Brittany Bellizeare, Harvy Blanks, Brian D. Coats, Elain Graham, Charlie Hudson III and Blake Morris in KING HEDLEY II at Two River Theater through December 16 

Charlie Hudson III (Mister) and Brian D. Coats (Stool Pigeon) in August Wilson's King Hedley II at Two River Theater. Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson

Two River Theater (Artistic Director John Dias, Managing Director Michael Hurst) presents August Wilson’s King Hedley II, directed by Brandon J. Dirden. The extended five-week run opens tonight at 7pm and continues through Sunday, December 16 in Two River’s Marion Huber Theater, 21 Bridge Avenue, Red Bank, NJ. Tickets are available from 732.345.1400 or tworivertheater.org.

This production marks the halfway point in Two River Theater’s commitment to present all 10 plays of August Wilson’s American Century Cycle. For the first time, the theater will be presenting one of Wilson’s plays in its intimate 110-seat Marion Huber Theater.

The cast of King Hedley II includes Brittany Bellizeare (Tonya), Harvy Blanks (Elmore), Brian D. Coats (Stool Pigeon), Elain Graham(Ruby), Charlie Hudson III (Mister), and Blake Morris (King Hedley II).

The creative team includes scenic designer Michael Carnahan, costume designer Karen Perry, lighting designer Kathy A. Perkins, sound designer Kay Richardson, and hair & wig designer Erin Hicks. The fight direction is by UnkleDave’s Fight-House, the casting is by Heidi Griffiths & Kate Murray, and the stage manager is Laura Wilson.

Elain Graham (Ruby) in August Wilson's King Hedley II at Two River Theater. Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson
Elain Graham (Ruby) in August Wilson’s King Hedley II at Two River Theater. Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson
Charlie Hudson III (Mister) and Brian D. Coats (Stool Pigeon) in August Wilson's King Hedley II at Two River Theater. Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson
Charlie Hudson III (Mister) and Brian D. Coats (Stool Pigeon) in August Wilson’s King Hedley II at Two River Theater. Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson
 Brittany Bellizeare (Tonya) in August Wilson’s King Hedley II at Two River Theater. Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson
Brittany Bellizeare (Tonya) in August Wilson’s King Hedley II at Two River Theater. Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson
 Blake Morris (King Hedley II) in August Wilson's King Hedley II at Two River Theater. Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson
Blake Morris (King Hedley II) in August Wilson’s King Hedley II at Two River Theater. Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson
 Blake Morris (King Hedley II) and Harvy Blanks (Elmore) in August Wilson's King Hedley II at Two River Theater. Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson
Blake Morris (King Hedley II) and Harvy Blanks (Elmore) in August Wilson’s King Hedley II at Two River Theater. Photo Credit: T. Charles Erickson
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Brandon J. Dirden to Helm August Wilson’s KING HEDLEY II Featuring Brittany Bellizeare, Harvy Blanks, Brian D. Coats, Elain Graham, Charlie Hudson III and Blake Morris at Two River Theater, November 10 -December 16 

Brandon J. Dirden. Photo by Lia Chang
Brandon J. Dirden Photo by Lia Chang
Brandon J. Dirden
Photo by Lia Chang

Marking the halfway point in its commitment to present all 10 plays of August Wilson’s American Century Cycle, Two River Theater is presenting Wilson’s “exhilarating” (The New York Times) and incendiary drama King Hedley II, directed by Brandon J. Dirden. For the first time, the theater will be presenting one of Wilson’s plays in its intimate 110-seat Marion Huber Theater, with performances beginning on November 10 and continuing for an extended five-week run through Sunday, December 16. The opening night performance is Friday, November 16 at 7pm. Tickets are available from 732.345.1400 or tworivertheater.org. The production sponsors are Monmouth University and Collex Collision Experts.

August Wilson is the 10th most produced playwright of the current season in the United States, according to American Theater magazine. Two River’s staging of King Hedley II is currently the only production of this rarely seen play happening anywhere in the world.

The year is 1985 and Pittsburgh’s Hill District has been ravaged by violence, unemployment, and Urban Blight. King Hedley II returns to his home after a seven-year prison term looking to re-build his life, save some money, and start a family. However, both he and those around him quickly find that in 1980s America, the rules have changed.

Brandon J. Dirden-the award-winning actor/director who has appeared in five Two River productions, including, most recently, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and A Raisin in the Sun-directs this sequel to Seven Guitars, which was produced under his direction at Two River in 2015. King Hedley II picks up the stories of Ruby and Canewell (known here as Stool Pigeon) from the earlier drama, which is set in the 1940s.

The cast of King Hedley II includes Brittany Bellizeare (Tonya), Harvy Blanks (Elmore), Brian D. Coats (Stool Pigeon), Elain Graham (Ruby), Charlie Hudson III (Mister), and Blake Morris (King Hedley II).

The creative team includes scenic designer Michael Carnahan, costume designer Karen Perry, lighting designer Kathy A. Perkins, sound designer Kay Richardson, and wigs designer Erin Hicks. The fight direction is by UnkleDave’s Fight-House, the casting is by Heidi Griffiths & Kate Murray, and the stage manager is Laura Wilson.

Says Artistic Director John Dias, “Over the past decade, Two River Theater has made a commitment to producing plays that deal with issues of race, social justice, and our shared history. These include four plays from August Wilson’s majestic American Century Cycle: Jitney, Two Trains Running, Seven Guitars, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. With each production, the artists who work here-and the audiences who are coming here to see these plays-are engaged in emotional and complex conversations about race. We believe that, as a theater, we have a unique opportunity to contribute to this evolving civic discourse.”

Ticket prices range from $40 to $80, with discounts available for groups, seniors, and U.S. military personnel, their families, and veterans. A limited number of $20 tickets are available for every performance; $20 tickets may be partial view. Tickets for patrons under 30 are $20 and include the best available seats at every performance. Tickets are available from tworivertheater.org or 732.345.1400.

Inside Two River is a series of events specially curated for each Two River Theater production. For more information or to reserve a free spot, patrons should visit tworivertheater.org or call 732.345.1400.

Book Club: Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Monday, November 26 at 6:30pm in the Victoria Mastrobuono Library
Ta-Nehisi Coates pivots from the biggest questions about American history and ideals to the most intimate concerns of a father for his son in this Pulitzer Prize finalist and #1 New York Times bestseller from 2015. The journalist, thinker, and writer offers a powerful new framework for understanding our nation’s history and current crises all the while trying to convey and interrogate what it is like to inhabit a black body and find a way to live within it. Coates works to untangle these difficult questions by writing a letter to his adolescent son. In connection with King Hedley II, Literary Manager Taylor Barfield will discuss how a broader socio-political history can be explored through the lens of familial bonds and personal stories.

First Monday Masters is series of master classes led by artists affiliated with Two River Theater’s recent productions and current season. Classes take place in locations throughout the Two River Theater arts complex, on Monday evenings from 6pm-8pm. To reserve a spot, patrons should visit tworivertheater.org or call 732.345.1400.

November 5: Costume Design with Karen Perry

For adults and high school students, limited to 16 participants, 6-8:00pm, $40 per person

King Hedley II costume designer Karen Perry previously designed August Wilson’s Jitney, Two Trains Running and Seven Guitars at Two River Theater, as well as Lives of Reason, Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine, Guadalupe in the Guest Room, Third and Trouble in Mind. This season, she will also design Oo-Bla-Dee. She has also designed costumes for Encores!, Dallas Theater Center, Second Stage, Signature Theatre, Goodman, and The Public Theater, among others. Karen will walk the class through the costume design process from the page to the stage by discussing her work on new musicals and classic plays. This workshop will take place in Two River Theater’s Costume Shop.

Before Play and Lobby Display

Audiences will learn about August Wilson and King Hedley II in Two River’s Before Play lecture series, which takes place 45 minutes prior to every performance, and Lobby Display.

Post-Play Conversations

Discussions with the cast and a member of Two River’s Artistic staff will take place on Wednesday, November 21 at 1pm; Sunday, November 25 at 3pm; and Wednesday, November 28 at 7pm.

Working with Google, Two River has created and launched a virtual tour of its facility, which lives on Google Maps and tworivertheater.org. This virtual tour provides an additional level of support and benefit for patrons who use wheelchairs or require other assistance by allowing them to virtually come through the theater’s front doors and view the space in detail in advance of their visit.

An audio-described performance is scheduled for Wednesday, December 5 at 1pm, and an open-captioned performance is scheduled for Saturday, December 8 at 3pm. Tickets are available at a discounted rate of $25 for patrons using these services. To reserve wheelchair-accessible seating or tickets to a performance listed above, patrons should call 732.345.1400 or e-mail boxoffice@trtc.org.

Artists

BRITTANY BELLIZEARE
BRITTANY BELLIZEARE

Brittany Bellizeare (Tonya) previously appeared at Two River Theater as Ruby in Seven Guitars and is happy to return to work on yet another August Wilson masterpiece. New York credits include an interactive play, In the Blue Hour (Emily) at La Maison d’Art Gallery in Harlem, and A Raisin in the Sun (Beneatha) at The Gallery Players. Regional: Portland Center Stage (Oregon) JAW Festival: three girls never learnt the way home (Edith); Baltimore Center Stage: Skeleton Crew (Shanita); The Guthrie: The Bluest Eye (Pecola); TheaterWorks Hartford: Sunset Baby (Nina); La Jolla/Berkeley Rep: The Last Tiger in Haiti (Rose); Northern Stage: The Mountaintop(Camae); the Yard: Archy & Mehitabel (Ensemble) Educational Tour: McCarter: Sunjata Kamalenya (Player 3). Film/TV: The BlacklistEye CandyThe Knick. Education: MFA: The New School for Drama; BS: Spelman College. NAACP Theatre for Best Ensemble nomination for The Last Tiger in Haiti(2017/18). brittanybellizeare.com

HARVY BLANKS
HARVY BLANKS

Harvy Blanks (Elmore) appeared on Broadway as Shealy in the Tony-winning production of Jitney. Off-Broadway, he received the Drama Desk Award for his performance in Tabletop. Other Off-Broadway credits include First Breeze of Summerand The Guest at Central Park West. His regional appearances include Moscow, Moscow, Moscow, Moscow, Moscow, Moscow (Williamstown), Familiar (Yale Rep, The Guthrie and Seattle Rep) and Fire on the Mountain _(TheatreWorks Palo Alto). At the Denver Center he starred in _RuinedFencesJoe Turner’s Come and GoneGem of the OceanSeven Guitars _and _Radio Golf, among others. Harvy can be seen this season in Terrence Nance’s Random Acts of Flyness (HBO). His other television appearances include Preacher _and _Crime Story. He is very happy to return to Two River where he appeared in JitneyTwo Trains Running and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

BRIAN D. COATS
BRIAN D. COATS

Brian D. Coats (Stool Pigeon) Broadway: Jitney. He was previously seen at Two River Theater in Seven Guitars and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Off-Broadway includes: Travisville (Ensemble Studio Theatre), La Ruta (Working Theater), The First Noel (Classical Theatre of Harlem/The Apollo), On the Levee (Lincoln Center), The Merry Wives of WindsorTwo Gentlemen of Verona (Public/ NYSF). Regional: The Royale (Cleveland Play House), The Nest (Denver Center Theatre), Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man (Huntington Theatre, Studio Theatre DC), FencesA Raisin in the Sun(Geva Theatre), Distant Fires (People’s Light and Theatre), Clybourne Park (Caldwell Theatre), The Wedding Giftpen/man/ship (Contemporary American Theatre Fest), Count (PlayMakers Rep). TV includes: Law & OrderLaw & Order: SVUJAGBlue BloodsThe SopranosBoardwalk EmpireLuke Cage, and The Blacklist.

CHARLIE HUDSON III
CHARLIE HUDSON III

Charlie Hudson III (Mister) is thrilled to be appearing again at Two River, where he was previously seen in A Raisin in the Sun and Seven Guitars . Previous shows include Detroit ’67 (Playmakers Rep); The Mountaintop (Northern Stage); Father Comes Home from the Wars (American Repertory Theatre); A Raisin in the Sun(Barrymore Theatre, Broadway);The Raisin Cycle: Clybourne Park & Beneatha’s Place (Baltimore Centerstage);Hurt Village (Signature); Fences (Virginia Stage); The Piano Lesson (Yale Rep); Bike Wreck (Ensemble Studio Theatre); White Women Street (Irish Rep); “Master Harold”…and the boys (Portland Stage); Fly (Crossroads and Vineyard Playhouse); ARaisin in the Sun,Richard IIIA Christmas Carol* , All the King’s Men *,*  Cyrano de Bergerac (Trinity Rep); Hillary (New Georges); Old Comedy (Classic Stage); Mother Courage (Public Theater/NYSF); Sweet Bird of Youth (Williamstown); Romeo and Juliet (Bread Loaf Acting Ensemble); Julius Caesar* , Topdog/Underdog(Brown/ Trinity Consortium). TV includes: ManifestThe Night OfShades of BluesThe Good FightUnforgettableForever,The Rosa Parks Story, and A Raisin in the Sun “Revisited.” Film credits include Roxanne RoxanneComplete UnknownTwelveNewlyweedsLillian; and his voice is featured in the McGraw-Hill’s PodClass GRE Vocabulary Study Guide. Mr. Hudson is the 2003 KC/ACTF Irene Ryan Best Actor Award winner (Region IV) and is a graduate of Alabama State University and the Brown University/Trinity Repertory Consortium. Charlie would like to thank God for this opportunity and his loving family for their support.

BLAKE MORRIS
BLAKE MORRIS

Blake Morris (King Hedley II) Off-Broadway: Ain’t No Mo’ (The Public Studio), Kings of Harlem (New Horizon Theater). Festivals: New Black Fest, 48 Hrs. in Harlem, NYSAF Reading Series. TV: Pose (FX), Jessica Jones (Netflix).

ELAIN GRAHAM
ELAIN GRAHAM

Elain Graham (Ruby) i s pleased to be back at Two River Theater, where she was seen as Mrs. Dickson in the critically acclaimed production of Intimate Apparel. Other stage credits include: Intimate Apparel, Dorset Theatre Festival; Dolores, While I Yet Live, Primary Stages; The Picture Box, Negro Ensemble Company; Mum in SoHo Rep’s critically acclaimed Born Bad; The Woman in Lynn Nottage’s Banana Beer Bath, Going to the River Festival/EST; Lena Younger, A Raisin in the Sun, Virginia Stage Company; Permanent Collection, Baltimore Center Stage; Mama Benin, Playboy of the West Indies, Lincoln Center. Film/Television: The Last O.G.The BreaksThe DetourLaw & Order: SVULaw & Order666 Park AvenueSmashUnforgettableAcross the UniverseCity TeacherArthur!: A Celebration of LifeThe JuryMessengers100 Centre StreetOzThird WatchTurn It Up. She was also Etta Mae Burrell on the daytime soap opera, Another World.

August Wilson (April 27, 1945-October 2, 2005) authored Gem of the Ocean, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars, Fences, Two Trains Running, Jitney, King Hedley II,and Radio Golf. These works explore the heritage and experience of the descendants of Africans in North America, decade-by-decade, over the course of the twentieth century, forming the complication entitled The American Century Cycle. His plays have been produced on Broadway, at regional theaters across the country and all over the world. In 2003, Mr. Wilson made his professional stage debut in his one-man show, How I Learned What I Learned, _currently touring and featuring Eugene Lee reprising Mr. Wilson’s role. Mr. Wilson’s works garnered many awards including Pulitzer Prizes for _Fences (1987) and The Piano Lesson _(1990); a Tony Award for Fences; Great Britain’s Olivier Award for _Jitney; as well as seven New York Drama Critics Circle Awards for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Fences, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, The Piano Lesson, Two Trains Running, Seven Guitars, and Jitney. Additionally, the cast recording of Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom received a 1985 Grammy Award, and Mr. Wilson received a 1995 Emmy Award nomination for his screenplay adaptation of The Piano Lesson. Mr. Wilson’s early works included the one-act plays The Janitor, Recycle, The Coldest Day of the Year, Malcolm X, The Homecoming, and the musical satire Black Bart and the Sacred Hills. Mr. Wilson received many fellowships and awards, including the Rockefeller and Guggenheim Fellowships in Playwriting, the Whiting Writers Award, and the 2003 Heinz Award. He was awarded a 1999 National Humanities Medal by President Bill Clinton, and received numerous honorary degrees from colleges and universities, as well as the only high school diploma ever issued by the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. He was an alumnus of New Dramatists, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, a 1995 inductee into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and on October 16, 2005, Broadway renamed the theater located at 245 West 52nd Street—The August Wilson Theatre. Today, his plays continue to be produced, and his place in the American Theater continues to grow. New York Public Radio recorded all ten plays in The American Century Cycle at the Greene Space, casting many of the actors that worked on the original productions. PBS aired a documentary on Mr. Wilson entitled, The Ground on Which I Stand, as part of the American Masters series. Mr. Wilson was born and raised in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and lived in Seattle, Washington at the time of his death. He is immediately survived by his two daughters, Sakina Ansari and Azula Carmen Wilson, and his wife, costume designer Constanza Romero, who is the executor of his estate.

Brandon J. Dirden (Director) made his directing debut at Two River Theater with August Wilson’s Seven Guitars. He has appeared at Two River in A Raisin in the Sun; August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and Jitney; the world premiere of Ruben Santiago-Hudson’s Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine; and Topdog/Underdog, in which he starred opposite his brother Jason Dirden under the direction of the play’s author, Suzan-Lori Parks. An award-winning actor/director, he is best known for portraying Agent Dennis Aderholt in the acclaimed FX series The Americans. ?A Morehouse College and University of Illinois graduate, he is also known for appearing on Broadway as Martin Luther King Jr. in the successful Tony Award-winning Broadway production of Robert Schenkkan’s All the Way opposite Bryan Cranston’s Lyndon B. Johnson. Other Broadway credits include August Wilson’s Jitney (2017 Tony Award for Best Revival), Prelude to a Kiss, Enron and Clybourne Park. In 2012 he was awarded an Obie and a Theatre World Award and was nominated for Drama League and Lucille Lortel Awards for his portrayal of Boy Willie in the Signature Theatre Company revival of August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson. ?He has guest starred in TV series such as The Good WifeThe Big CBlue BloodsPublic MoralsBraindead andBaz Luhrmann’s The Get Down on Netflix. Brandon is married to actress Crystal Dickinson and currently lives in West Orange, NJ with their four-year-old son, Chase.

Michael Carnahan (Scenic Designer) previously designed The Ballad of Little JoYour Blues Ain’t Sweet Like MineThirdOn Borrowed Time, and August Wilson’s Seven Guitars _and _Two Trains Running at Two River. Off-Broadway—Atlantic Theater Company: Skeleton Crew; 59E59: I and You; Second Stage: The Happiest Song Plays Last; Signature Theatre: The Piano LessonThe First Breeze of Summer; Life Could Be A DreamThe Marvelous WonderettesThree Mo’ TenorsPygmalionHowie the RookieBrando.  Tours— Cheers, Live On StageA Christmas Story The Musical, Peter & The Starcatcher. Regional credits include Mark Taper Forum, Arena Stage, American Conservatory Theater, The Kennedy Center, McCarter Theatre, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Baltimore Center Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Pasadena Playhouse, Two River Theatre, Chautauqua Theater Company, Cleveland Play House, Detroit Public Theater, Laguna Playhouse, Utah Shakespearean Festival, Northlight Theatre, Signature Theatre, Bucks County Playhouse, Ogunquit Playhouse, Arsht Center, Musical Theatre West, San Jose Repertory, Center Repertory. michaelcarnahandesign.com Instagram: Carnypics Twitter: @mike_carnahan

Karen Perry (Costume Designer) previously designed Lives of ReasonYour Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine, Guadalupe in the Guest RoomThirdTrouble in Mind, and August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black BottomJitneyTwo Trains Running and Seven Guitars at Two River. Recent credits include Cabin in the Sky (Encores!); The Happiest Song Plays Last (Second Stage); DreamgirlsClybourne ParkA Raisin in the Sun (Dallas Theater Center); stop. reset. and The Piano Lesson (Signature); Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (dir. Phylicia Rashad, Mark Taper); the 10th Anniversary production of Crowns, written and dir. by Regina Taylor (Goodman); Pearl Cleage’s Blues for an Alabama Sky, dir. Sheldon Epps (Pasadena Playhouse); John Grisham’s A Time to Kill, dir. Ethan McSweeny (Arena); Regina Taylor’s Trinity River Plays, dir. McSweeny (Dallas Theater Center, Goodman); The Trip to Bountiful, Walter Mosley’s The Fall of Heaven, dir. Marion McClinton (Cincinnati Playhouse); The Brother/Sister Plays by Tarell McCraney, dir. Tina Landau (The Public) and Landau and Robert O’Hara (McCarter); Things of Dry Hours by Naomi Wallace (NYTW); Having Our Say, written and dir. by Emily Mann (McCarter); and Resurrection by Daniel Beaty (Arena). She has designed eight of the 10 August Wilson plays including: Gem of the OceanThe Piano LessonKing Hedley IIRadio GolfTwo Trains Running, and Seven Guitars. Select film/TV credits include: Gregory Hines ShowSaturday Night Live, and The Brother from Another Planet by director John Sayles.

Kathy A. Perkins (Lighting Designer) made her Two River debut with Seven Guitars. She has designed both nationally and internationally including Switzerland and South Africa. In New York, she has designed for New Federal Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club. and in such venues as Carnegie Hall and Brooklyn Academy of Music. Regionally, Kathy has designed for Goodman Theatre, Arena Stage, Steppenwolf, Alliance Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, Berkeley Repertory, Actors Theatre of Louisville, St. Louis Black Repertory, American Conservatory Theater, Indiana Repertory, Seattle Repertory, Congo Square, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Writers Theatre and Playmakers Repertory Company. She is the editor/co-editor of six anthologies focusing on African/African Diaspora women. A graduate of Howard University and the Univ. of Michigan, Kathy is Professor Emerita of Theatre at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Kay Richardson (Sound Designer) is a two-time Suzi Bass nominated Sound Designer and Audio Engineer. This production marks her Two River Theater debut. Regional theater designs include: Eclipsed at Synchronicity Theatre; Thurgood at Theatrical Outfit; Smart People; Fetch Clay, Make Man; and Gut Bucket Blues for Kenny Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company in Atlanta, GA; Sister Act in Whitefish, MT; the Medora Musical in Medora, North Dakota; and Crowns in Savannah, GA. Other designs include A Man of No ImportanceSpring AwakeningThe Colored MuseumA Song for CorettaHoodoo Love, and Seven Guitars. As an Audio Engineer she’s toured with Jekyll & HydeRing of FireChurch Basement Ladies and The Honky Tonk Angels. At the Alpine Theatre Project in Whitefish, MT she’s mixed Matilda the MusicalSmokey Joe’s CafeSingin’ in the RainThe Addams FamilySister ActBig RiverThe Who’s TommyLittle Shop of Horrors and Master Class. She has also toured in over 45 countries around the world mixing live for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines International. Kay is currently the Resident Sound Engineer at the Lewis Center for the Arts in Princeton, NJ.

Erin Hicks (Wig Designer) grew up in Harlem, NY. She began styling hair as an assistant on The Winter’s Tale _at the New York Shakespeare Festival, starring Alfre Woodard, Mandy Patinkin, and Diane Venora. Over the last 20 years she has worked on various Broadway, film and TV shows. This is Erin’s fourth show at Two River, following _Guadalupe in the Guest Room and August Wilson’s Seven Guitars and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.

Unkle Dave’s Fight-House (Fight Direction) UnkleDave’s Fight-House is a company of fight-directors founded by Dave Anzuelo. The core members of the team are Jesse Geguzis, Gerry Rodriguez, and Sean Griffin. Two River Theater credits: Be More Chill, SevenGuitars, A Raisin in the Sun, El Coquí Espectacular and the Bottle of Doom. Broadway credits: Tuck Everlasting (Broadhurst); An American in Paris (Palace); Disgraced (Lyceum). Off-Broadway: Oedipus El Rey, A Midsummer Night’s Dream (The Public Theater); Downtown Race RiotSticks and Bones (New Group); Alligator (New Georges/Sol Project); And I And Silence (Signature); The Hill Town Plays (Rattlestick; Axis; Cherry Lane); To the Bone (Cherry Lane); Adoration of the Old Woman (Intar). National Tour: An American in Paris. Regional: Macbeth (Northern Stage); Oklahoma (Goodspeed); Disgraced(Goodman, Mark Taper Forum, Seattle Rep).

Heidi Griffiths (Casting) has worked for more than 25 years at the Joseph Papp Public Theater in NYC, where she has cast over 200 productions Off-Broadway and at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, including Shakespeare, new plays, and musicals. On Broadway: Sweat; Shuffle Along; The Crucible, Eclipsed; A Delicate BalanceA Raisin in the SunLucky GuyChinglishThe Motherf*ker with the HatThe Merchant of VeniceHairPassing StrangeCaroline, or ChangeTake Me Out (Tony Award, Best Play 2003); Topdog/Underdog (Pulitzer Prize, 2002); The Wild Party;Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da FunkOn the Town; and The Tempest. She also cast the films The Incredibly True Adventures of Two Girls in Love, MURDER and murderSaving Face and Ladybird. King Hedley II is her 10th collaboration with Two River Theater.

Kate Murray (Casting) Two River Theater: The Importance of Being EarnestThe Women of Padilla, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Ma Rainey’s Black BottomSeven GuitarsYour Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine, and The School for Wives. Broadway (as Casting Associate): The CrucibleA View from the Bridge, A Delicate Balance, A Raisin in the SunLucky Guy _(Casting Assistant). Additional casting credits include work with Center Theater Group, The Cherry Lane, Bedlam, Hudson Valley Shakespeare Festival, LAByrinth, New Georges, TheaterWorks Hartford, The Studio Theatre, and Throughline Artists._ Kate is a Casting Director at The Public Theater.

Laura Wilson (Production Stage Manager) Previously at TRT: Ma Rainey’s Black BottomSeven GuitarsYour Blues Ain’t Sweet Like MineThird, No Place to Go._ Broadway: _Roman Holiday (OOT Tryout), JitneyAll The WayFirst DateA Free Man of ColorThe People in the Picture. Off-Broadway: Paradise Blue (Signature Theatre); School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play (MCC); Skeleton Crew (Atlantic Theater Company); Exit Strategy (Primary Stages); The Really Big OnceA Family of Perhaps Three (Target Margin Theater). Regional: Bull Durham (Alliance Theatre); Guys and Dolls (Riverside Theatre); The Three Sisters, The Boys from Syracuse, and Things of Dry Hours(Centerstage, Baltimore); Tom Stoppard’s On the Razzle (Clarence Brown Theatre).

Teal Wicks, Daniel K. Isaac and More Set for THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO Album Release Concert at Feinstein’s/54 Below on November 12

Eric William Morris, Daniel K. Isaac, Jane Bruce and Teal Wicks in THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO. Photo by Amanda Crommett

THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO played an acclaimed summer engagement at Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ, starring Teal Wicks (Wicked, Finding Neverland), Eric William Morris (Be More Chill, Mamma Mia!), Jane Bruce (Elf, The Theory of Relativity), and Daniel K. Isaac (“According to My Mother,” “Billions”). The company also included Cole Burden, Brian Flores, Leenya Rideout, Christopher M. Russo, Perry Sherman, Kristin Stokes, Ian Michael Stuart, and Barbara Tirrell.

Daniel K. Isaac, Teal Wicks, Jane Bruce and Eric William Morris, in THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO. Photo by Amanda Crommett
Daniel K. Isaac, Teal Wicks, Jane Bruce and Eric William Morris, in THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO. Photo by Amanda Crommett

On Sunday, November 12th, Feinstein’s/54 Below, Broadway’s Supper Club, will present an album release concert featuring members of the cast and band at 9:30 PM. Tickets are $35, include a CD and are available here. Tickets on the day of performance after 4PM are only available by calling 646.476.3551.

Two River Theater's THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO with Teal Wicks & More Gets Original Cast Recording

The Musical Company will release the original cast recording of the celebrated THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO on November 10, 2017. The album is also on Amazon and iTunes For more information on the album’s release, visit here.

THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO by Mike Reid (composer, co-bookwriter), Sarah Schlesinger (lyricist, co-bookwriter), and John Dias (co-bookwriter) is inspired by the real-life-story of Josephine Monaghan, a young woman from late 19th century Boston who made a new life in an Idaho mining town disguised as a man called Jo.

Grammy Award-winning, multi-Platinum songwriter Mike Reid (whose many hits include “I Can’t Make You Love Me”) and Sarah Schlesingertogether have received the Kleban Prize, Richard Rodgers Award, Gilman & Gonzalez Falla Theatre Foundation Award, and Chicago’s Jeff Award for Best Original Musical New Work for THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO.

John Dias, Two River’s Artistic Director, made his Two River directorial debut with this production, which featured choreography by Marc Kimelman.

The album was produced by Sean Patrick Flahaven, CEO of The Musical Company and a producer on over two dozen cast albums for Stephen Sondheim and others, nine of which were Grammy-nominated, including the triple-Platinum, Grammy-winning Hamilton.

The band consists of John O’Neill (conductor/piano) and Martin Agee(violin),Troy Chang (cello), Philip Coiro (drums/percussion), Simon Hutchings(reeds), Justin Rothberg (guitar), and Joseph Wallace (bass).

Prior to the production at Two River Theater, Steppenwolf Theatre Company produced THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO in 2000 as its first musical. It was subsequently produced at the Bridewell Theatre in London in 2003.

The creative team for Two River Theater’s production of THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO included orchestrator Danny Larsen, music supervisor & vocal arranger Patrick Vaccariello, scenic designer Michael Carnahan, costume designer Jess Goldstein, lighting designer Jennifer Tipton, sound designerDrew Levy, wig designer Leah J. Loukas, and fight director Thomas Schall. The casting was by Jack Doulin + Sharky. The production stage manager was Amanda Michaels and the assistant stage manager was Denise Cardarelli.

The Musical Company has also announced that it represents live stage performance licensing of THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO, available now to professional theatres, with subsequent amateur licensing coming soon.

THE MUSICAL COMPANY provides best-in-class, comprehensive service to creators and producers of musicals, including theatrical licensing, music publishing and cast recording. Our experienced, innovative, client-and customer-focused approach is designed to help bring theatre to a wide audience. Operating from our headquarters in New York, with offices in London and Los Angeles, we’re owned by two industry-leading, independent and like-minded music companies, Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Really Useful Group and Concord Music. Visit themusicalcompany.com.

Since its founding in 1994, TWO RIVER THEATER has been committed to creating great American theater by developing and producing work by some of the country’s leading artists. We are proud to be viewed as a vital cultural resource in the community of Red Bank, New Jersey. Through 10 theatrical productions each year (including world premieres, musicals, classics and theater for young audiences) and 50+ annual events, we produce exceptional theater and cultivate engaged audiences. TWO RIVER THEATER is under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst. For more information, go to tworivertheater.org.

FEINSTEIN’S/54 BELOW, Broadway’s Supper Club & Private Event Destination, is a performance venue in the grand tradition of New York City nightlife. A few blocks from the heart of Times Square and just below the legendary Studio 54, FEINSTEIN’S/54 BELOW is a classically designed state-of-the art nightclub in the theatre district that hosts audiences with warmth and style. FEINSTEIN’S/54 BELOW presents iconic and rising stars from the worlds of Broadway and popular music and has set a new standard for culinary excellence worthy of the world-class entertainment on the stage. Located at 254 West 54th Street, FEINSTEIN’S/54 BELOW features up to three shows nightly with cover charges ranging from $5-$105.

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

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: © 2000-2017 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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Multimedia: Brandon J. Dirden, Crystal A. Dickinson, Brenda Pressley, Willie Dirden and More at Two River Theater’s Opening Night Party for A RAISIN IN THE SUN

Willie Dirden, Brandon J. Dirden, Andrew Binger, David Joel Rivera, Brenda Pressley, Jasmine Batchelor, Charlie Hudson III, Crystal A. Dickinson, York Walker, Owen Tabaka, and Nat DeWolf during the opening night curtain call for Two River Theater's A RAISIN IN THE SUN on September 15, 2017. Photo by Lia Chang
Willie Dirden, Brandon J. Dirden, Andrew Binger, David Joel Rivera, Jasmine Batchelor, Charlie Hudson III, Crystal A. Dickinson, York Walker, Owen Tabaka, Brenda Pressley and Nat DeWolf during the opening night curtain call for Two River Theater's A RAISIN IN THE SUN. Photo by Lia Chang
Willie Dirden, Brandon J. Dirden, Andrew Binger, David Joel Rivera, Jasmine Batchelor, Charlie Hudson III, Crystal A. Dickinson, York Walker, Owen Tabaka, Brenda Pressley and Nat DeWolf during the opening night curtain call for Two River Theater’s A RAISIN IN THE SUN on September 15, 2017. Photo by Lia Chang

Two River Theater has another splendid hit in the Rechnitz Theater with the opening of the searing and powerful production of Lorraine Hansberry’s American classic A Raisin in the Sun, brilliantly helmed by Carl Cofield.

Willie Dirden, Brandon J. Dirden, Andrew Binger, David Joel Rivera, Brenda Pressley, Jasmine Batchelor, Charlie Hudson III, Crystal A. Dickinson, York Walker, Owen Tabaka, and Nat DeWolf during the opening night curtain call for Two River Theater's A RAISIN IN THE SUN on September 15, 2017. Photo by Lia Chang
Willie Dirden, Brandon J. Dirden, Andrew Binger, David Joel Rivera, Brenda Pressley, Jasmine Batchelor, Charlie Hudson III, Crystal A. Dickinson, York Walker, Owen Tabaka, and Nat DeWolf during the opening night curtain call for Two River Theater’s A RAISIN IN THE SUN on September 15, 2017. Photo by Lia Chang

Brandon J. Dirden stars as Walter Lee Younger, his wife Crystal A. Dickinson as Ruth Younger, his father Willie Dirden as Bobo, Brenda Pressley as Lena Younger, Jasmine Batchelor as Beneatha Younger, Nat DeWolf as Karl Lindner, Charlie Hudson III as Joseph Asagai, Owen Tabaka as Travis Younger, York Walker as George Murchison, with Andrew Binger and David Joel Rivera as the Moving Men.

Brandon J. Dirden, Crystal A. Dickinson, Willie Dirden, Andrew Binger, Brenda Pressley, Director Carl Cofield, Nat DeWolf, York Walker, Jasmine Batchelor, Charlie Hudson III (not pictured: Owen Tabaka and David Joel Rivera. Photo by Lia Chang
Brandon J. Dirden, Crystal A. Dickinson, Willie Dirden, Andrew Binger, Brenda Pressley, Director Carl Cofield, Nat DeWolf, York Walker, Jasmine Batchelor, Charlie Hudson III (not pictured: Owen Tabaka and David Joel Rivera) Photo by Lia Chang

A Raisin in the Sun marks the first time that Brandon and his father Willie have shared the same stage.

Willie and Deborah Dirden with their daughter, Maria, granddaughter, Emerson, and their sons, James Dirden, Jason Dirden and Brandon Dirden. Photo by Lia Chang
Willie and Deborah Dirden with their daughter, Maria, granddaughter, Emerson, and their sons, James Dirden, Jason Dirden and Brandon Dirden. Photo by Lia Chang

There were more than 50 family members in attendance including Two River alum and brother Jason Dirden (Topdog/Underdog, Seven GuitarsMa Rainey’s Black Bottom) who currently appears as Basie Skanks on “Greenleaf” on the OWN Network.

Jason Dirden Discusses ‘Greenleaf’ and the Family Business

The Dirden-Dickinson clan came out to celebrate opening night and Willie Dirden's 72nd birthday. Photo by Lia Chang
The Dirden-Dickinson clan came out to celebrate opening night and Willie Dirden’s 72nd birthday. Photo by Lia Chang

The double celebration included a cake for Willie Dirden who turned 72 and became a member of Actors Equity Association.

Video produced by Garth Kravits.

The creative team includes scenic designers Christopher Swader & Justin Swader, costume designer Elivia Bovenzi, lighting designer Kathy A. Perkins, sound designer Karin Graybash, wig designer Valerie Gladstone and stage manager Lloyd Davis, Jr.

Scenic Designers Justin Swader, Christopher Swader, Brandon J. Dirden, Willie Dirden, Andrew Binger, Owen Tabaka, Director Carl Cofield, Constume Designer Elivia Bovenzi, Nat DeWolf, York Walker, Jasmine Batchelor, Crystal A. Dickinson and Charlie Hudson III. Photo by Lia Chang
Scenic Designers Justin Swader, Christopher Swader, Brandon J. Dirden, Willie Dirden, Andrew Binger, Owen Tabaka, Director Carl Cofield, Constume Designer Elivia Bovenzi, Nat DeWolf, York Walker, Jasmine Batchelor, Crystal A. Dickinson and Charlie Hudson III. Photo by Lia Chang

Don’t miss the masterful work being done by these artists. Performances continue through Sunday, October 8 in Two River’s Rechnitz Theater, 21 Bridge Avenue, Red Bank, NJ.  Tickets are available from 732.345.1400 or tworivertheater.org

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

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

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

Brandon J. Dirden, Willie Dirden, Deborah Dirden, Lia Chang, Jason Dirden. Photo by Garth Kravits
Brandon J. Dirden, Willie Dirden, Deborah Dirden, Lia Chang, Jason Dirden. Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits
Lia Chang, Photo by Garth Kravits

Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. 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: © 2000-2017 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 lia@liachang.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Owen Tabaka, Jasmine Batchelor, Brenda Pressley, Brandon J. Dirden and Crystal A. Dickinson Photo by Lia Chang
Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ.
Two River Theater in Red Bank, NJ.

Two River Theater’s much anticipated production of Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun is deep in rehearsal and I was invited to document a run thru on Saturday afternoon by director Carl Cofield.

Director Carl Cofield Photo by Lia Chang
Director Carl Cofield
Photo by Lia Chang

Performances will begin in Two River’s Rechnitz Theater, 21 Bridge Avenue, on Saturday, September 9 and continue for an extended four-week run, through Sunday, October 8. The opening night performance is Friday, September 15 at 7pm. Tickets are available from 732.345.1400 or tworivertheater.org. The lead production sponsor is Riverview Medical Center and the media partner is WBGO Jazz 88.3 FM.

(Standing) Willie Dirden, York Walker, Charlie Hudson III, director Carl Cofield, Nat DeWolf, David Joel Rivera, Andrew Binger. (Seated) Owen Tabaka, Crystal A. Dickinson, Brenda Pressley, Jasmine Batchelor and Brandon J. Dirden Photo by Lia Chang
(Standing) Willie Dirden, York Walker, Charlie Hudson III, director Carl Cofield, Nat DeWolf, David Joel Rivera, Andrew Binger. (Seated) Owen Tabaka, Crystal A. Dickinson, Brenda Pressley, Jasmine Batchelor and Brandon J. Dirden. Photo by Lia Chang

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

The cast and creative team of A RAISIN IN THE SUN Photo by Lia Chang
The cast and creative team of A RAISIN IN THE SUN
Photo by Lia Chang

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

In this landmark drama, Hansberry-drawing on her own family’s experience with housing discrimination-dramatizes the story of the Younger family, headed by matriarch Lena Younger, her son Walter Lee, and his wife, Ruth, who live (with other family members) in poverty on Chicago’s south side. As the play begins, we see that Walter Lee, a chauffeur, dreams of what he might do with a long-promised life-insurance check, a legacy left to them to them by Lena’s late husband.

Crystal A. Dickinson and Brandon J. Dirden Photo by Lia Chang
Crystal A. Dickinson and Brandon J. Dirden
Photo by Lia Chang

We meet the Younger family on the day that their lives could change forever. Taking its title from a poem by Langston Hughes-“What happens to a dream deferred/Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?”-Hansberry’s play explores the different hopes and aspirations of each member of the Younger family as they fight for their piece of the American Dream.

Owen Tabaka, Jasmine Batchelor, Brenda Pressley, Brandon J. Dirden and Crystal A. Dickinson Photo by Lia Chang
Owen Tabaka, Jasmine Batchelor, Brenda Pressley, Brandon J. Dirden and Crystal A. Dickinson
Photo by Lia Chang

A Raisin in the Sun debuted in 1959 and was the first play by a black woman to be produced on Broadway. Produced at Two River for the first time in the theater’s 24-year history, the play is Lorraine Hansberry’s seminal masterpiece about race, social justice, and history-American history in the largest sense, and the personal histories of ordinary African-Americans.

A Raisin in the Sun is not only one of America’s greatest plays,” says Artistic Director John Dias, “it is in fact one of the greatest works of art ever created. Lorraine Hansberry uses the metaphor of the family to illuminate something profound about who we are as Americans.

Brandon J. Dirden and Crystal A. Dickinson Photo by Lia Chang
Brandon J. Dirden and Crystal A. Dickinson
Photo by Lia Chang

We have built this production around the talents of an extraordinary family of Two River actors: Brenda Pressley as Lena Younger; Brandon J. Dirden as Walter Lee Younger; and Brandon’s wife, Crystal A. Dickinson, as Ruth Younger.

Willie Dirden, Crystal A. Dickinson and Brandon J. Dirden Photo by Lia Chang
Willie Dirden, Crystal A. Dickinson and Brandon J. Dirden
Photo by Lia Chang

Joining them will be Brandon’s father, Willie Dirden, as Bobo, making this the first time that father and son have acted together. Carl Cofield’s production will resonate today as a story of how courage, hope and love trump our ongoing history of inequity and injustice.”

Ticket prices range from $40 to $70, with discounts available for groups, seniors, and U.S. military personnel, their families, and veterans. A limited number of $20 tickets are available for every performance; $20 tickets may be partial view. Tickets for patrons under 30 are $20 and include the best available seats at every performance. Tickets are available from tworivertheater.org or 732.345.1400.

Brandon J. Dirden, Crystal A. Dickinson, Brenda Pressley and Owen Tabaka Photo by Lia Chang
Brandon J. Dirden, Crystal A. Dickinson, Brenda Pressley and Owen Tabaka
Photo by Lia Chang

INSIDE TWO RIVER:
Inside Two River is a series of events specially curated for each Two River Theater production. For more information or to reserve seats, patrons should visit tworivertheater.org or call 732.345.1400.

Brandon J. Dirden, Crystal A. Dickinson, Jasmine Batchelor and Nat DeWolf Photo by Lia Chang
Brandon J. Dirden, Crystal A. Dickinson, Jasmine Batchelor and Nat DeWolf Photo by Lia Chang

AUDIENCE EXTRAS:
Before Play and Lobby Display
Audiences will learn about Lorraine Hansberry and A Raisin in the Sun in Two River’s Before Play lecture series, which takes place 45 minutes prior to every performance, and Lobby Display.

Post-Play Conversations
Discussions with the cast and a member of Two River’s Artistic staff will take place on Sunday, September 24 at 3pm; Wednesday, September 27 at 1pm; and Wednesday, October 4 at 7pm.

Crystal A. Dickinson, Brandon J. Dirden and Jasmine Batchelor Photo by Lia Chang
Crystal A. Dickinson, Brandon J. Dirden and Jasmine Batchelor
Photo by Lia Chang

ACCESSIBILITY:
Working with Google, Two River has created and launched a virtual tour of its facility, which lives on Google Maps and tworivertheater.org. This virtual tour provides an additional level of support and benefit for patrons who use wheelchairs or require other assistance by allowing them to virtually come through the theater’s front doors and view the space in detail in advance of their visit.

A RAISIN IN THE SUN costumes by Elivia Bovenzi Photo by Lia Chang
A RAISIN IN THE SUN costumes by Elivia Bovenzi
Photo by Lia Chang

An audio-described performance is scheduled for Wednesday, September 27 at 1pm, and an open-captioned performance is scheduled for Saturday, September 30 at 3pm. Tickets are available at a discounted rate of $25 for patrons using these services. To reserve wheelchair-accessible seating or tickets to a performance listed above, patrons should call 732.345.1400 or e-mail boxoffice@trtc.org.

The world of A RAISIN IN THE SUN Photo by Lia Chang
The world of A RAISIN IN THE SUN
Photo by Lia Chang

Since its founding in 1994, Two River Theater has been committed to creating great American theater by developing and producing work by some of the country’s leading artists. We are proud to be viewed as a vital cultural resource in the community of Red Bank, New Jersey. Through 10 theatrical productions each year (including world premieres, musicals, classics and theater for young audiences) and 50+ annual events happening around Monmouth County, we produce exceptional theater and cultivate engaged audiences. Two River celebrates and honors our core values of Artistic Excellence; Education and Community Engagement; Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; and Operational Excellence. Two River Theater is under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst.

Charlie Hudson III and Nat DeWolf Photo by Lia Chang
Charlie Hudson III and Nat DeWolf
Photo by Lia Chang
Crystal A. Dickinson, Willie Dirden, Lia Chang and Brandon J. Dirden Photo by Carl Cofield
Crystal A. Dickinson, Willie Dirden, Lia Chang and Brandon J. Dirden
Photo by Carl Cofield
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 Examiner.comJade Magazine and Playbill.com.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2017 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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Brandon J. Dirden, Crystal A. Dickinson, Willie Dirden, Brenda Pressley and More Set for Two River Theater’s A RAISIN IN THE SUN, September 9 – October 8

Crystal A. Dickinson and Brandon J. Dirden at the opening night party of JITNEY at the Copacabana on January 19, 2017. Photo by Lia Chang
Willie Dirden, Deborah Dirden, Jason Dirden, Crystal Dickinson and Brandon J. Dirden at the opening night party of Broadway's JITNEY on January 19, 2017. Photo by Lia Chang
Willie Dirden, Deborah Dirden, Jason Dirden, Crystal Dickinson and Brandon J. Dirden at the opening night party of Broadway’s JITNEY on January 19, 2017. Photo by Lia Chang

Two River Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst, launches its 2017/18 Season with Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun, directed by Carl Cofield.

Performances will begin in Two River’s Rechnitz Theater, 21 Bridge Avenue, on Saturday, September 9 and continue for an extended four-week run, through Sunday, October 8. The opening night performance is Friday, September 15 at 7pm. Tickets are available from 732.345.1400 or tworivertheater.org. The lead production sponsor is Riverview Medical Center and the media partner is WBGO Jazz 88.3 FM.

Crystal A. Dickinson and Brandon J. Dirden at the opening night party of JITNEY at the Copacabana on January 19, 2017. Photo by Lia Chang
Crystal A. Dickinson and Brandon J. Dirden at the opening night party of JITNEY at the Copacabana on January 19, 2017. Photo by Lia Chang

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

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

In this landmark drama, Hansberry-drawing on her own family’s experience with housing discrimination-dramatizes the story of the Younger family, headed by matriarch Lena Younger, her son Walter Lee, and his wife, Ruth, who live (with other family members) in poverty on Chicago’s south side. As the play begins, we see that Walter Lee, a chauffeur, dreams of what he might do with a long-promised life-insurance check, a legacy left to them to them by Lena’s late husband. We meet the Younger family on the day that their lives could change forever. Taking its title from a poem by Langston Hughes-“What happens to a dream deferred/Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun?”-Hansberry’s play explores the different hopes and aspirations of each member of the Younger family as they fight for their piece of the American Dream.

A Raisin in the Sun debuted in 1959 and was the first play by a black woman to be produced on Broadway. Produced at Two River for the first time in the theater’s 24-year history, the play is Lorraine Hansberry’s seminal masterpiece about race, social justice, and history-American history in the largest sense, and the personal histories of ordinary African-Americans.

A Raisin in the Sun is not only one of America’s greatest plays,” says Artistic Director John Dias, “it is in fact one of the greatest works of art ever created. Lorraine Hansberry uses the metaphor of the family to illuminate something profound about who we are as Americans. We have built this production around the talents of an extraordinary family of Two River actors: Brenda Pressley as Lena Younger; Brandon J. Dirden as Walter Lee Younger; and Brandon’s wife, Crystal A. Dickinson, as Ruth Younger. Joining them will be Brandon’s father, Willie Dirden, as Bobo, making this the first time that father and son have acted together. Carl Cofield’s production will resonate today as a story of how courage, hope and love trump our ongoing history of inequity and injustice.”

Ticket prices range from $40 to $70, with discounts available for groups, seniors, and U.S. military personnel, their families, and veterans. A limited number of $20 tickets are available for every performance; $20 tickets may be partial view. Tickets for patrons under 30 are $20 and include the best available seats at every performance. Tickets are available from tworivertheater.org or 732.345.1400.

INSIDE TWO RIVER:

Inside Two River is a series of events specially curated for each Two River Theater production. For more information or to reserve seats, patrons should visit tworivertheater.org or call 732.345.1400.

Raisin’ the Roof Block Party: Thursday, August 31 at 6pm on the Two River Theater Plaza (rain location: Theater Lobby)

In this free community event, Two River will host an outdoor block party featuring live music by Gary Wright Roots & Blues, dancing on the plaza, and a sampling of food from local restaurants including M+J Texas BBQ. Participants will have the opportunity to meet the company of A Raisin in the Sun and enter a raffle to win free tickets. Reservations are strongly recommended; call 732.345.1400.

AUDIENCE EXTRAS:

Before Play and Lobby Display

Audiences will learn about Lorraine Hansberry and A Raisin in the Sun in Two River’s Before Play lecture series, which takes place 45 minutes prior to every performance, and Lobby Display.

Post-Play Conversations

Discussions with the cast and a member of Two River’s Artistic staff will take place on Sunday, September 24 at 3pm; Wednesday, September 27 at 1pm; and Wednesday, October 4 at 7pm.

ACCESSIBILITY:

Working with Google, Two River has created and launched a virtual tour of its facility, which lives on Google Maps and tworivertheater.org. This virtual tour provides an additional level of support and benefit for patrons who use wheelchairs or require other assistance by allowing them to virtually come through the theater’s front doors and view the space in detail in advance of their visit.

An audio-described performance is scheduled for Wednesday, September 27 at 1pm, and an open-captioned performance is scheduled for Saturday, September 30 at 3pm. Tickets are available at a discounted rate of $25 for patrons using these services. To reserve wheelchair-accessible seating or tickets to a performance listed above, patrons should call 732.345.1400 or e-mail boxoffice@trtc.org.

Since its founding in 1994, Two River Theater has been committed to creating great American theater by developing and producing work by some of the country’s leading artists. We are proud to be viewed as a vital cultural resource in the community of Red Bank, New Jersey. Through 10 theatrical productions each year (including world premieres, musicals, classics and theater for young audiences) and 50+ annual events happening around Monmouth County, we produce exceptional theater and cultivate engaged audiences. Two River celebrates and honors our core values of Artistic Excellence; Education and Community Engagement; Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion; and Operational Excellence. Two River Theater is under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst.

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

Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. 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: © 2000-2017 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 lia@liachang.com

Jane Bruce, Daniel K. Isaac, Eric William Morris, Teal Wicks and More in THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO at Two River Theater, Opens June 9

Daniel K. Isaac, Teal Wicks, Jane Bruce and Eric William Morris, in THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO. Photo by Amanda Crommett
Eric William Morris, Daniel K. Isaac, Jane Bruce and Teal Wicks in THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO. Photo by Amanda Crommett
Eric William Morris, Daniel K. Isaac, Jane Bruce and Teal Wicks in THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO. Photo by Amanda Crommett

Two River Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst, concludes its 2016/17 Season with The Ballad of Little Jo, a musical by Mike Reid (composer, co-bookwriter), Sarah Schlesinger (lyricist, co-bookwriter), and John Dias (co-bookwriter). Dias, the theater’s Artistic Director, is also making his Two River directorial debut with this production. The choreography is by Marc Kimelman, with music direction and dance and incidental arrangements by John O’Neill. The Ballad of Little Jo is based on the film of the same name by Maggie Greenwald.

Performances will begin in Two River’s Rechnitz Theater, 21 Bridge Avenue, on Saturday, June 3 and continue through Sunday, June 25. The opening night performance is Friday, June 9 at 8pm. Tickets are available from 732.345.1400 or tworivertheater.org. The production is supported by The Roy Cockrum Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. The lead production sponsor is Monmouth University.

The score, which evokes the folk ballads of pioneer America, is by Grammy Award-winning Nashville songwriter Mike Reid (whose many hits include “I Can’t Make You Love Me”) and lyricist Sarah Schlesinger. Together, Reid and Schlesinger have received the Kleban Prize, Richard Rodgers Award, Gilman & Gonzalez Falla Theatre Foundation Award, and Chicago’s Jeff Award for Best Original Musical.

Set in the late 19th century, The Ballad of Little Jo is inspired by the remarkable real-life story of a woman named Josephine Monaghan. Originally from Boston, Josephine lived in a tough Idaho mining town for nearly 20 years, disguised as a man called “Jo.”

The Ballad of Little Jo features Jane Bruce (Elf, Missed Connections: A Craigslist Musical) as Sara Stewart Ellis, Daniel K. Isaac (“According to My Mother,” “Billions”) as Tin Man Wong, Eric William Morris (Be More Chill, Mamma Mia!) as Jordan Ellis, and Teal Wicks (Wicked, Finding Neverland) as Josephine Monaghan/Jo Monaghan.

Daniel K. Isaac Talks “Billions” and “According to My Mother” Screenings at Outfest and CAAMfest 

The company also includes Cole Burden, Brian Flores, Leenya Rideout, Christopher Russo, Perry Sherman, Kristin Stokes, Ian Michael Stuart, and Barbara Tirrell.

The band consists of John O’Neill (conductor/piano) and Pauline Bradshaw (violin), Troy Chang (cello), Philip Coiro (drums/percussion), Simon Hutchings (reeds), Justin Rothberg (guitar), and Joseph Wallace (bass).

The creative team for The Ballad of Little Jo includes music supervisor Patrick Vaccariello, orchestrator Danny Larsen, scenic designer Michael Carnahan, costume designer Jess Goldstein, lighting designer Jennifer Tipton, sound designer Drew Levy, wig designer Leah J. Loukas, and fight director Thomas Schall. The casting is by Jack Doulin + Sharky. The production stage manager is Amanda Michaels and the assistant stage manager is Denise Cardarelli.

The Ballad of Little Jo had its world premiere at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in 2000, in a production that prompted John Lahr to call it “the best piece of musical storytelling I have seen in a decade” in The New Yorker. But Lahr also called it “unfinished.” It was presented at the Bridewell Theatre in London in 2003 and had a reading at The Public Theater in 2008. Subsequent to becoming Two River’s Artistic Director in 2010, John Dias joined the creative team as co-bookwriter and director, and has been helping to further develop the piece through workshops and readings.

“The Ballad of Little Jo is a beautiful musical that I watched take shape even before its world premiere at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago,” says Dias. “It represents something that, to my mind, is vastly underserved in the American theater: there are many great new works that have had a first production, but are worthy of further attention and additional cultivation. Two River Theater and Red Bank audiences have embraced Mike and Sarah since we premiered their chamber musical In This House in 2012, and we have been developing Little Jo since then.”

Ticket prices range from $40 to $70, with discounts available for groups, seniors, and U.S. military personnel, their families, and veterans. A limited number of $20 tickets is available for every performance; $20 tickets may be partial view. Tickets for patrons under 30 are $20 and include the best available seats at every performance. Tickets are available from tworivertheater.org or 732.345.1400.

Book Club: True Grit by Charles Portis
Monday, June 19 at 6:30pm in the Victoria Mastrobuono Library
Literary Manager Anika Chapin will lead a discussion of True Grit by Charles Portis, the story of a young girl in the American West. In conjunction with The Ballad of Little Jo, the Two River Book Club will discuss the Western as a genre, the changing portrayal of men and women, and the dangerous allure of the frontier in art and life. This event is free and open to the public. To reserve a spot, interested patrons should call 732.345.1400 or visit www.tworivertheater.org.

Audience Extras:
Before Play and Lobby Display
Audiences will learn about The Ballad of Little Jo in Two River’s Before Play lecture series, which takes place 45 minutes prior to every performance, and Lobby Display.

Post-Play Conversations
Discussions with members of the cast and a member of Two River Theater’s Artistic staff will take place following the performances on Wednesday, June 14 at 7pm; Sunday, June 18 at 3pm; and Wednesday, June 21 at 1pm.

Accessibility:
Working with Google, Two River has created and launched a virtual tour of its facility, which lives on Google Maps and tworivertheater.org. This virtual tour provides an additional level of support and benefit for patrons who use wheelchairs or require other assistance by allowing them to virtually come through the theater’s front doors and view the space in detail in advance of their visit.

An audio-described performance is scheduled for Wednesday, June 21 at 1pm, and an open-captioned performance is scheduled for Saturday, June 24 at 3pm. Tickets are available at a discounted rate of $25 for patrons using these services. To reserve wheelchair-accessible seating or tickets to a performance listed above, patrons should call 732.345.1400 or e-mail boxoffice@trtc.org.

Two River Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst, produces American and world masterpieces, and new plays and musicals. Two River Theater offers new-play commissions and artistic development activities that support the most adventurous artists in the American theater, and cultivates a new generation of theatergoers through innovative arts education programs that introduce young people to the theater and create opportunities for them to engage with renowned theater artists. Two River Theater was founded by Joan and Robert Rechnitz in 1994. Visit tworivertheater.org for more.

Jane Bruce, Daniel K. Isaac, Eric William Morris, Teal Wicks and More Set for THE BALLAD OF LITTLE JO at Two River Theater, June 3-25

Two River Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst, concludes its 2016/17 Season with The Ballad of Little Jo, a musical by Mike Reid (composer, co-bookwriter), Sarah Schlesinger (lyricist, co-bookwriter), and John Dias (co-bookwriter). Dias, the theater’s Artistic Director, is also making his Two River directorial debut with this production. The choreography is by Marc Kimelman, with music direction and dance and incidental arrangements by John O’Neill. The Ballad of Little Jo is based on the film of the same name by Maggie Greenwald.

Performances will begin in Two River’s Rechnitz Theater, 21 Bridge Avenue, on Saturday, June 3 and continue through Sunday, June 25. The opening night performance is Friday, June 9 at 8pm. Tickets are available from 732.345.1400 or tworivertheater.org. The production is supported by The Roy Cockrum Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. The lead production sponsor is Monmouth University.

The score, which evokes the folk ballads of pioneer America, is by Grammy Award-winning Nashville songwriter Mike Reid (whose many hits include “I Can’t Make You Love Me”) and lyricist Sarah Schlesinger. Together, Reid and Schlesinger have received the Kleban Prize, Richard Rodgers Award, Gilman & Gonzalez Falla Theatre Foundation Award, and Chicago’s Jeff Award for Best Original Musical.

Set in the late 19th century, The Ballad of Little Jo is inspired by the remarkable real-life story of a woman named Josephine Monaghan. Originally from Boston, Josephine lived in a tough Idaho mining town for nearly 20 years, disguised as a man called “Jo.”

The Ballad of Little Jo will feature Jane Bruce (Elf, Missed Connections: A Craigslist Musical) as Sara Stewart Ellis, Daniel K. Isaac (“According to My Mother,” “Billions”) as Tin Man Wong, Eric William Morris (Be More Chill, Mamma Mia!) as Jordan Ellis, and Teal Wicks (Wicked, Finding Neverland) as Josephine Monaghan/Jo Monaghan.

Daniel K. Isaac Talks “Billions” and “According to My Mother” Screenings at Outfest and CAAMfest 

The company also includes Cole Burden, Brian Flores, Leenya Rideout, Christopher Russo, Perry Sherman, Kristin Stokes, Ian Michael Stuart, and Barbara Tirrell.

The band will consist of John O’Neill (conductor/piano) and Pauline Bradshaw (violin), Troy Chang (cello), Philip Coiro (drums/percussion), Simon Hutchings (reeds), Justin Rothberg (guitar), and Joseph Wallace (bass).

The creative team for The Ballad of Little Jo includes music supervisor Patrick Vaccariello, orchestrator Danny Larsen, scenic designer Michael Carnahan, costume designer Jess Goldstein, lighting designer Jennifer Tipton, sound designer Drew Levy, wig designer Leah J. Loukas, and fight director Thomas Schall. The casting is by Jack Doulin + Sharky. The production stage manager is Amanda Michaels and the assistant stage manager is Denise Cardarelli.

The Ballad of Little Jo had its world premiere at Steppenwolf Theatre Company in 2000, in a production that prompted John Lahr to call it “the best piece of musical storytelling I have seen in a decade” in The New Yorker. But Lahr also called it “unfinished.” It was presented at the Bridewell Theatre in London in 2003 and had a reading at The Public Theater in 2008. Subsequent to becoming Two River’s Artistic Director in 2010, John Dias joined the creative team as co-bookwriter and director, and has been helping to further develop the piece through workshops and readings.

“The Ballad of Little Jo is a beautiful musical that I watched take shape even before its world premiere at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago,” says Dias. “It represents something that, to my mind, is vastly underserved in the American theater: there are many great new works that have had a first production, but are worthy of further attention and additional cultivation. Two River Theater and Red Bank audiences have embraced Mike and Sarah since we premiered their chamber musical In This House in 2012, and we have been developing Little Jo since then.”

Ticket prices range from $40 to $70, with discounts available for groups, seniors, and U.S. military personnel, their families, and veterans. A limited number of $20 tickets is available for every performance; $20 tickets may be partial view. Tickets for patrons under 30 are $20 and include the best available seats at every performance. Tickets are available from tworivertheater.org or 732.345.1400.

Inside Two River:
Film Screening: The Ballad of Little Jo (1993) – From Screen to Stage
Friday, May 5 at 7pm in the Rechnitz Theater
Two River will screen Maggie Greenwald’s 1993 film The Ballad of Little Jo, free and open to the public. Members of the musical’s creative team will introduce the film and discuss how they translated the story from screen to stage. To reserve a spot, interested patrons should call 732.345.1400 or visit www.tworivertheater.org.

Open Rehearsal
Tuesday, May 9 at 7pm in the Rechnitz Theater
Audiences are invited to join Two River Theater to watch an open rehearsal in the Rechnitz Theater with director John Dias and members of the cast as they work on select scenes and songs from the production. The rehearsal will include a short Q&A session, and will be followed by dessert and coffee in the lobby. To reserve a spot, interested patrons should call 732.345.1400 or visit www.tworivertheater.org.

TEDxNavesink Conference: “Identity”
Saturday, May 20 from 9am-5pm at the Paramount Theatre on the Boardwalk at Asbury Park
John Dias will introduce the song “Unbuttoning the Buttons” from The Ballad of Little Jo at this year’s annual TEDxNavesink Conference, which is exploring the theme of Identity. TEDxNavesink is offering a 20% per ticket discount to the all-day conference for Two River Theater patrons, members, colleagues, and their families. For information or to purchase tickets, patrons should visit http://tedxnavesink.com/ and use the code TRTheaterTEDx17.

Book Club: True Grit by Charles Portis
Monday, June 19 at 6:30pm in the Victoria Mastrobuono Library
Literary Manager Anika Chapin will lead a discussion of True Grit by Charles Portis, the story of a young girl in the American West. In conjunction with The Ballad of Little Jo, the Two River Book Club will discuss the Western as a genre, the changing portrayal of men and women, and the dangerous allure of the frontier in art and life. This event is free and open to the public. To reserve a spot, interested patrons should call 732.345.1400 or visit www.tworivertheater.org.

Audience Extras:
Before Play and Lobby Display
Audiences will learn about The Ballad of Little Jo in Two River’s Before Play lecture series, which takes place 45 minutes prior to every performance, and Lobby Display.

Post-Play Conversations
Discussions with members of the cast and a member of Two River Theater’s Artistic staff will take place following the performances on Wednesday, June 14 at 7pm; Sunday, June 18 at 3pm; and Wednesday, June 21 at 1pm.

Accessibility:
Working with Google, Two River has created and launched a virtual tour of its facility, which lives on Google Maps and tworivertheater.org. This virtual tour provides an additional level of support and benefit for patrons who use wheelchairs or require other assistance by allowing them to virtually come through the theater’s front doors and view the space in detail in advance of their visit.

An audio-described performance is scheduled for Wednesday, June 21 at 1pm, and an open-captioned performance is scheduled for Saturday, June 24 at 3pm. Tickets are available at a discounted rate of $25 for patrons using these services. To reserve wheelchair-accessible seating or tickets to a performance listed above, patrons should call 732.345.1400 or e-mail boxoffice@trtc.org.

Two River Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst, produces American and world masterpieces, and new plays and musicals. Two River Theater offers new-play commissions and artistic development activities that support the most adventurous artists in the American theater, and cultivates a new generation of theatergoers through innovative arts education programs that introduce young people to the theater and create opportunities for them to engage with renowned theater artists. Two River Theater was founded by Joan and Robert Rechnitz in 1994. Visit tworivertheater.org for more.

Brandon J. Dirden and Crystal A. Dickinson Set to Star in A RAISIN IN THE SUN at Two River Theater, September 9 – October 8

Crystal A. Dickinson and Brandon J. Dirden at the opening night party of JITNEY at the Copacabana on January 19, 2017. Photo by Lia Chang
Crystal A. Dickinson and Brandon J. Dirden at the opening night party of JITNEY at the Copacabana on January 19, 2017. Photo by Lia Chang
Crystal A. Dickinson and Brandon J. Dirden at the opening night party of JITNEY at the Copacabana on January 19, 2017. Photo by Lia Chang

Two River Theater, under the leadership of Artistic Director John Dias and Managing Director Michael Hurst, will launch the 2017/18 Season in September with theater power couple Brandon J. Dirden (Jitney, All the Way, Two River’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) and his wife Crystal A. Dickinson (Clybourne Park, You Can’t Take it with You, Two River’s Seven Guitars) starring as Walter Lee Younger and Ruth Younger in one of the greatest family dramas ever written, Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 masterpiece A Raisin in the Sun—the play that “changed American theater forever” (Frank Rich, The New York Times).

Willie Dirden, Debbie Dirden, Jason Dirden, Crystal Dickinson and Brandon J. Dirden at the opening night party of JITNEY at the Copacabana on January 19, 2017. Photo by Lia Chang
Willie Dirden, Debbie Dirden, Jason Dirden, Crystal Dickinson and Brandon J. Dirden at the opening night party of JITNEY at the Copacabana on January 19, 2017. Photo by Lia Chang

Dirden will share the stage for the first time with his father, Willie Dirden, who will be playing Bobo. Carl Cofield directs the production which will have performances September 9 – October 8, 2017. The press opening is September 15, 2017. Additional cast to be announced at a later date.

Full-season 6-play subscriptions are on sale now; prices range from $180 to $315. Subscribers save 25% on tickets, receive prime seating and a number of additional benefits. Visit tworivertheater.org for more details.

Individual show tickets will go on sale August 2017.

Ticket prices for subscription shows range from $40 to $70, with discounts available for groups, seniors, and U.S. military personnel, their families, and veterans. A limited number of $20 tickets are available for every performance; $20 tickets may be partial view. Tickets for patrons under 30 are $20 and include the best available seats at every performance.

August Wilson’s JITNEY Starring Harvy Blanks, Anthony Chisholm, Brandon Dirden, André Holland, Carra Patterson, Michael Potts, Keith Randolph Smith, Ray Anthony Thomas and John Douglas Thompson, Ends Run on Broadway

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

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