked with tracking Voyager 1 as it journeys to the edge of our solar system. The idea of being responsible for a fragile object millions of miles away is dizzying-but it turns out, so is being asked to create an individual, and to wait, uncertain as to whether it will even work at all. Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth finds mystery and depth by juxtaposing the microscopic intimacies of creating life against the vastness of space. The highly unpredictable journeys of space exploration and conception provoke a raw whirlwind of emotion for all.

Olivia Oguma. Photo by Daniel Vasquez
Olivia Oguma. Photo by Daniel Vasquez

Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth sets its own precedent at The Playwrights Realm: it’s their first production by a former fellow that did not originate in the program-another opportunity for the organization to help actualize Nguyen’s work and be a continued champion of his exciting career. Nguyen’s play features characters brought forward in time from another of his works: William and Betsy’s high school friendship is explored in his earlier play The Commencement of William Tan (which premiered at Yale Cabaret in 2015). As he did with that work, about an Asian American high schooler in Nebraska in the ’80s (Nguyen was born in Vietnam, and moved to Nebraska with his family as refugees of the Vietnam War when he was three), Nguyen likewise laces Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth with questions from his own life. Nguyen was himself presented with the very adult experience of being asked by two friends to be a sperm donor, and he decided to evolve these characters along with him to get a more lucid understanding of his own situation -tracking their lives as career and family threaten to become mutually exclusive, as idealism starts giving way to realism. “I had to take stock of my entire life and ask myself questions I didn’t think I was ready to ask. What I found is artificial insemination is not an easy thing-there are complications involved that you really have to discuss,” says Nguyen.

From childhood to adulthood, Nguyen has consistently been a “space geek.” When he was young, he kept a scrapbook documenting the journeys of every Space Shuttle, until the explosion of the Challenger-then took to more fictional versions of space travel with Star Wars and Star Trek obsessions. Referencing the backdrop of space here, Nguyen adds, “I always like to take two disparate ideas and find connections between them – a lot of my plays are like that. I like the challenge of it. So the play became about surrogacy and space.”

Nguyen has channeled the sense of wonder children affiliate with space travel into this play, in a manner that’s sneakily philosophical, by setting it a few years back, when the Voyager I was on the cusp of reaching interstellar space. Nguyen wrote his character William as the person in charge of the spacecraft’s tracking software, which essentially gives Voyager 1 a “heartbeat,” evocative of an ultrasound, proving to people back on earth that this isolated object in the dark is still alive. Says Nguyen, “It’s fascinating to think of humans in 1977, when the Voyager I was launched, visualizing how, 40 years later, their space probe could survive and send back this signal.”

The creative team includes Kimie Nishikawa (Set Designer), Nicole Pearce (Lighting Designer), Elisheba Ittoop (Sound Designer), and Ari Fulton (Costume Designer). Kara Kaufman is Production Stage Manager, and Lily Perlmutter is Assistant Stage Manager.

Previews remaining: March 5 & 6 at 8pm
Opening: March 7 at 7:30pm
Performances: March 8 – 10, 12 – 17, 19 – 24 at 7:30pm

Click here for more information and tickets.

Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth will run from February 24 to March 24 (see above schedule) at The Duke on 42nd Street (229 W 42nd Street, Manhattan). General tickets will be priced at $30-$60; tickets for students with valid ID are $15, and group tickets are $25 per seat for groups of six or more. To purchase, please visit http://dukeon42.org/ or call 646-223-3010. For more details, please visit playwrightsrealm.org.

Don Nguyen’s full length plays include: Sound (Azeotrope/ACT Seattle), Red Flamboyant (Firebone Theatre Company), The Commencement of William Tan (Yale Cabaret), The Man From Saigon (ACT New Strands Festival), The Supreme Leader (Roundabout Underground Reading Series). Don is the recipient of the 2015 GAP Prize from the Aurora Theatre, a New York Stage & Film Founder’s award and has been a finalist for The O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, The Princess Grace Award, and The Woodward International Playwriting Prize. Don is a member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab, an alumni of the Public Theater’s Emerging Writers Group and The Civilians R&D Group, and a co-founder of Mission to (dit)Mars, a Queens based theatre arts collective. More info at: thenuge.com

The daughter of the trumpeter and composer Baikida Carroll, Jade King Carroll accompanied her father to the Public Theater in Manhattan as a child, where he scored Lois Elaine Griffith’s White Sirens at the request of Joseph Papp, and to the McCarter Theater in Princeton, N.J., where he wrote, with Emily Mann and Ntozake Shange, and scored the musical Betsey Brown. After graduating from SUNY-New Paltz, where she majored in theater directing, she moved to New York City and quickly won an internship with the Women’s Project. Since then, she has compiled credits with the McCarter, New Dramatists, Primary Stages, Playwrights Realm, 24 Hour Plays, and New Jersey Rep. In 2010, she served as artistic associate at Second Stage Theater. Jade recently directed Emily Mann’s Having Our Say at the Long Wharf Theatre, and will be directing the development of Running on Fire by Aurin Squire at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Conference prior to her work with BAPF.

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Jon Hoche, Olivia Oguma, Jeffrey Omura, Dana Berger and Kaaron Briscoe Set for The Playwrights Realm’s Production of Don Nguyen’s HELLO, FROM THE CHILDREN OF PLANET EARTH, February 24 – March 24

The Playwrights Realm is presenting the world premiere of Don Nguyen’s Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth, at The Duke on 42nd Street, 229 W 42nd Street, New York, NY 10036, from Saturday, February 24 – Saturday, March 24.

The cast features Jon Hoche, Olivia Oguma, Jeffrey Omura, Dana Berger and Kaaron Briscoe. Jade King Carroll directs.

The Playwrights Realm (Katherine Kovner, Founding Artistic Director; Roberta Pereira, Producing Director) continues its 2017-2018 season this Spring with Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth, a quirky, philosophical, and tender comedy from Queens-based playwright Don Nguyen. Split between the perspectives of a lesbian couple trying to conceive, and their potential-sperm-donor/aerospace engineer friend, Nguyen’s characters are stretched to contemplate the unknowns of their future. Nguyen was part of The Playwrights Realm’s Writing Fellowship in the 2012-13 Season, and the organization is thrilled to welcome him back in this fresh capacity, pairing him with director Jade King Carroll, who will bring Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth to life in her Playwrights Realm debut.

Betsy (Kaaron Briscoe) and Shoshana (Dana Berger) are looking for a sperm donor to participate in this emotionally confusing and intimate process. They contact a friend from Betsy’s past, William (Jeffrey Omura), an aerospace engineer tasked with tracking Voyager 1 as it journeys to the edge of our solar system. The idea of being responsible for a fragile object millions of miles away is dizzying-but it turns out, so is being asked to create an individual, and to wait, uncertain as to whether it will even work at all. Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth finds mystery and depth by juxtaposing the microscopic intimacies of creating life against the vastness of space. The highly unpredictable journeys of space exploration and conception provoke a raw whirlwind of emotion for all.

Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth sets its own precedent at The Playwrights Realm: it’s their first production by a former fellow that did not originate in the program-another opportunity for the organization to help actualize Nguyen’s work and be a continued champion of his exciting career. Nguyen’s play features characters brought forward in time from another of his works: William and Betsy’s high school friendship is explored in his earlier play The Commencement of William Tan (which premiered at Yale Cabaret in 2015). As he did with that work, about an Asian American high schooler in Nebraska in the ’80s (Nguyen was born in Vietnam, and moved to Nebraska with his family as refugees of the Vietnam War when he was three), Nguyen likewise laces Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth with questions from his own life. Nguyen was himself presented with the very adult experience of being asked by two friends to be a sperm donor, and he decided to evolve these characters along with him to get a more lucid understanding of his own situation -tracking their lives as career and family threaten to become mutually exclusive, as idealism starts giving way to realism. “I had to take stock of my entire life and ask myself questions I didn’t think I was ready to ask. What I found is artificial insemination is not an easy thing-there are complications involved that you really have to discuss,” says Nguyen.

From childhood to adulthood, Nguyen has consistently been a “space geek.” When he was young, he kept a scrapbook documenting the journeys of every Space Shuttle, until the explosion of the Challenger-then took to more fictional versions of space travel with Star Wars and Star Trek obsessions. Referencing the backdrop of space here, Nguyen adds, “I always like to take two disparate ideas and find connections between them – a lot of my plays are like that. I like the challenge of it. So the play became about surrogacy and space.”

Nguyen has channeled the sense of wonder children affiliate with space travel into this play, in a manner that’s sneakily philosophical, by setting it a few years back, when the Voyager I was on the cusp of reaching interstellar space. Nguyen wrote his character William as the person in charge of the spacecraft’s tracking software, which essentially gives Voyager 1 a “heartbeat,” evocative of an ultrasound, proving to people back on earth that this isolated object in the dark is still alive. Says Nguyen, “It’s fascinating to think of humans in 1977, when the Voyager I was launched, visualizing how, 40 years later, their space probe could survive and send back this signal.”

The creative team includes Kimie Nishikawa (Set Designer), Nicole Pearce (Lighting Designer), Elisheba Ittoop (Sound Designer), and Ari Fulton (Costume Designer). Kara Kaufman is Production Stage Manager, and Lily Perlmutter is Assistant Stage Manager.

Previews: February 24, 26, 27, 28 & March 1, 2, 3, 5 & 6 at 8pm
$1to5 drive: February 24, 26, 27, 28, March 1
Opening: March 7 at 7:30pm
Performances: March 8 – 10, 12 – 17, 19 – 24 at 7:30pm

Click here for more information and tickets.

Hello, From the Children of Planet Earth will run from February 24 to March 24 (see above schedule) at The Duke on 42nd Street (229 W 42nd Street, Manhattan). Critics are welcome as of March 5 at 8pm for an official opening on March 7 at 7:30pm. Donor pre-sale tickets priced from $1-$5 will be on sale from January 25. The $1to5 drive, where tickets for previews run between $1 and $5, applies to preview performances February 24-March 1. General tickets will be priced at $30-$60 and go on sale January 30; tickets for students with valid ID are $15, and group tickets are $25 per seat for groups of six or more. To purchase, please visit http://dukeon42.org/ or call 646-223-3010. For more details, please visit playwrightsrealm.org.

Don Nguyen’s full length plays include: Sound (Azeotrope/ACT Seattle), Red Flamboyant (Firebone Theatre Company), The Commencement of William Tan (Yale Cabaret), The Man From Saigon (ACT New Strands Festival), The Supreme Leader (Roundabout Underground Reading Series). Don is the recipient of the 2015 GAP Prize from the Aurora Theatre, a New York Stage & Film Founder’s award and has been a finalist for The O’Neill National Playwrights Conference, The Princess Grace Award, and The Woodward International Playwriting Prize. Don is a member of the Ma-Yi Writers Lab, an alumni of the Public Theater’s Emerging Writers Group and The Civilians R&D Group, and a co-founder of Mission to (dit)Mars, a Queens based theatre arts collective. More info at: thenuge.com

The daughter of the trumpeter and composer Baikida Carroll, Jade King Carroll accompanied her father to the Public Theater in Manhattan as a child, where he scored Lois Elaine Griffith’s White Sirens at the request of Joseph Papp, and to the McCarter Theater in Princeton, N.J., where he wrote, with Emily Mann and Ntozake Shange, and scored the musical Betsey Brown. After graduating from SUNY-New Paltz, where she majored in theater directing, she moved to New York City and quickly won an internship with the Women’s Project. Since then, she has compiled credits with the McCarter, New Dramatists, Primary Stages, Playwrights Realm, 24 Hour Plays, and New Jersey Rep. In 2010, she served as artistic associate at Second Stage Theater. Jade recently directed Emily Mann’s Having Our Say at the Long Wharf Theatre, and will be directing the development of Running on Fire by Aurin Squire at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Conference prior to her work with BAPF.

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