Kelly McCreary and André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

André De Shields, Kelly McCreary, Jonah Broscow, Andrew Lippa and More Preview Bay Street’s 2017 Summer Lineup at Curtain Up! Gala Benefit Honoring Richard Kind and Jules Feiffer

Awards, Benefits, Photography, Theater
Bay Street’s Artistic Director Scott Schwartz, Executive Director Tracy Mitchell and André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

Bay Street’s Artistic Director Scott Schwartz, Executive Director Tracy Mitchell and André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

Bay Street Theater & Sag Harbor Center for the Arts held Curtain Up!, the 6th Annual Honors Benefit at Joe’s Pub at The Public Theater in New York on May 15th.

Scott Schwartz. Photo by Lia Chang

Scott Schwartz. Photo by Lia Chang

Hosted by Bay Street’s Artistic Director Scott Schwartz, the evening previewed the 2017 summer MainStage Season lineup:

The Man in the Ceiling, Book by Jules Feiffer, Music and Lyrics by Andrew Lippa, with direction by Jeffrey Seller. 5/30-6/25

“His imagination is just what his family needs… Jimmy Jibbett is a boy cartoonist. A hopeless aptitude if you listen to his father, who wants Jimmy to play ball like a real boy. You’d think his mother would stick up for him, but she’s too busy, running here, there, everywhere. Besides she’s got her brother Lester to worry about.”

Intimate Apparel by two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage, which Schwartz will direct. 7/4-7/30

“It’s a delicate line between love and desire… Esther Mills is a skilled African American seamstress and has her own successful business in 1905 making lingerie for both society ladies and “ladies of the night.” But she is lonely. As she searches for something more in her life, she unearths truths long hidden in the deepest recesses of her heart.”

A reworked production of As You Like It, set in the Jazz Age with additional music by Stephen Schwartz. A co-production with New York City’s Classic Stage Company, As You Like It will be helmed by John Doyle and feature two-time Tony nominee André De Shields as Touchstone. 8/8-9/3

André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

André De Shields. Photo by Lia Chang

Guest artist Gabrielle Stravelli kicked off the evening with the world premiere of two songs from As You Like It, composed by Academy Award winner Stephen Schwartz (Wicked, Pippin, Godspell)- “Lover and His Lass” (with Steven Eng and Kelvin Moon Loh from CSC’s Pacific Overtures) and “Blow, Blow, Thou Winter Wind”.

The show also featured performances by André De Shields (As You Like It), “Grey’s Anatomy” star Kelly McCreary, Julia Motyka and Edward O’Blenis (Intimate Apparel); and Jonah Broscow and Andrew Lippa (The Man in the Ceiling).

At the Gala, 2017 Arts Visionaries Honoree awards were presented to actor Richard Kind and playwright Jules Feiffer by Robert M. Rubin and Roger Rosenblatt.

Jonah Broscow and Andrew Lippa, who play Jimmy Jibbett and Uncle Lester respectively in The Man in the Ceiling, previewed two numbers – Jonah sang “Will He Like Me?” and Andrew sang “I Do What I Do”.

Director Jeffrey Seller and composer/actor Andrew Lippa joined Jules Feiffer onstage and shared the process of bringing The Man in the Ceiling to Bay Street.

Jeffrey Seller, Andre Lippa and Jules Feiffer. Photo by Lia Chang

Jeffrey Seller, Andre Lippa and Jules Feiffer. Photo by Lia Chang

The 6th Annual Honors Benefit: Curtain Up! is sponsored by Hamptons Magazine.

For more information or to purchase a 2017 Mainstage Season subscription, log on to www.baystreet.org or call the Box Office at 631-725-9500 Tues.-Sat. 11 am-5 pm.

Bay Street Theater & Sag Harbor Center for the Arts is a year-round, not-for-profit professional theater and community cultural center which endeavors to innovate, educate, and entertain a diverse community through the practice of the performing arts. We serve as a social and cultural gathering place, an educational resource, and a home for a community of artists.

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

Kelvin Moon Loh, Lia Chang, Steven Eng. Photo by Barry Gordon

Kelvin Moon Loh, Lia Chang, Steven Eng. Photo by Barry Gordon

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.

Jon Jon Briones and Eva Noblezada. Photo by Lia Chang

Dancing the Night Away with the Cast of MISS SAIGON

Events, Photography, Theater

Miss Saigon, helmed by Laurence Connor, opened in its original home, The Broadway Theater featuring four of its London stars, Jon Jon Briones as The Engineer, Eva Noblezada as Kim, Alistair Brammer as Chris and Rachelle Ann Go as Gigi on March 23rd. The cast also includes Katie Rose Clarke as Ellen, Nicholas Christopher as John, Devin Ilaw as Thuy.

The original production of Miss Saigon opened at the same theater on April 11, 1991 and played there through January 28, 2001. Miss Saigon began previews on March 1st, and will play a limited engagement through January 13, 2018 before launching a North American tour later in the year.

Opening Night Arrivals

Check out all the photos from the opening night party at Tavern on the Green.

Also featured in the cast of Miss Saigon are Carol Angeli, Emily Bautista, Mike Baerga, Billy Bustamante, Viveca Chow, Julian DeGuzman, Colby Dezelick, Taurean Everett, Paige Faure, Graham Scott Fleming, Casey Garvin, Nkrumah Gatling, Dan Horn, Ericka Hunter, Adam Kaokept, Lina Lee, Paul HeeSang Miller, Robert Pendilla, Catherine Ricafort, Casey Lee Ross, Jason Sermonia, Julius Sermonia, Antoine L. Smith, Sam Strasfeld, Tiffany Toh, Kimberly-Ann Truong, Kei Tsuruharatani, Christopher Vo, Travis Ward-Osborne, Charlie Williams, Anna-Lee Wright, Warren Yang, and Minami Yusui.

Miss Saigon has music by Claude-Michel Schönberg with lyrics by Richard Maltby Jr. and Alain Boublil, adapted from original French lyrics by Alain Boublil, with additional lyrics by Michael Mahler.

The new production is directed by Laurence Connor with musical staging by Bob Avian and additional choreography by Geoffrey Garratt. Production design is by Totie Driver and Matt Kinley based on an original concept by Adrian Vaux; costume design by Andreane Neofitou; lighting design by Bruno Poet; sound design by Mick Potter; and projections by Luke Halls. Orchestrations are by William David Brohn; musical supervision by Stephen Brooker and musical direction by James Moore. Casting is by Tara Rubin Casting / Merri Sugarman CSA.

Miss Saigon tells the story of the last days of the Vietnam War, when 17 year-old Kim (Eva Noblezada) is forced to work in a Saigon bar run by a notorious character known as the Engineer (Jon Jon Briones). There she meets and falls in love with an American GI named Chris (Alistair Brammer) but they are torn apart by the fall of Saigon. For three years Kim goes on an epic journey of survival to find her way back to Chris, who has no idea he has fathered a son.

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

Christopher Vo and Lia Chang. Photo by Tim Wildin

Christopher Vo and Lia Chang. Photo by Tim Wildin

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.

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Joshua Dela Cruz, Jeremy Stolle, Liz Casasola, Ali Ewoldt, Rodney Ingram, Alan Muraoka, Derek Gregor and Rona Figueroa. Photo by Lia Chang

THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA Star Ali Ewoldt Celebrates Feinstein’s/54 Below Solo Debut with Liz Casasola, Joshua Dela Cruz, Rona Figueroa, Derek Gregor, Rodney Ingram, Jeremy Stolle and More

Music, Performances, Photography, Theater
Gary Adler, Ali Ewoldt, JJ Johnson and MaryAnn McSweeney. Photo by Lia Chang

Gary Adler, Ali Ewoldt, JJ Johnson and MaryAnn McSweeney. Photo by Lia Chang

Ali Ewoldt, currently starring as Christine in Broadway’s The Phantom of the Opera, was luminous and enchanting in her sold-out Feinstein’s/54 Below solo debut, helmed by Alan Muraoka and featuring musical direction by Gary Adler on March 12th.

Special guests artists who shared the stage with Ms. Ewoldt included Liz Casasola, Joshua Dela Cruz (Aladdin), Rona Figueroa (Les Miserables, Nine), Jeremy Stolle (The Phantom of the Opera), Derek Gregor of Carner & Gregor and her newest Phantom co-star Rodney Ingram (Aladdin), who joins the show on March 20th as Raoul. The band featured Gary Adler on keys, JJ Johnson on violin and MaryAnn McSweeney on bass.

Joshua Dela Cruz, Jeremy Stolle, Liz Casasola, Ali Ewoldt, Rodney Ingram, Alan Muraoka, Derek Gregor and Rona Figueroa. Photo by Lia Chang

Joshua Dela Cruz, Jeremy Stolle, Liz Casasola, Ali Ewoldt, Rodney Ingram, Alan Muraoka, Derek Gregor and Rona Figueroa. Photo by Lia Chang

Her set list was a compendium of her career to date including “Home” (Yeston/Kopit Phantom), “Secret of Happiness” (Daddy Long Legs), “I Have Dreamed” (The King and I), “I Yi Yi Yi” (I Like You Very Much–Andrews Sisters with Liz Casasola and Rona Figueroa), “Pakiusap” (Filipino Kundiman Song (art Song)), “Advice to a Young Firefly” (Carner & Gregor), “Yes, My Heart” (Carnival), “Castle on a Cloud” (Les Miserables), “Before and After You”/”One Second” and “A Million Miles” (Bridges of Madison County with Joshua Dela Cruz), “A Lovely Night”/”On The Steps of The Palace” (Cinderella/Into The Woods), Duet Medley (with Rodney Ingram), “Try to Remember” (The Fantasticks), “Phantom” Ukulele Medley (with Jeremy Stolle), ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” (The Phantom of the Opera) and “Somewhere” (West Side Story). AliEwoldt.com

Full company: JJ Johnson, Rona Figueroa, Jeremy Stolle, Alan Muraoka, Ali Ewoldt, Liz Casasola, Rodney Ingram, MaryAnn McSweeney, Gary Adler, Derek Gregor, Adelaide Sleeman. Photo by Lia Chang

Full company: JJ Johnson, Rona Figueroa, Jeremy Stolle, Alan Muraoka, Ali Ewoldt, Liz Casasola, Rodney Ingram, MaryAnn McSweeney, Gary Adler, Derek Gregor, Adelaide Sleeman. Photo by Lia Chang

Ms. Ewoldt joined the Broadway Company of The Phantom of the Opera last June as its new leading lady, the first Asian American to assume the role of Christine Daaé, the innocent young soprano on Broadway.  Born outside of Chicago and raised in Pleasantville, NY, Ms. Ewoldt made her professional debut at age 10 in Yeston/Kopit’s Phantom and fell madly in love with musical theater. She made her Broadway debut in 2006 in Mr. Mackintosh’s first Broadway revival of LES MISERABLES as Cosette. She joined the company direct from playing Tuptim in the Chicago Lyric Opera production of The King & I, and appeared in the original cast of the 2015 Tony award winning revival at Lincoln Center Theater. Other credits include Luisa in The Fantasticks (Off-Broadway), Maria in West Side Story (first national tour), Lili in Carnival! (Musicals Tonight) and the national tour of Les Miserables.

You can catch Ali in The Phantom of the Opera at the Majestic Theatre, 245 West 44th St in New York. Click here for tickets.

PHANTOM STAR Ali Ewoldt Set for Solo Debut at Feinstein’s/54 Below with Special Guests Joshua Dela Cruz, Liz Casasola, Rona Figueroa, Rodney Ingram, Jeremy Stolle and Carner & Gregor on March 12

PHANTOM, Starring James Barbour, Ali Ewoldt, and Jordan Donica, Celebrates 12,000 Performances on Broadway on Nov. 28

Photo: Backstage with Ali Ewoldt and Jordan Donica at Broadway’s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA 

Ali Ewoldt and Jordan Donica Begin Their Star Turns in Broadway’s THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA 

Paolo Montalban, Kate Baldwin, Ali Ewoldt, Alan Ariano, Rona Figueroa, Sam Simahk and More set for Lyric Opera’s THE KING AND I 

Photos: Ali Ewoldt, Arielle Jacobs, Joel Perez, Chris Vasquez, Adam Jacobs, Telly Leung and Alan Muraoka at Christine Toy Johnson and Jason Ma’s Barcelona at The Theatre at CAP21 

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.

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Jerry DeVore, Clarke Thorell, Marva Hicks and Joe Spinelli. Photo by Lia Chang

Broadway Inspirational Voices’ Marva Hicks & Clarke Thorell – Jazz: A High Standard at The Sheen Center

Music, Photography, Theater
Brian Whitted, Jerry DeVore, Marva Hicks and Joe Spinelli. Photo by Lia Chang

Brian Whitted, Jerry DeVore, Marva Hicks and Joe Spinelli. Photo by Lia Chang

The Sheen Center presented Broadway Inspirational Voices members Marva Hicks & Clarke Thorell – Jazz: A High Standard in concert on January 23, 2017. The pair performed in the first of a series of concerts celebrating an array of musical genres and highlighting the talents of individual members, curated by Broadway Inspirational Voices’ Michael McElroy. The concerts are curated and hosted by Michael McElroy, and will culminate in a live premier presentation of their newest YouTube music series “Broadway Our Way.”

Michael McElroy. Photo by Lia Chang

Michael McElroy. Photo by Lia Chang

With musical director Brian Whitted on piano, Jerry DeVore on bass and Joe Spinelli on drums.

Jerry DeVore, Clarke Thorell, Marva Hicks and Joe Spinelli. Photo by Lia Chang

Jerry DeVore, Clarke Thorell, Marva Hicks and Joe Spinelli. Photo by Lia Chang

Set List
I Got A Feelin I’m Fallin’
Marva Hicks and Clarke Thorell
(Arrangement courtesy of Jeffrey Klitz)

Jerry DeVore, Marva Hicks and Joe Spinelli. Photo by Lia Chang

Jerry DeVore, Marva Hicks and Joe Spinelli. Photo by Lia Chang

From This Moment On
Marva Hicks

Clarke Thorell. Photo by Lia Chang

Clarke Thorell. Photo by Lia Chang

Blusette
Clarke Thorell

Brian Whitted, Jerry DeVore, Marva Hicks and Joe Spinelli. Photo by Lia Chang

Brian Whitted, Jerry DeVore, Marva Hicks and Joe Spinelli. Photo by Lia Chang

The Very Thought of You
Marva Hicks

Clarke Thorell and Jerry DeVore. Photo by Lia Chang

Clarke Thorell and Jerry DeVore. Photo by Lia Chang

Cloudburst
Clarke Thorell

Just One of Those Things
Marva Hicks

Brian Whitted, Jerry DeVore, Joe Spinelli and Clarke Thorell. Photo by Lia Chang

Brian Whitted, Jerry DeVore, Joe Spinelli and Clarke Thorell. Photo by Lia Chang

Dindi
Clarke Thorell

Day In Day Out
Marva Hicks

Brian Whitted, Marva Hicks, Jerry DeVore, Clarke Thorell and Joe Spinelli. Photo by Lia Chang

Brian Whitted, Marva Hicks, Jerry DeVore, Clarke Thorell and Joe Spinelli. Photo by Lia Chang

Centerpiece
Marva Hicks, Clarke Thorell, Brian Whitted

Brian Whitted and Clarke Thorell. Photo by Lia Chang

Brian Whitted and Clarke Thorell. Photo by Lia Chang

De-Lovely
Clarke Thorell

Clarke Thorell. Photo by Lia Chang

Clarke Thorell. Photo by Lia Chang

Here’s That Rainy Day
Clarke Thorell

Marva Hicks. Photo by Lia Chang

Marva Hicks. Photo by Lia Chang

Sentimental Mood
Marva Hicks

Marva Hicks. Photo by Lia Chang

Marva Hicks. Photo by Lia Chang

Our Love Is Here to Stay
Marva Hicks

Marva Hicks, Jerry DeVore, Clarke Thorell and Joe Spinelli. Photo by Lia Chang

Marva Hicks, Jerry DeVore, Clarke Thorell and Joe Spinelli. Photo by Lia Chang

It Don’t Mean A Thing…
Marva Hicks and Clarke Thorell

Brian Whitted, Marva Hicks, Jerry DeVore, Clarke Thorell and Joe Spinelli. Photo by Lia Chang

Brian Whitted, Marva Hicks, Jerry DeVore, Clarke Thorell and Joe Spinelli. Photo by Lia Chang

Marva Hicks has appeared on Broadway in The Lion KingMotown the Musical, Lena Horne: The Lady and her Music and Caroline, or ChangeOff-Broadway: Little Shop of Horrors (City Center Encores! Off-Center), Cabin in the Sky (City Center Encores), Thunder Knocking on the Door (Minetta Lane) Caroline or Change (The Public) The First Breeze of Summer (The Signature Theatre). Regional: Arena Stage in Thunder Knocking on the Door (Helen Hayes Award), Cuttin Up, The Women of Brewster Place, co-produced with the Alliance Theatre (Suzi Award), Crowns, and Sophisticated Ladies. Bess (Austin Circle of Theatres B. Iden Payne Award) in the Zach Scott Theatre’s Jazz/Blues production of Porgy and Bess. TV: “Search Party,” “Dare Devil,” “House of Cards,” “One Life to Live,” “Mad About You,” “Star Trek: Voyager”. FILM: Labor Day, Assunder, Virtuosity, Preaching to the Choir. Marva has recorded on Polygram Records. TOURS: Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson.  She is currently touring in the symphony pops concert, Louis and Ella And All That Jazz. Currently playing the role of “Kruger” in The Front Page, Clarke Thorell made his Broadway debut in The Who’s Tommy. He originated the roles of “Corny Collins” in Hairspray, “Jim Farrell” in Titanic, and “Rooster” in the Broadway revival of ANNIE. As a vocalist, he has performed with Sting, Dave Brubeck, Liza Minnelli, ABBA, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Red Clay Ramblers, Pete Townshend, and is a proud member of Michael McElroy’s Broadway Inspirational Voices.

Upcoming performances
Monday, January 30 @ 7:30pm
Lisa Lynne Mathis and Chris Dilley – Inspirational
Monday, May 1 @ 7:30pm
Crystal Monee Hall and Marcus Paul James – Gospel
Monday, May 8 @ 7:30pm
Celisse Henderson and Eliseo Roman – Folk
Monday, May 15 @ 7:30pm
Michael McElroy and Capathia Jenkins – Broadway
Monday, May 22 @ 7:30pm
Broadway Our Way – Ensemble presentation of Broadway Inspirational Voices’s newest CD

Click here for tickets.

Broadway Inspirational Voices members with Clarke Thorell, Marva Hicks and Michael McElroy. Photo by Lia Chang

Broadway Inspirational Voices members with Clarke Thorell, Marva Hicks and Michael McElroy. Photo by Lia Chang

Broadway Inspirational Voices (BIV) is a diverse choir of Broadway artists united to change lives through the power of music and service.

The company was founded by Michael McElroy in 1994 as the Broadway Gospel Choir and in 1999 reincarnated to its current name. In 2010, BIV became a 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission consists of providing HOPE to INSPIRE and TRANSFORM youth in need through music and the arts.

In addition to numerous concerts, the Grammy nominated choir has performed with award winning artists such as Mariah Carey, the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, STING, Elton John, Vanessa Williams, Heather Headley, Billy Porter. BIV has been featured on The David Letterman ShowThe Rosie O’Donnell Christmas Special, multiple Tony Awards Telecast, Smash and America’s Got Talent.

Broadway Inspirational Voices’ first album Great Joy: A Gospel Christmas was released on Sh-K-Boom Records and received a Grammy Award nomination. The choir just released their second holiday Christmas CD, Great Joy II: Around the World.  broadwayinspirationalvoices.org

Michael McElroy, Clarke Thorell, Brian Whitted, Marva Hicks, Joe Spinelli, Jerry DeVore and Andrew Levine. Photo by Lia Chang

Michael McElroy, Clarke Thorell, Brian Whitted, Marva Hicks, Joe Spinelli, Jerry DeVore and Andrew Levine. Photo by Lia Chang

Named after the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, best known for his popular radio and TV ministry in the 1950s and 60s, The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture is a project of the Archdiocese of New York with the mission of showcasing works in the performing and visual arts, lectures and symposia that highlight the true, the good, and the beautiful as they have been expressed throughout the ages. The state-of-the-art complex has a 274-seat proscenium theater equipped with five-camera high-definition livestream capability and a multi-track recording studio with thirty-two onstage inputs; an 80-seat black box theater; four rehearsal studios; and an art gallery. This facility is the newest arts center in Manhattan in 35 years and a great addition to the growing artistic community in the East Village/NoHo. www.sheencenter.org

Click here for the Lia Chang archives and here for the Lia Chang Photography archives.

 

André Holland, John Douglas Thompson, Ray Anthony Thomas, Carra Patterson, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Anthony Chisholm, Michael Potts, Harvy Blanks, Keith Randolph Smith and Brandon J. Dirden. Photo by Lia Chang

Inside the Opening Night Party with JITNEY Director Ruben Santiago-Hudson and Company

Events, Photography, Theater
Ray Anthony Thomas, Keith Randolph Smith, Anthony Chisholm, John Douglas Thompson, Brandon J. Dirden, Carra Patterson, André Holland, Michael Potts, Harvy Blanks. Photo by Lia Chang

Ray Anthony Thomas, Keith Randolph Smith, Anthony Chisholm, John Douglas Thompson, Brandon J. Dirden, Carra Patterson, André Holland, Michael Potts, Harvy Blanks. Photo by Lia Chang

Manhattan Theatre Club’s Broadway debut of August Wilson’s Jitney, directed by Tony Award winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson (The Piano LessonSeven GuitarsGem of the Ocean), opened to rave reviews at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (261 West 47th Street) in New York on January 19, 2017. Check out my full coverage of the festivities on the Red Carpet, at curtain call, backstage, the press room and the after party at The Copacabana.

Anthony Chisholm, John Douglas Thompson, Brandon J. Dirden, Carra Patterson, Andre Holland, Michael Potts, Harvy Blanks. Photo by Lia Chang

Anthony Chisholm, John Douglas Thompson, Brandon J. Dirden, Carra Patterson, Andre Holland, Michael Potts, Harvy Blanks. Photo by Lia Chang

The cast features Harvy Blanks as “Shealy;” Tony Award nominee Anthony Chisholm as “Fielding,” Obie and Theatre World Award winner Brandon Dirden as “Booster;” André Holland as “Youngblood;” Carra Patterson as “Rena,”  Michael Potts as “Turnbo,” Ray Anthony Thomas as “Philmore;” Keith Randolph Smith as “Doub” and Drama Desk Award winner John Douglas Thompson as “Becker.”

Brandon J. Dirden, Carra Patterson, André Holland. Photo by Lia Chang

Brandon J. Dirden, Carra Patterson, André Holland. Photo by Lia Chang

Only one of the ten plays in two-time Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s masterful The American Century Cycle has never been seen on Broadway – until now. Set in the early 1970s, this richly textured piece follows a group of men trying to eke out a living by driving unlicensed cabs, or Jitneys. When the city threatens to board up the business and the boss’ son returns from prison, tempers flare, potent secrets are revealed and the fragile threads binding these people together may come undone at last. Jitney is being produced in association with John Legend and his Get Lifted partner Mike Jackson,  Eric Falkenstein, Ron Simons and Ken Wirth.

André Holland, John Douglas Thompson, Ray Anthony Thomas, Carra Patterson, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Anthony Chisholm, Michael Potts, Harvy Blanks, Keith Randolph Smith and Brandon J. Dirden. Photo by Lia Chang

André Holland, John Douglas Thompson, Ray Anthony Thomas, Carra Patterson, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Anthony Chisholm, Michael Potts, Harvy Blanks, Keith Randolph Smith and Brandon J. Dirden. Photo by Lia Chang

The Red Carpet

Post-show and Backstage

Press Room at The Copacabana

Afterparty at The Copacabana

Click here for tickets and more information. Use code AUGUST for $47-$89 tickets for January 24th- March 12th. In person at the box office, call 212-947-8844 or visit telechargeoffers.com.

Barry Grove, André Holland, John Douglas Thompson, Ray Anthony Thomas, Carra Patterson, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Constanza Romero, Anthony Chisholm, Michael Potts, Harvy Blanks, Keith Randolph Smith, Lynne Meadow and Brandon J. Dirden. Photo by Lia Chang

Barry Grove, André Holland, John Douglas Thompson, Ray Anthony Thomas, Carra Patterson, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Constanza Romero, Anthony Chisholm, Michael Potts, Harvy Blanks, Keith Randolph Smith, Lynne Meadow and Brandon J. Dirden. Photo by Lia Chang

For more information on MTC, please visit www.ManhattanTheatreClub.com.

Getting to Know the Cast of August Wilson’s JITNEY at Manhattan Theatre Club; Previews Begin Dec. 28

Inside Rehearsals of MTC’s Broadway Debut of August Wilson’s JITNEY; Previews Begin December 28

Meet the Cast of MTC’s Broadway Debut of August Wilson’s JITNEY, Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Featuring Harvy Blanks, Anthony Chisholm, Brandon Dirden, André Holland, Carra Patterson, Michael Potts, Keith Randolph Smith, Ray Anthony Thomas, John Douglas Thompson 

André De Shields, Billy Eugene Jones, George Faison, Constanza Romero, Lori Tan Chinn and More Celebrate August Wilson’s SEVEN GUITARS Opening Night at Yale Rep 

MAURICE HINES TAPPIN’ THRU LIFE, Dominique Morriseau’s SKELETON CREW, Marjorie Johnson, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Tina Fabrique, Joe Morton and Debra Ann Byrd Among 2016 AUDELCO Winners 

Photos: All-Access Pass to August Wilson’s Two Trains Running with John Earl Jelks, Harvy Blanks,Chuck Cooper, Anthony Chisholm, Owiso Odera, Roslyn Ruff and James A. Williams 

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 Examiner.comJade Magazine and Playbill.com.

Ray Anthony Thomas, Keith Randolph Smith, Michael Potts, Brandon Dirden, John Douglas Thompson, Carra Patterson, André Holland, Harvy Blanks, Anthony Chisholm. Photo by Lia Chang

MTC’s Broadway Debut of August Wilson’s JITNEY Begins Previews at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre Tonight

Photography, Theater

2016-12-26-jitney_photo-by-lia-chang-7Manhattan Theatre Club’s Broadway debut of August Wilson’s Jitney, directed by Tony Award winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson (The Piano LessonSeven GuitarsGem of the Ocean), begins previews Wednesday, December 28th ahead of a Thursday, January 19th opening night at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (261 West 47th Street).

Ray Anthony Thomas, Keith Randolph Smith, Michael Potts, Brandon Dirden, John Douglas Thompson, Carra Patterson, André Holland, Anthony Chisholm, Harvy Blanks and Ruben Santiago-Hudson. Photo by Lia Chang

Ray Anthony Thomas, Keith Randolph Smith, Michael Potts, Brandon Dirden, John Douglas Thompson, Carra Patterson, André Holland, Anthony Chisholm, Harvy Blanks and Ruben Santiago-Hudson. Photo by Lia Chang

The cast features Harvy Blanks (Jitney in WNYC’s Greene Space American Century Cycle recording, Two Trains Running at Two River Theater Company) as “Shealy;” Tony Award nominee Anthony Chisholm (Radio GolfGem of the OceanTwo Trains RunningJitney at Second Stage) as “Fielding,” Obie and Theatre World Award winner Brandon Dirden (The Piano LessonClybourne Park, “The Americans”) as “Booster;” André Holland (Joe Turner’s Come and GoneMoonlight,”American Horror Story”) as “Youngblood;” Carra Patterson (Significant OtherWitStraight Outta Compton) as “Rena,”  Michael Potts (The Book of MormonAubergine) as “Turnbo,” Ray Anthony Thomas (Jitney and Fences in WNYC’s Greene Space American Century Cycle recordings, Between Riverside and Crazy) as “Philmore;” Keith Randolph Smith (FencesKing Hedley II), as “Doub” and Drama Desk Award winner John Douglas Thompson (Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at the Mark Taper Forum, Satchmo at the Waldorf) as “Becker.”

2016-12-26-jitney_photo-by-lia-chang-9Only one of the ten plays in two-time Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s masterful The American Century Cycle has never been seen on Broadway – until now. Set in the early 1970s, this richly textured piece follows a group of men trying to eke out a living by driving unlicensed cabs, or Jitneys. When the city threatens to board up the business and the boss’ son returns from prison, tempers flare, potent secrets are revealed and the fragile threads binding these people together may come undone at last. MTC has a long history of co-producing works by this legendary playwright (King Hedley IISeven Guitars and Piano Lesson) and is proud to produce this Broadway debut.

The creative team for Jitney includes David Gallo (scenic design); Toni-Leslie James (costume design); Jane Cox (lighting design), Darron L West (sound design); Bill Sims, Jr. (original music); and Thomas Schall (fight director).

2016-12-26-jitney_photo-by-lia-chang-10Click here for tickets and more information. Use code AUGUST for $47-$77 tickets through January 22nd and $47-$89 tickets for January 24th- March 12th. In person at the box office, call 212-947-8844 or visit telechargeoffers.com.

For more information on MTC, please visit www.ManhattanTheatreClub.com.

Getting to Know the Cast of August Wilson’s JITNEY at Manhattan Theatre Club; Previews Begin Dec. 28

Inside Rehearsals of MTC’s Broadway Debut of August Wilson’s JITNEY; Previews Begin December 28

Meet the Cast of MTC’s Broadway Debut of August Wilson’s JITNEY, Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Featuring Harvy Blanks, Anthony Chisholm, Brandon Dirden, André Holland, Carra Patterson, Michael Potts, Keith Randolph Smith, Ray Anthony Thomas, John Douglas Thompson 

André De Shields, Billy Eugene Jones, George Faison, Constanza Romero, Lori Tan Chinn and More Celebrate August Wilson’s SEVEN GUITARS Opening Night at Yale Rep 

MAURICE HINES TAPPIN’ THRU LIFE, Dominique Morriseau’s SKELETON CREW, Marjorie Johnson, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Tina Fabrique, Joe Morton and Debra Ann Byrd Among 2016 AUDELCO Winners 

Photos: All-Access Pass to August Wilson’s Two Trains Running with John Earl Jelks, Harvy Blanks,Chuck Cooper, Anthony Chisholm, Owiso Odera, Roslyn Ruff and James A. Williams 

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.

Ruben Santiago-Hudson, André Holland, Brandon Dirden, Ray Anthony Thomas and John Douglas Thompson. Photo by Lia Chang

Getting to Know the Cast of August Wilson’s JITNEY at Manhattan Theatre Club; Previews Begin Dec. 28

Photography, Theater
Anthony Chisholm, Carra Patterson, Katti Gray, Marcia Pendleton, Harvy Blanks, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Ray Anthony Thomas, John Douglas Thompson and André Holland. Photo by Lia Chang

Anthony Chisholm, Carra Patterson, Katti Gray, Marcia Pendleton, Harvy Blanks, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Ray Anthony Thomas, John Douglas Thompson and André Holland. Photo by Lia Chang

Manhattan Theatre Club’s Broadway debut of August Wilson’s Jitney, directed by Tony Award winner Ruben Santiago-Hudson (The Piano LessonSeven GuitarsGem of the Ocean), begins previews Wednesday, December 28th ahead of a Thursday, January 19th opening night at MTC’s Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (261 West 47th Street).

Ruben Santiago-Hudson, André Holland, Brandon Dirden, Ray Anthony Thomas and John Douglas Thompson. Photo by Lia Chang

Ruben Santiago-Hudson, André Holland, Brandon Dirden, Ray Anthony Thomas and John Douglas Thompson. Photo by Lia Chang

This week, I was treated to a behind the scenes look of bringing Jitney to Broadway in the MTC Rehearsal Studios in New York City.

Award-winning journalist Katti Gray moderated a panel featuring Jitney director Ruben Santiago-Hudson, and cast members Harvy Blanks (Jitney in WNYC’s Greene Space American Century Cycle recording, Two Trains Running at Two River Theater Company) as “Shealy;” Tony Award nominee Anthony Chisholm (Radio GolfGem of the OceanTwo Trains RunningJitney at Second Stage) as “Fielding,” Obie and Theatre World Award winner Brandon Dirden (The Piano LessonClybourne Park, “The Americans”) as “Booster;” André Holland (Joe Turner’s Come and GoneMoonlight,”American Horror Story”) as “Youngblood;” Carra Patterson (Significant OtherWitStraight Outta Compton) as “Rena,” Ray Anthony Thomas (Jitney and Fences in WNYC’s Greene Space American Century Cycle recordings, Between Riverside and Crazy) as “Philmore;” and Drama Desk Award winner John Douglas Thompson (Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at the Mark Taper Forum, Satchmo at the Waldorf) as “Becker.”

Michael Potts (The Book of MormonAubergine) who plays “Turnbo”, and Keith Randolph Smith (FencesKing Hedley II), who plays “Doub”, were not available for the evening.

Only one of the ten plays in two-time Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson’s masterful The American Century Cycle has never been seen on Broadway – until now. Set in the early 1970s, this richly textured piece follows a group of men trying to eke out a living by driving unlicensed cabs, or Jitneys. When the city threatens to board up the business and the boss’ son returns from prison, tempers flare, potent secrets are revealed and the fragile threads binding these people together may come undone at last. MTC has a long history of co-producing works by this legendary playwright (King Hedley IISeven Guitars and Piano Lesson) and is proud to produce this Broadway debut.

Below is an edited transcription of the night.

Harvy Blanks, Anthony Chisholm, Katti Gray, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, André Holland. Photo by Lia Chang

Harvy Blanks, Anthony Chisholm, Katti Gray, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, André Holland. Photo by Lia Chang

Katti Gray: At what point and why did you decide you had to do this work?
RSH: First of all, I decided that I had to be with August and Lloyd when they were doing what they were doing, when I first saw Ma Rainey. This particular work became a battle cry when August was ill and I wanted to complete the cycle as far as all the plays being on Broadway. That was my motivation, so August could have something that no other playwright in American history has done – write ten plays and have them all go to Broadway. I always felt why not us? Why not black folks? Why not an African American playwright? Why doesn’t he have that distinct honor? So I tried to do everything possible that I could do to make it happen. It’s never been my goal to just be a Broadway director. I just wanted to be a director to tell our stories. I’m only one and I can only tell so many stories. I hitched my wagon to August at this time and now this is complete. I can kind of relax a little bit.

Katti Gray and Ruben Santiago-Hudson. Photo by Lia Chang

Katti Gray and Ruben Santiago-Hudson. Photo by Lia Chang

KG: When did you start this?
RSH: 11 years. 11 years is when August passed, and it was two weeks before he passed that I told him that Jitney would be my goal. He wanted me to do How I Learned What I Learned. That’s why he was calling me. In that conversation, I said I would love to complete Jitney as the final play on Broadway of all your ten. He said, “Do it, do it. You can do it. But do How I Learned first and let everybody see it can be done without me. Then others actors can do it. But do Jitney also.” I promised him and then two weeks he had gone. Then I got on this quest. I found out it was tougher for me. I thought if I told everybody I wanted to do this and people believed in me, they would get behind me. But it backfired. I told everybody I wanted to do it and everybody blocked me. That’s just the reality of it. The best thing that I did was shut up. So I shut up for one minute and I left it up to the powers that be. And it came to fruition.

John Douglas Thompson. Photo by Lia Chang

John Douglas Thompson as Becker. Photo by Lia Chang

KG:So this question is for the cast. Introduce yourself and the character you play. What is that character’s job and function in this work? What is the challenge of meeting that?
John Douglas Thompson: I play the character of Becker. Without giving too much away, I run or own the jitney station. That’s my place. All the people that are there work with me. I’m a father, and I have a son who has been in prison for 20 years. I haven’t ventured to go visit him, spoken to him, seen him. During the course of the play, we meet, father and son. That’s the challenge. Encountering that mountain.

There’s also urban renewal that’s happening, which is also threatening the livelihood of the jitney station, and those people that work there. It’s also something that I’m encountering.

André Holland as Youngblood and Ray Anthony Thomas as Philmore. Photo by Lia Chang

André Holland as Youngblood and Ray Anthony Thomas as Philmore. Photo by Lia Chang

Ray Anthony Thomas: I play Philmore. I’m one of those cats in the community, the one you actually see that comes to use the jitney drivers to get home. I think my biggest challenge, with as little time as possible, create a whole life of this person and what this place means to him in his life. I don’t have too many lines to do it in so that’s really the challenge.

John Douglas Thompson as Becker and Brandon Dirden as Booster. Photo by Lia Chang

John Douglas Thompson as Becker and Brandon Dirden as Booster. Photo by Lia Chang

Brandon Dirden: Thank you all for coming tonight and thank you in advance for all the people you’re bringing with you to come see this show. I play Booster, the son of Becker. As he said, I’ve been away for the last 20 years. The challenge is where to begin with this new life, this new reality. What is there between my father and I, given that he hasn’t come to see me in the last 20 years, when I was just a few miles down the road at Western Penn. It’s the process of reconciliation. How do you forgive when you’re the only one trying to forgive? What is love? How strong is it? How fragile is it? Trying to piece together so that you can move on and not get stuck in the past where the most pain lives.

André Holland as Youngblood and Carra Patterson as Rena. Photo by Lia Chang

André Holland as Youngblood and Carra Patterson as Rena. Photo by Lia Chang

André Holland: I play Youngblood who is this young guy in the community who has been sent away. He’s been at war, the Vietnam War. Along with the love of his life is trying to start a new chapter. He works with the fellows at the jitney station, so when the urban renewal proposal comes along, the little bit that he’s been able to gather for himself is suddenly threatened. So he’s scrambling, like many of us to try and put it together. The biggest challenge is obviously, for myself, trying to keep up with these incredibly talented people. There are some bad people in this cast.

Harvy Blanks, Anthony Chisholm. Photo by Lia Chang

Harvy Blanks, Anthony Chisholm. Photo by Lia Chang

Anthony Chisholm: I play a character named Fielding. He’s one of the drivers at the station. We’re all drivers except for a couple of people. It’s the life of these drivers in this storefront cab station. Someone one tried to figure out the mystery of Jitney. We played it in so many cities- Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, Baltimore- and broken house records, literally, all time house records. Someone was trying to figure out- why is that? It is the humanity of the play. It’s guys bearing their souls in the jitney station. There are a lot of stories going on. There is no one star. This is a true ensemble piece. The more it becomes an ensemble; the more it becomes this one character of what this whole story is about. I play an alcoholic. He’s an alcoholic driver, not a drunk. An alcoholic is someone who is addicted to the alcohol. And yet it can function. So he drives a cab and he drinks. He had an illustrious past where he was a master tailor for celebrities and musicians. He was married to a lady that he has been separated from for over 20 years. He still thinks she loves him.

Harvy Blanks as Shealy. Photo by Lia Chang

Harvy Blanks as Shealy. Photo by Lia Chang

Harvy Blanks: I play Shealy. When Anthony mentioned humanity, there’s so much that ran through my mind because in casting, our brilliant director, casted from an authentic, ethnic angle, which means that every black folks you’ve ever grown up with, been with, and know about is in this. And that includes Shealy who basically is from Mississippi. He brings a sort of accent, a sort of flavor that we all know in our brothers and sisters, grandmamas, granddaddies, that sort of thing. He likes to talk like folks we hear. I’m a bookie. I go and take numbers. I bring a sort of flavor that I think you’ll enjoy.

RSH: He’s also a deacon at the church on Sunday.

Carra Patterson, Harvy Blanks and Anthony Chisholm. Photo by Lia Chang

Carra Patterson, Harvy Blanks. Photo by Lia Chang

KG: Carra, the added question for you being the only woman in this piece. Why do you think Wilson opted to only have one woman in the play?
Carra Patterson: I play Rena. Rena is a young mother. I have a son with Youngblood. I want to raise my son and give him a better life. I’m trying my best to give him a stable home and make sure that he has opportunities that I didn’t have and that Youngblood didn’t have. The obstacle to that is that we have a past. Some things that we’ve been through that we’re trying to overcome. In the present, he’s not telling me what he’s doing. I’m trying to be on the same page with him.

Being the only woman in the cast, hearing it, and you’ll see, women are very present in their lives. You’ll see their connection is. They either have very strong connections to their wives or their mothers. But Reena is the only one that interrupts the space. I don’t care what y’all have going on, I need to be heard. I think women still are in the story. It’s great. It’s fun. It’s a man’s world, but as soon as a woman steps into the space, it changes.

Ruben Santiago-Hudson. Photo by Lia Chang

Ruben Santiago-Hudson. Photo by Lia Chang

RSH: My goal was simple. I wanted to put together a collection of the finest theater actors that I possible could put in a room. This is what you have. We’re in New York City. There are twenty actors for every role here. So the thing is this, everybody always is, “I want to work with Ruben.” They’ll tell you working with Ruben ain’t a walk in the park. Ruben is very meticulous, Ruben is very studious, Ruben is very, very intense, very passionate. I’ve been directed by directors who have fallen asleep, in the room. But that ain’t me. So when you come in my room, you better be on, because I’m on. And I’m going to be on until I fall asleep tonight when I get to my bed. I wake up at six o’clock in the morning, my script is out. I’m taking notes. I come in; we have a moment of wisdom every day where I drop some knowledge, a quote, some history.

The World of August Wilson's JITNEY. Photo by Lia Chang

The World of August Wilson’s JITNEY. Photo by Lia Chang

Y’all can see on the wall, we’re about who we are. We’re not about pretending. We’re about living a moment, sharing something that we are very familiar with. It’s an introduction to people who don’t know us. But if you do know us, that’s what you see in all its authenticity. I’m about cultural specificity. What is appropriate and how we do things. So no matter, that it is a man’s world, when that woman does come in, people give space. When she says, “I wanna talk to you.” to her man, you see people like we bowin’ out. Because that’s how it is. We want to magnify not just what’s bad or different about us in a way that people don’t understand, but the beauty of us. As a collective, I wanted to make sure that each actor was as intense as I was, as meticulous as I was about the work and it meant as much to them as it does to me. So I assembled this group. There’s only a couple people I haven’t worked with on the stage. I think Carra and JDT. Other than that, the people here, they know what I’m expecting. I’m not cruel by any means at all because I’m like them; I’m an actor too. So I will never do anything to them that I don’t want done to me. And I allow them their space and encourage them to reach higher goals. To push further.

KG: So your iteration of this- how is it the same and different from other casts of Jitney that you’ve seen?
RSH: The only thing that is the same is the cultural specificity. Everything else is different. It’s completely different. Chis just talked about the play like he did it in Los Angeles and Chicago. I don’t want Los Angeles and Chicago. I’m looking for today. I’m looking for right now. He gets in habits that he’s done before and I call him on it. I say that worked before, that doesn’t work for me. Chis jumped right to it and did something different. Chis is one of the finest character actors in the country. He’ll do something that they teach us in school for like 5 years, like leaving your endings up, keeping the ball, staying on top of things. He does things that they teach you. He probably has the least formal acting training of all of us, and the most life training. He’s just incredible.

KG: How do you prepare to be in an August Wilson play?
BD: I want to talk about working for this man. When he talks about his passion, it’s not easy. I want to make a distinction. It’s not easy not because Ruben is a tyrant or a dictator in the room, cracking the whip. That’s not what makes it difficult working for Ruben Santiago-Hudson. I might be the person on this stage that’s worked with him the most. This is our sixth or seventh show. The thing that keeps me coming back to work with Ruben and say yes to him, when I say no to many other people, the thing that keeps me saying yes to him is because what he’s asking is for you to be your best you. And then he’s asking you to be better than that. Every time. There’s not a single time that I have ever worked with this man where I have not come out a better person, a better husband, a better father, a better brother, a better son, and least of all, a better actor. This is no exception. Whether you like this process or you hate this process, you cannot say that you’re not a better person or a better artist because you were in this man’s room.

So how do you work on an August Wilson play? That’s what you need. You need to come in knowing that I’m not enough yet. I’m enough to start, but I’m not enough yet to go where we got to get to. You got to be open, you got to be vulnerable. You have to realize that yes, it’s in here. Everything that you are, August needs. Everything that you’re grandmother and grandfather were. Everything that your ancestors put in your DNA that’s welcome in this room. And that’s necessary in this room. But see, as actors we aren’t always allowed that freedom. They don’t even want all that. But the play, any August Wilson script, demands that you bring that. I will accept nothing less than that. That’s what it takes to work on an August Wilson play, your best and then some.

Carra Patterson, Harvy Blanks and Anthony Chisholm. Photo by Lia Chang

Carra Patterson, Harvy Blanks and Anthony Chisholm. Photo by Lia Chang

HB: I’ve done all ten of August’s pieces and I worked with one of the foremost directors, both mentor to August and Lloyd Richards, the late Israel Hicks. He was a tremendous director but I think that Ruben Santiago-Hudson is the best director in the country. That’s my opinion. I’m also biased. You can’t get any finer than Ruben. Ruben can see humanity especially in black folks that other people can’t and won’t. He won’t accept anything less than that. Partially that’s why I think I have the role I have. The way I play this character, only black people, you know the English, they have cockney? The cockney, we go see them play, you come out saying, “What did he say?” White folks might come out saying, “What did he say?” Because it’s the way we’ve expressed ourselves from being here. That first slave that was in the cotton field, that became an African American when he rose up and said, “Oh Lord, what am I doing here?” That’s what is here. It goes way back. It’s purely and certainly African American.

KG: Let’s talk about process. What did you say when you came to rehearsal?
RSH: It’s usually something off the top of my head. I told Carra that to be in love is “to have heart as a swinging door”. That means it goes both ways. You give just as much as you take.

The other thing that I said to them, “Just in the moment when I was lost, my dungeon shook and my chains fell off.” It’s just something I heard old folks saying in Lackawanna.

That’s the process of art. Any artist gets to that point where you hit a wall, it’s like where am I going? From my experience and the artists that I know. Then all of a sudden something shakes and you’re free. You know you’re free. It happens in acting all the time. We talk about what’s happening in the world. We talk about things that happen in the walk of our life and being people of color and how we persevere.

I’ve never been more in awe of these actors. This is the most important moment in my career. And I don’t take that for granted. We had an hour and a half of rehearsal and I have to back them off. Y’all are going too far, too fast. Don’t get bored. They never get bored. We cry every day. We laugh every day. You can’t help it.

CP: This is my first August Wilson play, but it is just a full circle God moment for me. I remember looking for monologues when I was 18 and auditioning for colleges. I wasn’t raised in the theater. I didn’t know plays, but I heard if you want to get into college as a drama student, you have to have a Shakespeare and an August Wilson monologue. So I literally did not have time to ready any full plays. I flipped through and picked one. And I came across Rena. And it was her house monologue. I was able to relate to it immediately because Rena is one of the younger of August Wilson’s women, and so it was easy for me to jump into what she was talking about. I’ve been doing this monologue and working these scenes since I was 18 only in scene study classes. I’ve never been in a full production.

Ruben Santiago-Hudson, André Holland, Brandon Dirden. Photo by Lia Chang

Ruben Santiago-Hudson, André Holland, Brandon Dirden. Photo by Lia Chang

KG: So the rest of you, this process, this work, when the rest of you come in and Ruben says whatever he’s going to say for the day. How does that affect your work?
AH: For me, it gives me permission. A lot of times, especially the things that I’ve done, I’ve always felt like you’re on a proving ground. You first have to prove that you have the right to be there. You’re constantly trying to modulate what you say and how you say it. Is now the time for me to fully express who I am? Or express this thing in the way that I would naturally express it. But from the very beginning, he sets the tone. We’re going to play all of our notes today here. Not only are you allowed to, but you are actually compelled to. You’re required to bring all of you to it. So for me, it’s freeing. Actors would probably understand what I am talking about because it is difficult to explain just how wonderful that feels to know that all of you is welcome.

CP: For me, coming in every day and hearing his wisdom, also just his style, I don’t think it’s too hard. It reminds me of – it feels like home to me. I feel like I have to bring my best. I have to do my best. And nothing less is acceptable. It reminds me of how my grandmother used to speak to me. This is the best experience I’ve had.

AH: And you know, grandmama and granddaddy got your best interest at heart. They’re not going to let you embarrass yourself or hurt yourself. It’s the same thing. You take the direction. If it is harsh, it’s harsh. You know it’s for the right reasons.

Ray Anthony Thomas as Philmore. Photo by Lia Chang

Ray Anthony Thomas as Philmore. Photo by Lia Chang

KG: Is there a part of this, a line in this, a silence in this, a scene of this that parallels your personal biography, and resonates for you in a particular way? What is that?
RAT: Philmore: “Mama don’t like to see you coming; but she’ll take you in.” Every time I do an August Wilson, it reminds me of my grandmother, my parents. Every summer in Louisiana, just being there. Don’t make me cry. I think August demands that of you. That you give everything you have. I never felt like I shorted him on the attempt. I don’t know if I reached it all the time, but I tried so hard. There’s been times when I finished a show, I didn’t feel like acting no more ‘cause it took everything I had. It’s a beautiful thing. This don’t happen all the time. It really doesn’t.

Katti Gray, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, André Holland, Brandon Dirden, Ray Anthony Thomas, John Douglas Thompson. Photo by Lia Chang

Katti Gray, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, André Holland, Brandon Dirden, Ray Anthony Thomas, John Douglas Thompson. Photo by Lia Chang

RSH: It’s funny, with him, people are always calling me about August Wilson plays, “I need an actor.” And I used to say, get Ray, get Harvy. They would say, “Where am I going to put them?” I’d say, put them anywhere. They’re going to fill any spot. So when I got them two guys, it’s like having a basketball team and having two power forwards. You can put them anywhere.

These people have graduated and attended some of the finest cultural institutions teaching acting in the nation- NYU and Yale and all these schools. One day, I came in the room and said, “They spend so much time teaching you what they think is correct in acting. They teach you so far away from your grandmother. What I’m asking you to do is bring her; I want to see her in the room. If you’re not bringing your grandmother, you’re not doing August Wilson. I’m bringing her back. All that they tore out of us, in those schools and conservatories, that’s what I want to see. So let me see that, because now it is time to revisit.”

Ruben Santiago-Hudson, André Holland. Photo by Lia Chang

Ruben Santiago-Hudson, André Holland. Photo by Lia Chang

KG: You had mentioned the mechanics and the obstacles to getting here. What currency does a John Legend co-producer bring to this?
RSH: When I said I got quiet, I didn’t stop working. I stopped telling people this is what I’m going to do. It’s a different thing because they just blocked it. So I said, if I let it go, it’s not that important to me anymore because there’s too many other things I got in front of me.

I got two or three other writers I’m developing right now. I gotta make sure when I go to dust, they’ll be fine. Particularly, I was talking about taking August Wilson’s play to Broadway. I could take a writ