April 21

Mixed Blood will welcome its 3rd world premiere of the season, a love story about Rwandan immigrants living in America, trying to recreate the traditional wedding ceremonies in a new place, while simultaneously struggling with the violent atrocities of their past. The production follows the structure of a traditional Rwandan wedding ceremony and features live drumming and dance.

Alyze and Martin are in love. Martin drives a taxi, and Alyze cleans office buildings at night to get by. When Martin proposes marriage, Alyze happily accepts, but in this new country, without family, without money, without traditions, they must forge a new path to make their marriage their own. Alyze has always dreamed of the traditional Rwandan ceremonies, but Martin feels that a Justice of the Peace is all they can afford. Alyze finds herself stuck between two worlds.

The cast features Ethiopian American actress and Mixed Blood regular Antu Yacob as Alyze, and introduces Kenyan American actor Owiso Odera to Mixed Blood audiences as Martin. This show also represents a reunion for three artists who last collaborated on 2009’s award-winning production of RUINED by Lynn Nottage: Kenyan American actor Irungu Mutu, Liberian American choreographer Edna Stevens, and director Aditi Kapil.

Artistic Director Jack Reuler: It is a primary tenet of Mixed Blood that people like to see themselves on stage reflected in important ways. In this 55454 Series (about Africans and Muslims in America), and in this season (“at the intersection of virtuosity and social change), YOUNG NEGRESS STEPPING OUT OF THE RIVER AT DAWN, brought to us by gifted actor Owiso Odera, embodies both aspirations. The finest performers in the land meet a great script that personifies the intentions of the Series and ambitions of the season. For a theatre dedicated to the development, production, and dissemination of new plays, producing Dean Poynor’s world premiere allows us to walk our talk in new and ever-improving ways.

Playwright Dean Poynor: In the play, Alyze and Martin end up making their own wedding: piece meal, handcrafted, one-time-only. They use the resources they have at hand, including their cultural traditions, their tragic memories, and their rich imaginations, to make something both utterly unique and deeply familiar. The theatre is the perfect way to explore this story. Theatre events are always unique – the show changes night to night with the truth of the moment. And the inverse economy of performance demands that you strip away everything that is non-essential so that the most vibrant thing – the actors on stage making characters come to life – can be seen most clearly. Making theatre is a collaborative effort between human beings. It has been a privilege to make this play with Mixed Blood, for you. I trust that we will introduce you to someone you have never met, but who you’ve known your whole life.

Actor Owiso Odera: This is an African love story and to be more specific, a Rwandan love story, between two well written black African characters. That combination does not come along very often in the American Theater. Love is universal and we can all identify with that but it is rare that I have gone to a theater in this country and experienced a beautiful love story between two African characters. The other aspect of Dean Poynor’s play that makes it compelling to me is a strong African female character at the center of the story. This play is the story of Alyze and how she navigates and negotiates being an African woman, an African/American woman, and an immigrant living in America, trying to balance what elements of her culture to hold on to while adopting and assimilating to the western world. Alyze is full of wit, passion and loves deeply. I do not see this African woman on stage very often and when I read this play, something in me could see my mother, sisters and aunts fully expressed on stage in ways I probably never saw them express their feelings in real life. A story from a part of the world I come from told with sensitivity, truth and humor. How could I pass that up?

The design team includes set designer Lois Rhomberg, lighting designer Paul Epton, costume designer Annie Cady, and drummer Ahanti Young providing the sound bed for the show.

The 55454 SERIES is a curated series of four plays about, for, and with Africans and Muslims in America. Each production runs one weekend only. The series also includes January’s PILGRIMS MUSA AND SHERI IN THE NEW WORLD by Yussef el Guindi, February’s AFRICAN AMERICA by Warren C. Bowles, and April’s HIJAB TUBE by Seema Sueko.








RED BANK: ‘BLUES’ WITH SOMETHING EXTRA– I love this title, I love Ruben Santiago-Hudson and I love this project!  Would love to be present for this discussion. I believe that the Arts must be an integral part of any real and sustainable social change!  In fact, it can be the catalyst for change.


McGreeveyMayorEdRubenFormer New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey, former Asbury Park Mayor Ed Johnson and actor-director-playwright Ruben Santiago-Hudson take part in an April 26 panel discussion on Creating Social Change, an event keyed to Two River Theater’s world premiere of Santiago-Hudson’s YOUR BLUES AIN’T SWEET LIKE MINE.

From materials furnished by Two River Theater Company


With its world premiere engagement at Two River Theater, Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine marks the Red Bank return of Tony winning actor, director and August Wilson authority Ruben Santiago-Hudson — this time at the helm of his own original script; one that “brings an unlikely group together, spawning a passionate and explosive debate on America’s relationship to race.”

The second of three shows to make their world premiere at Two River this spring, the production also comes loaded with “extras” that range from downloadable playlists of vintage blues and jazz music mentioned in the script — to a series of on-site offerings that begin on Thursday, April 23 with a special exhibit of items from the Gene Alexander Peters Collection of Rare and Historic African American Artifacts.

On display in the theater lobby between 6 and 8 pm, the exhibit chronicles five critical periods for African Americans within the history of America: slavery; segregation and “Jim Crow;” the Civil Rights Era; the Black Power/Black Student Movement; and the Black Panther Party. Peters, a cultural history consultant and noted collector of rare African American artifacts, will speak about the collection from 7:15 to 7:45 pm, and will be available to answer questions. Take it here for additional information on the exhibit.


As part of Two River Theater’s ongoing Nosotros series, which makes theater accessible to Latino audiences, Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine will be translated into Spanish via a screen visible to the audience during the 3 pm matinee performance on Sunday, April 26. While the adults in the family watch the play, their children and grandchildren will enjoy stories, theater games, and snacks in the theater lobby under the supervision of bilingual teaching artists and babysitters. These family-friendly events will take place between the hours of 2:30 and 4:45 pm. Tickets for this performance are $10; patrons should use the code “Spanish captions” when booking.


Following that April 26 matinee performance, the Two River stage will host a special discussion about Creating Social Change moderated by TRTC artistic director John Dias, and featuring Ruben Santiago-Hudson with two special guests — Ed Johnson, who served the City of Asbury Park from 1998 to 2013 as Mayor, City Councilman and Chairman of the Urban Enterprise Zone; and former Governor of New Jersey James McGreevey.

Johnson is a Visiting Scholar and Lecturer in Political Science at Rutgers University and Brookdale Community College, while Governor McGreevey currently serves as executive director of the Jersey City Employment and Training Commission; spearheading re-integration programs for former prisoners through this post and other volunteer activities.


According to the TRTC team, “during the play’s rehearsals, its actors and creative team were surrounded by an ever-growing collage of background information, contemporary news stories, pieces of art and poetry that inform the action and mood of the play,” with the company recreating that collage as an ongoing lobby display “to illustrate how the elements of a new play reach far beyond the rehearsal room.”

A video interview with Ruben Santiago-Hudson will also be screened in the lobby at 15-minute intervals (beginning 45 minutes prior to every curtain time of Your Blues), while a post-play discussion is scheduled to follow every performance.

Your Blues Ain’t Sweet Like Mine continues through May 3 with a mix of matinee and evening performances. Take it here for tickets ($20 – $65 adults) plus details on other special performances — and here for redbankgreen‘s interview with the show’s star, Broadway and TV actor Brandon J. Dirden.

Deaths of Unarmed Black Men Revive Anti-Lynching Plays

Anti-lynching sounds more like a newspaper headline or a social cause but here we find it in theater. More than anything else theater is not only the chronicle of our lives, our culture and our society but also a reminder of them. At times a very unpleasant reminder of times past that mirror our present. So it is with the revival of a series of anti-lynching plays performed at a Brooklyn community center called JACK.

The Anti-lynching play genre started in the early 1900s when lynching was common practice in the South. The current number of deaths of black boys and men by police officers has brought this genre back into the spotlight at least in this Brooklyn community center.

This article is written by Hansi Lo Wang and you can listen to the NPR audio report at this link.


Artists Have to be Entrepreneurs


Mind map. Courtesy of the author.

In the summer of 2010 I performed in my first ever Fringe Festival. I had known about the Fringe circuit for a long time. I had volunteered at the San Francisco Fringe as a technician ten years earlier where I saw some of the worst theatre in my life. It was at that point (at the ripe age of twenty-five) when I decided to stop pursuing theatre the way I had previously. By this point I had created three solo shows and directed a play I wrote, but when I moved to the Bay Area something changed. I had taken on jobs in arts admin and tech and got totally burned out by what I was witnessing, not to mention how jaded I felt about what I saw on my own.

So there I was in Boulder in 2010, where I had attended college at Naropa University. My friends from that time period had gone on to found this Fringe. My show was all about my dealings with the New Age movement and Boulder was the perfect place to test out the Fringe waters. My days were super long, around twelve to sixteen hours of running around to various venues as well as performing and networking. My schedule was highlighted with multiple notes of what shows I should stand outside of and postcard, where I could interact with audience members so that my show hopefully got stuck in their heads. Also, I had grown older and my indifference had transformed back towards curiosity. I was seeing quality theatre, shows that were inspiring me, making me laugh and cry. I was connecting with a batch of amazing people and being constantly reminded why I had fallen in love with the live arts in the first place. I was coming back home to theatre and my heart was open.

While I was in line with a bunch of other artists waiting to get into a show that was quickly filling up, I started a conversation with a new friend who was in the MFA program for Contemporary Performance at Naropa. I was going on and on about all the things I was noticing in the field that I had to stay on top of in order to do this full time. As I started listing the intertwined aspects of marketing, fundraising, visual branding, PR, creating a database of donors, and networking, I watched her brow crinkle in both confusion and curiosity.

I discovered that she didn’t really know what I was talking about.

“They still aren’t teaching this stuff?” I asked, blown away. She just shook her head.

“Would you be up for meeting with me and some of my class to talk about the business?” she asked.

The next thing I knew I was creating a syllabus of information to share. In my friend’s small living room I disseminated information to about six people. Another friend, Karen, (who was in charge of finances for the Fringe at the time) joined me. At one point she stopped me. “Hold on,” she said. “How many of you know how to write apress release?” Not one hand was raised. “Wow…,” she said. My jaw dropped. I mean, I didn’t learn how to write a press release in college either, but I graduated in ‘97 with a BA from this school. Now they had a master’s degree in how to be a very present weirdo on stage, and not one of these people who  was   going into their last year had this basic tool in their tool box.

When I got back home I wrote down everything one would need to know in order to self-produce their work. The list was long, because as I had already learned years back, this was a full-time job. When I was twenty-five I wasn’t ready for what it would take to put myself out in the world in this capacity. I just wanted to create new works and perform them. All the business stuff freaked me out. After flailing about for almost a decade I realized that I had built up the skill set through various other jobs and life circumstances to actually go forward in this way, and my skin had thickened due to consistent rejection and indifference. My interest in so many subjects, my ability to juggle various administrative duties, to change focus quickly and see how things overlapped, to realize when to drop an idea that wasn’t panning out… this way of being in the world wasn’t scattered, it was actually entrepreneurial.

I created a course outline and named the crash course The Nuts and Bolts of Being a Performing Artist. I asked people who were currently in school or who had just graduated whether they were learning anything about the business side of the performing arts. All I heard was a resounding no. I developed a pitch for the course and started contacting various service organizations that helped artists, as well as performing arts programs at colleges, and started to gain some traction. What stood out were the people who saw the inherent value in making this information available to current students and working artists, and those who didn’t.

“Why don’t universities make this a mandatory part of the curriculum?” asked one performing arts student during one of my workshops.

“Academic narcissism,” I said without a beat.

The blind spot of most college professors needs to be understood for what it is. A lot of college teachers who are tenure track have been in school their whole lives. Creating their own work has been in the context of academia and the relationship to both process and theory. Practitioners in the academy always have a place to rehearse and develop new work. They don’t have to worry whether people attend the performance and if it will break even or not. When showing a new work, they are part of an infrastructure that already subsidizes them. The business skill set doesn’t seem to fit into “What Would Artaud Do?” They are focused on students building a performance skill set. I’ve actually heard some of these well-meaning professors say “If they want that information, they can take a course with the business school.”

There are two fundamental problems with that attitude. One, it treats this critical information as “other.” Art doesn’t mix with business. Which is just not the case. That’s simply xenophobic arrogance. When you come to terms with the fact that most MFA programs are mills churning out the future waitstaff of America, you may feel pangs of guilt instead of writing off how inherently important it is to choose the photo that pops for a show poster. Two, most business people speak in a foreign language that right-brain artists can’t translate. They walk away from a workshop on how to choose a business entity feeling stupider than when they walked in. The double bind is that those artists (who need the information desperately) end up writing it off out of frustration or (even worse) shame. Some just end up thinking “What’s the point?” and choose another career entirely.

It took almost two years from an initial conversation with a friend of mine who was in a PhD program in theatre to host me at her college to teach “Nuts and Bolts.” The pitch had to go through several committees and departments in order to move forward. Having her advocate for me was what made the difference. If she hadn’t been in the trenches speaking on my behalf, it wouldn’t have happened. Plus, it gave me one of my better (and somewhat disturbing) pull quotes: “I can honestly express that I learned more about creating a sustainable artistic business during Seth’s seven-hour workshop than I did during six years of graduate study.”

In order to be a successful (a word that I grapple with constantly) performing artist, you need to understand business fundamentals, and disseminating this information is crucial. How do you run a crowdfunding campaign that doesn’t make your friends block you on Facebook? How do you identify and brand (ugh… brand) your work? How do you really figure out who your audience is? How do you have a good working relationship with the press? Knowing these key aspects gives artists a leg up, not to mention more validity and credibility in a world that still views artists as quaint and a little off.

I’m always the first to point out that it’s important to figure out what you hate doing, what aspects being covered during the course make you nauseous, because it’s imperative that you figure a work-around for that. Do you need to outsource that work to someone else? Do you need to create a cognitive shift so that you can accomplish it without feeling like you’re going to die? Do you need a group of other artists to meet with on a regular basis to discuss how your business is coming along to keep you on track?

Most importantly what top three things do you need to focus on for the next two years?Making Your Life as an Artist (which every single one of you reading this should download immediately and read next) from Artist U got me thinking about how important this is. They do work similar to what I do in terms of education but have an even better infrastructure, which I hope to become a part of. Like any amazing resource, I was able to walk away with a new focus from reading this straightforward, pull-no-punches-account how to build a sustainable life as an artist because, hey, I’m still figuring it out just like you.

I don’t mess around with this course or the process of being a working artist. It’s ridiculously difficult, complicated, and discouraging. It’s also liberating, boundless, and phenomenally rewarding. I want students to know what they are getting themselves into and what it’s going to take to deal with the almost psychotic ups and downs of choosing this life.

We need to not be afraid of this skill set. We need to embrace our entrepreneurial mindset and understand how transferable our skills can be in our chosen field and through other means of livelihood. Educational institutions need to get on board by offering semester and year-long courses on the business of being a professional working artist. Service organizations need to work on grants in tandem to cross-pollinate best practices, resource and data sharing that can benefit the live arts as a whole. I need to collaborate with other artist educators to make all of the above a reality.

What do you need next in terms of your career and how are you going to make it happen?

Thanks, Seth Lepore and HowlRound.com for this great article!


Yale Ensemble Brings African-American Theater Exhibit to Life


Ensemble brings African-American theater exhibit to life

This weekend, the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library will become a theater stage for undergraduate performers who will pay tribute to a century’s worth of African-American theater.

In conjunction with the Beinecke’s “Casting Shadows: Integration on the American Stage” exhibition, which showcases a variety of works by notable 20th-century African-American playwrights, eight members of Yale’s Heritage Theater Ensemble will perform a series of monologues and scenes from the collection on Saturday afternoon. The library’s collection is amalgamation of playbills, written correspondence, photographs and other ephemera from a variety of the Beinecke’s archives. Andrew Williams ’16, a member of the ensemble, said the upcoming performance is inspired by pieces to which group members felt a personal connection.

“We picked the pieces that resonated with us and that we would also enjoy as actors,” Williams said.

The monologues include excerpts from Paul Green’s adaptation of Richard Wright’s “Native Son,” Langston Hughes’s “Don’t You Want to Be Free?” and “In the Red and Brown Water” by Tarell Alvin McCraney DRA ’07.

The works in the collection provide a glimpse into the earliest instances in which African-American roles in theater were played by black, rather than white, actors. Melissa Barton, the curator of drama and prose for the Yale Collection of American Literature at the Beinecke, said the featured monologues are all part of the collection currently on display, adding that the performance hopes to highlight often forgotten pieces of American theater.

“I hope that the exhibition demonstrates that there is much more to the history of African American theater than August Wilson and Lorraine Hansberry,” Barton wrote in an email.

Ashley Greaves ’16, who plays several roles in the showcase, said the pieces from the Beinecke collection highlight issues of race and ethnicity, specifically for African Americans in the United States. “In the Red and Brown Water,” for instance, tells the story of an African-American high school track star who faces several obstacles once her mother falls ill, Greaves explained.

Greaves said she hopes the performance will draw parallels between issues faced by African Americans in theater during the twentieth century as well as today. She noted that her characters face a variety of racial challenges that Yale students face daily, adding that the goal of the show will be to engage the community with these issues and challenge the audience to think about racial conflict in today’s society.

“I think especially when you come to the performance and see and hear what we’re talking about, you’ll say okay, that makes sense in today’s context, how some of these issues that were really big during the civil rights movements and of that era are coming back today in greater force,” Greaves said.

“Casting Shadows” will be on display at the Beinecke until April 18.


Wednesday, April 15, 2015

2 African Americans make history performing lead roles in Washington Ballet’s ‘Swan Lake’ | WJLA.com


Love this article from Washington (WJLA)) about the Washington Ballet selecting two African Americans as the leads in a performance of  “Swan Lake”at the Kennedy Center!!

Talent, hard work and dedication meet opportunity!!

Click below:

2 African Americans make history performing lead roles in Washington Ballet’s ‘Swan Lake’ | WJLA.com.

The Hattiloo Theatre in Memphis 2015-2016

Good article by Jon W. Sparks about Hattiloo Theatre. Here’s what’s coming up next season from local companies Hattiloo Theatre and Germantown Community Theatre:

June 24, 2014 – Ekundayo Bandele, Founder and Executive Director of the Hattiloo Theatre stands in front of their new building in Overton Square. (Mark Weber/The Commercial Appeal)

Hattiloo Theatre

The black repertory theater starts its richly varied 10th season with the dance musical “In the Heights,” a story of love, destiny and family that takes place in a Dominican neighborhood in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan. The 2008 Broadway production won four Tony Awards and a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.

“This shows we’re not just a black, but a black and brown repertory theater,” says Ekundayo Bandele, Hattiloo’s founder and executive artistic director. “We’re partnering with the young Hispanic company Cazateatro Bilingual Theater Group. It’s a way for them to expand their artistic capacity.”

Another collaboration is in place with Threepenny Theatre Company in the production of Chuck Smith’s “Free Man of Color.” It’s the story of a freed slave who is taken on by an abolitionist as a project to prove that African-Americans are capable of the same academic excellence as whites. But the project is complicated by the realities of race, culture, education and assimilation.

August Wilson confronts the issue of whether black culture and heritage can be preserved when integrated into mainstream white society in his powerful “Radio Golf.” This is the final installment in Wilson’s 10-part series, “The Pittsburgh Cycle,” which Hattiloo has been doing for several seasons, including the current production of “King Hedley II.”

A trilogy of plays by young playwright and actor Tarell Alvin McCraney will be performed throughout the season. The “Brother/Sister Series” was described by The New York Times as being “pumped full of a senses-heightening oxygen that leaves you tingling.” The plays are “In the Red and Brown Water,” “The Brothers Size” and “Marcus: Or the Secret of Sweet.”

“Hattiloo needs to do more cutting-edge work by black playwrights, like McCraney and Katori Hall,” Bandele says. “We want to make certain our community is in the know of what’s going on in the rest of the world.”

Hattiloo also brings back the Christmas-themed “If Scrooge Was a Brother,” written by Bandele. The play has been staged for years, but last year, it underwent a considerable rewrite to more closely examine the vile neighborhood exploiter Eb Scroo.

The musical “Schoolhouse Rock Live!” follows schoolteacher Tom, who needs to find a way to win over his students with music.

Closing the season is “The Wiz,” the African-American musical version of “The Wizard of Oz” with Dorothy easing on down the road with Toto and their three remarkable companions. This is the 40th anniversary of the popular show.

Various subscription packages are available: The Flex plan ($140) provides eight tickets in any combination; the Ultimate plan ($128) has eight tickets for different productions; and a Preview plan ($80) admits theatergoers to previews of the shows. Contact 901-525-0009 or hattilootheatre.org for details.

Germantown Community Theatre

GCT is programming a mix of entertainment, from Tennessee Williams and Neil Simon to musicals about Johnny Cash and con artists.

Opening the season this summer is the classic “Inherit the Wind” with a cast of young actors in the All Children’s Theatre Program.

In September, the Neil Simon farce “Rumors” offers up a dinner party with affairs, politicians, gunfire and overall pandemonium. When the play opened in 1988, the New York Post’s Clive Barnes said it was “light, frothy and fun. It is as significant as a cream puff and just about as nourishing. But beautifully baked and cunningly filled.”

“Ring of Fire” tells Johnny Cash’s story with plenty of tunes, including “Country Boy,” “A Thing Called Love,” “Five Feet High and Rising,” “Daddy Sang Bass,” “Ring of Fire,” “I Walk the Line” and “I’ve Been Everywhere.”

The play about a radio play about a beloved Christmas story is on stage with “Miracle on 34th Street: A Live Radio Play.” The 1940s-style presentation has fun with sound effects and old-time radio shenanigans while asking if Kris Kringle could possibly be real.

The popular and sentimental “Love Letters” by A.R. Gurney tells of a 50-year love affair through correspondence, with Andy and Melissa reading to each other in this Valentine’s holiday production.

The musical comedy “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” is based on the hit movie with Steve Martin and Michael Caine as a couple of con men who have a bet as to who can first swindle $50,000 from an unsuspecting woman.

Tennessee Williams’ classic “A Streetcar Named Desire” is the powerful story of disintegrating Blanche, her sister Stella and the brutish Stanley in New Orleans’ French Quarter.

An ambitious actor gets a dream role — that of Hamlet in Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.” But he hates Hamlet. So Paul is visited by the ghost of John Barrymore to help him decide in the comedy “I Hate Hamlet.”

Closing out the GCT season is another youth theater production, “Disney’s My Son Pinocchio Jr.”

Memberships for the season range from $60 to $200; they’re available at 901-937-3023.

2015-2016 Seasons

Hattiloo Theatre

Aug. 13-Sept. 6: “In the Heights”
Sept. 10-27: “Radio Golf”
Oct. 1-25: “In the Red and Brown Water”
Nov. 27-Dec. 20: “If Scrooge Was a Brother”
Jan. 7-Feb. 7, 2016: “The Brothers Size”
March 3-April 3: “Free Man of Color”
April 15-24: “Schoolhouse Rock Live!”
April 14-May 8: “Marcus: Or the Secret of Sweet”
June 2-26: “The Wiz”
Info: 901-525-0009 and hattilootheatre.org

Germantown Community Theatre
July 31-Aug. 9: “Inherit the Wind” (Children’s Theatre)
Sept. 11-27: “Rumors”
Oct. 23-Nov. 8: “Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash”
Dec. 4-20: “Miracle on 34th Street: A Live Radio Play”
Jan. 29-Feb. 14, 2016: “Love Letters”
March 11-26: “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels”
April 15-May 1: “A Streetcar Named Desire”
May 20-June 5: “I Hate Hamlet”
June 24-July 3: “Disney’s My Son Pinocchio Jr.” (Children’s Theatre)
Info: 901-937-3023 and gctcomeplay.org

Copyright 2015 Journal Media Group. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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Regina Taylor Celebrates 20th Anniversary at Goodman Theatre

Regina Taylor to Celebrate 20th Anniversary at Goodman Theatre with STOP. RESET.

Read a great article in Broadway World (BWW News Desk) about the phenomenal actor, Regina Taylor and her 20 year relationship with the Goodman Theatre. You may remember her for the play ‘Crowns’ but her career encompasses so much more!! Click the link below to read the entire article.

Regina Taylor to Celebrate 20th Anniversary at Goodman Theatre with STOP. RESET.

April 6 1:52 PM2015
“Uniquely gifted, fearless and boundlessly curious, there is no other artist with the vision, scope and perspective ofRegina Taylor,” said Artistic Director Robert Falls, who invited Taylor to join the Collective in 1995 following the premiere of her original work The Ties that Bind. “Regina has made invaluable contributions as a member of our Artistic Collective with eloquent, provocative works that explore tradition and probe the depths of the human experience. I am grateful Regina has chosen to spend her life in the theater with the Goodman, and I am excited to continue our collaboration with stop. reset.”In stop. reset., e-books and digital technologies are transforming the literary world, and Chicago businessman Alex Ames (Eugene Lee) must try to save his long-standing African American book publishing company from extinction. While his employees Jan (Jacqueline Williams), Chris (Eric Lynch), Deb (Lisa Tejero) and Tim (Tim Decker) fret over losing their jobs, Ames finds unlikely inspiration from a mysterious teenager, J. (Edgar Sanchez), who seems to be plugged into the future. The aging Ames is forced to discover how far he’s willing to go to survive.Taylor is innovative and provocative in how she emphasizes the ways in which theater unites communities through a curated series of collaborations and live events-dinner conversations, symposia and artist presentations-around the themes of the play. The content generated will appear on a special microsite giving audiences the opportunity to engage with the play prior to attending, while they are at the theater, and post-show.

Regina Taylor‘s Work at Goodman Theatre and Beyond

1993/1994 – The Ties that Bind: Watermelon Rinds/Inside the Belly of the Beast (Playwright; Goodman Studio)
1995/1996 – Escape from Paradise (Playwright/Performer; Goodman Studio)
1996/1997 – Transformations (Curator/Co-director; Goodman Studio)
1998/1999 – Oo-Bla-Dee (Playwright) (American Critics Association Award)
1999/2000 – Millennium Mambo (Curator/Co-writer/Performer; Goodman Studio)
2001/2002 – Drowning Crow (Playwright; Albert Theatre and on Broadway)
2003/2004 – Crowns (Playwright/Director; Albert Theatre) (Helen Hayes Award)
2005/2006 – The Dreams of Sarah Breedlove (Playwright/Director; Albert Theatre)
2008/2009 – Magnolia (Playwright; Albert Theatre)
2010/2011 – The Trinity River Plays (Playwright; Albert Theatre) (Edgerton Foundation Award)
2011/2012 -Crowns (Playwright/Director; Albert Theatre)
2014/2015 – stop. Reset. (Playwright/Director; Owen Theatre)

stop. reset. made its world premiere in 2013 at Signature Theatre Company in New York, where Taylor is a Residency Five playwright. Her film credits include The Negotiator, Courage Under Fire, A Family Thing, The Keeper, Clockers, Losing Isaiah and Lean on Me. She appeared in the CBS hit drama The Unit, for which she won a NAACP Image Award. Taylor has also received a Hope Abelson Artist-in-Residence Award, 2012 Chicagoan of the Year from Chicago magazine and an Oscar Micheaux Award.

Yale Dance Theater celebrates Alvin Ailey

Yale Dance Theater celebrates pioneer choreographer Alvin Ailey

By Amy Athey McDonald
April 6, 2015

Matthew Rushing of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, shown here in rehearsal with the Yale Dance Theater, created a new work for the troupe. (Photo by Michael Marsland)
“When you say Alvin Ailey to a room full of 18-year-olds, their eyes light up,” says Emily Coates ’06, ’11 GRD, a lecturer in the Theater Studies Program, director of the dance studies curriculum, and faculty director of Yale Dance Theater (YDT). “Even if they know nothing about dance, many people know Ailey.”

The legacy and work of Ailey, a pioneering African-American choreographer and dance activist, has been the focus of YDT’s 2015 project — “Inheriting Ailey: Featuring a New Work by Matthew Rushing” — which will culminate in two performances comprising a new commissioned piece by Rushing, a featured dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (AAADT), and an excerpt from an early Ailey ballet, “Blues Suite” (1958), staged by Renee Robinson, another celebrated AAADT dancer.

The performances, which are free and open to the public, will take place Saturday, April 11 at 2 and 5 p.m. at the Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School, 177 College St. Reservations are preferred and can be made through the Yale Drama Coalition’s website.

“Inheriting Ailey” is the fifth project for YDT, which began in 2011 and currently features an ensemble of 15 student dancers. Past projects have focused on the work of Twyla Tharp, Merce Cunningham, Reggie Wilson, Akram Khan, and Trisha Brown. This year, Coates wanted to commission an entirely new work.

“YDT has mainly focused on reconstructing historical works. Students who have done multiple projects have an incredible array of dance histories in their muscle memory,” she said. “It felt important at this moment to give the dancers the chance to have a piece made just for them. I also wanted very much to turn YDT’s attention to the history of African-American concert dance. I thought of Matthew Rushing because through his choreography, he is transforming and carrying forward the Ailey legacy.”

Forming his company in the late 1950s, Ailey promoted African-American cultural forms while simultaneously embracing multiculturalism. He featured diverse training and repertory, including Caribbean and African dance, ballet, Graham technique, jazz and tap, and Horton technique. Just as Ailey looked both to the past and the future in dance, the YDT’s production looks backward and forward at once.

“We have two of the most impactful Ailey dancers of the last 30 years on campus working with the students,” said Coates. “Matthew and Renee have absolute respect for the students as artists. They are incredibly generous teachers and mentors, able to draw out each dancer’s strengths.”

Students spend six hours each week in intensive rehearsals. In addition, YDT features a writing component that asks each of the dancers to contribute to a blog. Their writings eventually become part of a printed publication, “The Yale Dance Theater Journal,” edited by a small team of YDT members. This month, YDT will release its second journal issue, on the choreography of Trisha Brown. The third issue will spotlight the “Inheriting Ailey” project.

Renee Robinson of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater choreographed an early Ailey ballet, “Blues Suite,” for the Yale Dance Theater. (Photo by Michael Marsland)Renee Robinson of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater choreographed an early Ailey ballet, “Blues Suite,” for the Yale Dance Theater. (Photo by Michael Marsland)

The dance studies curriculum also supported courses that helped to historicize this year’s project. This semester Coates is teaching a course on the history of dance, and visiting professor Constance Valis Hill is teaching “Dance and Black Popular Culture: Stomping the Blues,” which considers Ailey’s work through the lens of music.

Coates stressed the multidisciplinary reach of dance. In February, YDT hosted a symposium at the Afro-American Cultural Center, which included YDT dancers, Robinson, Rushing, Valis Hill, and Yale faculty speakers from a variety of disciplines, comprising political and cultural historians, music and dance scholars, and artists. Among the participants were Elizabeth Alexander, Daphne Brooks, Jonathan Holloway, and Matthew Jacobson.

“It was a rock star line-up,” said Coates, noting that two of the panelists shared firsthand memories of Ailey’s company. Holloway, dean of Yale College and the Edmund S. Morgan Professor of African American Studies, History, and American Studies, went to see Ailey’s work at the Kennedy Center as a child. Alexander, the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry, and professor of African American studies and American studies, had studied dance seriously.

As for the April 11 performance, Coates sees it as an opportunity to celebrate an important aesthetic legacy of American history.

“It’s always been a goal of YDT to educate the public about the complex history of dance,” she said. “Ailey’s incredible legacy is one that we all inherit and have a responsibility to carry forward into the next century.”

She noted that the student dancers’ multifaceted understanding of the work and their development, mastery, and engagement as dance artists will also be on display on April 11.

“We’re gathering to celebrate the students’ work and growth as artists,” she added, “as well as dance as a cultural, political, and social force in our society.”

YDT’s spring 2015 project is sponsored by the dance studies curriculum, the Theater Studies Program, and Alliance for Dance at Yale, and funded by the Arts Discretionary Fund in Yale College, with additional support from Vera Wells, Joan Winant, and Paula Armbruster. This spring Coates worked with student coordinators Naomi Roselaar ’17, Holly Taylor ’17, and Karlanna Lewis, a graduate student at Yale Law School and the School of Management.

A photography exhibition at Yale’s Pierson College features images of all five YDT projects.