Parkside Court Auditorium
Music & Lyrics by ANDRE CATRINI
Book by DOUGLAS LYONS
- AARON ALBANO
- JODI BLUESTEIN
- MICHAEL BURRELL
- KEVIN CURTIS
- LAURA GIRARD
- LAURA HODOS
- JACOB HOFFMAN
- JORIE JANEWAY
- TRACI ELAINE LEE
- DAVID MERTEN
- MIKE SCHWITTER
- CHRISTINE CORNISH SMITH
- SHARROD WILLIAMS
- CARLYN CONNOLLY
- JELANI ALLADIN
- VISHAL VAIDYA
- Scenic Design
- Ann Beyersdorfer
- Costume Design
- Fabian Fidel Aguilar
- Lighting Design
- Jamie Roderick
- Sound Design
- Kevin Heard
- Andrew Nielson
- Kate Lumpkin Casting
- General Management
- EBP Productions
- Production Stage Manager
- Laura Malseed
- Music Supervisor
- Andrew Nielson
Melissa Rain Anderson
(in alphabetical order)
William, u/s M. Maboul
Marie-Laure, u/s Aurélie
Tracie Elaine Lee
Christine Cornish Smith
Coquin/Perruche, u/s Chance
1944, Occupied France
- "Rebellion, Revolution, Paradox" – Full Company
- "The Circle’s End" – Aurélie
- "Almost Real" – Chance
- "Curiosity" – Aurélie
- "Long Story Short" – William, Perruche, Hérissonne & Aurélie
- "Fantasia" – Chance & Full Company
- "The Other Side" – Chenille
- "Beyond the Sky" – Aurélie & Colombe
- "Visions" – Delphine, Stéphane, & Aurélie
- 'Where You Want to Go" – Marie-Laure
- "A Table for Three" – M. Maboul, Mars, & Dorian
- "Roses In Bloom" – Full Company
- "What A Pity" – Chance
- "Laughter Through Tears" – Mme. Tortue
- "Will You, Won’t You?" – Gryphon, Mme. Tortue, & Aurélie
- "Nostalgic Echo" – Marie-Laure
- "The Accusation" – Chance, Geneviève, Napoléon & Coquin
- "A Table for Three (Reprise)" – M. Maboul, Mars & Dorian
- "Nothing Whatever" – Full Company
- "Expression More Profound" – Aurélie & Full Company
- "To See You Again" – Aurélie & Delphine
Board of Trustees
Director of Marketing
Meet the Cast
Most recently starred as Hercules in Public Work’s Musical Adaptation of Disney’s Hercules. He made his Broadway Debut in Frozen the Musical as Kristoff, which earned him a Drama Desk nomination for Best Leading Actor and a Drama League nomination for Distinguished Performance. Graduate of the inaugural class of Tisch School of the Arts' New Studio on Broadway and A Better Chance alumnus. His television credits include “The Walking Dead: The World Beyond” (AMC), “FBI” (CBS), “Law and Order: SVU” (NBC). His film credits include Respect (MGM), Tick Tick Boom (Netflix) and the independent film One Hit Wonder.
Carlyn Connolly is thrilled to be making her Parkside Court debut. Regional credits include Cabaret (Fräulein Kost), Honky Tonk Laundry (Lana Mae Hopkins), An American In Paris (Milo Davenport), White Christmas(Betty Haynes), Hello, Dolly! (Irene Malloy), The Music Man (Ethel Toffelmeier, u/s Marian Paroo), and Mary Poppins (Katie Nanna, u/s Mrs. Banks). Carlyn has performed as a soloist with orchestras in the US, Canada, and across Asia, and is also a founding member of Always Andrews: A Tribute to the Andrews Sisters. Endless gratitude to Melissa for this incredible and deeply meaningful opportunity, and to Mom, Dad, Devin, and Melissa for their immeasurable love and support.
Vishal Vaidya is a performer and voice teacher based in NYC. He made his Broadway debut as Larry the cameraman in Groundhog Day. Other credits include DAVE (Arena Stage), Road Show and 1776 (City Center), and the new musicals Mandela, Half the Sky, MAYA, and Letters to the President. Vishal has a robust private voice studio and has taught for Point Parkc University, Indiana University, CAP21, and more. As a singer, he’s sung the National Anthem for President Barack Obama, performed for Justice Ginsburg, and appears on the albums Losing My Mind: A Sondheim Disco Fever Dream, Einstein’s Dreams (Off-Broadway Cast Recording), and Charlie Rosen’s Come Hang.
Meet the Cast
A large part of In The Heights is our intergenerational stories. The cast is dedicating this production to those who made them who they are, and they would like to say, "Thank you for everything I know."
Aaron Albano hails originally from the West Coast where he began performing professionally at the age of 15 in San Jose, CA. After attending the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music (CCM), majoring in musical theatre, he made his Broadway debut in the original company of Bombay Dreams. Since then, Aaron has performed in such Broadway shows as Wicked, A Chorus Line, Mary Poppins, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee (where he closed the production as Chip Tolentino), The King and I, Allegiance, Cats, and most notably, as Finch in the original Broadway company of Newsies. Aaron can currently be seen as Samuel Seabury (and on rare occasion King George III) on the national tour of Hamilton.
Thrilled to be part of this production. Favorite NY/Regional credits: Parade (u/s Lucille,The REV Theatre Co.), South Pacific (The REV Theatre Co), LaChiusa’s The Wild Party (Mae, B-side Productions) Urinetown (Little Becky, The Secret Theatre), Oliver! (Nancy, Jenny Wiley Theatre), CATS, (Grizabella, Pentangle Arts), Joseph…Dreamcoat (Narrator, Sugarloaf PAC), From Here To Eternity (Ogunquit Playhouse) Annie (Lily, CFRT) Matilda (Mrs. Wormwood, TWN). Jodi has also toured as a featured vocalist in Japan with Disney On Classic, led by the Tokyo Philarmonic, and has sung with orchestras in Singapore, Taipei, and El Salvador. Endless gratitude to those who have taught and supported her along the way.
Tours: An American In Paris (Henri/International Tour). Regional: Disney’s Beauty & the Beast (Beast/Theatre Under the Stars), Hair (Claude/Geva Theatre), Meet Me In St. Louis (Warren/The Muny), Amazing Grace (John Newton/Washington, D.C.). Proud Texas State BFA Musical Theater grad (Eat ‘Em Up, Cats!). Endless love and gratitude to my family, my teachers, CGF, and the incredible cast and creative team.
Carlyn Connolly has had the pleasure of singing Andre Catrini’s beautiful music for over a decade. However, even after learning more than 50 of his compositions, she could not have dreamed of a privilege so incredible as collaborating on Thursdays at 4:15. Andre has crafted something so articulate, evocative, and timely, and sharing it with you today is not only a great joy, but a great honor. Carlyn would like to express her endless gratitude to her dear friend for this unparalleled opportunity–to say that this process has been a gift would be the understatement of a lifetime.
Broadway: Moulin Rouge. B’way National Tour: A Chorus Line. Off-Broadway: Invisible Thread (Second Stage). Regional: Paper Mill Playhouse, The MUNY, Steppenwolf Theatre Co., ART, Denver Center, Geva Theatre, Dallas Theatre Center, PCLO, North Shore Music Theatre, TUTS, Stages St. Louis and many more. TV: Pose (FX), Younger (TVLand), The Other Two (HBO Max), Side Hustle (Nickelodeon). Film: Loulou, Take Care, Newlyweeds. Training: Baltimore School for the Arts, AMDA.
Laura Girard is a proud graduate of the Ball State University BFA Musical Theatre program. She was recently seen dancing at Nationwide Arena with the Tom Sartori Band, and in Lippa's The Wild Party in collaboration with the Yale School of Music. She currently lives in New York with her boyfriend and her cat.
Laura Hodos (AEA) is a multi-award winning singer, actor, improv artist, and cabarista .As a NYC native who now makes her home in Orlando, Laura has performed from Maine to Florida to Los Angeles to Tokyo! She’s been a soloist with the Orlando Philharmonic, the Jacksonville Symphony, the Sarasota Orchestra, and the Klezmer Company Jazz Orchestra, and is delighted to have shared the stage with Tituss Burgess, Laura Osnes, Jeremy Jordan, Faith Prince, Davis Gaines, Andrea McArdle, Jason Robert Brown, and Donna Murphy (to name a few of her idols!). Her voiceover work is familiar to ears throughout the years for the Walt Disney World Resort. She’s a fierce amateur baker, an aspiring photographer, mom to three cats, a Dickinson College and AMDA grad, and a proud member of Actors’ Equity.
Jacob Hoffman • Actor, Singer, Writer, Teacher • NY/Off-Broadway: Howard Crabtree’s When Pigs Fly (The Actors Fund), I’ll Be Damned (The Vineyard Theatre), Bless You All! (Connelly Theatre), Scary Musical: The Musical (York Theatre), Jacob Hoffman's Kindergarten Thanksgiving Spectacular (The Green Room 42). Select Regional: Geva Theatre Center, Arkansas Rep., ACT of Connecticut, Pioneer Theatre Co., Utah Shakespearean Festival, Bay Street Theatre, Florida Studio Theatre, Arkansas Rep., and Porchlight Music Theatre. Proud AEA member.
Jorie Janeway is a musical theatre performer with a heart for teaching. As a performer, Jorie has worked in regional houses, done national/international tours, performed overseas, and on cruise ships. As a teacher, Jorie has had the opportunity to instruct, choreograph, and direct kids and adults of all ages. Most recently, Jorie became the founder of Jorieography, a theatre training program designed to bring triple threat workshops to students wherever they are. Favorite credits include: Female Authority Figure (Hairspray National Tour and Royal Caribbean), Chaperone (The Drowsy Chaperone), Maggie Jones (42nd Street), Ensemble (Sister Act), Fairy Godmother (Shrek), Mistress Quickly (The Merry Wives of Windsor).
Tracie Elaine Lee
Off-Broadway: Safeword. First National tour: Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Uptown). Select Regional: Dreamgirls (Michelle), Fortress of Solitude (Marilla), Les Miserables (Eponine), Cabaret (Texas), Stagger Lee. Many thanks to Avalon Artists Group & Kate Lumpkin Casting. Endless love to God, Dad, Mom, Janelle & Bop.
David Merten just completed his first year as an MFA Acting student at Brown University/Trinity Rep. He made his New York Off-Broadway debut with a seven-month run of the hit play Afterglow at The Davenport Theatre. Other New York/regional credits include Sons of the Prophet, The Two Gentlemen Of Verona, And Then There Were None, and the Williamstown Theatre Festival Acting Apprentice program. Catch him in the popular fiction podcasts Gay Future and Meet Cute on iTunes, as well as the web series Queen's English, streaming online now. He is a proud graduate of Ball State University's BFA Acting program as well as a proud member of AEA.
Mike Schwitter just finished traveling for two years with the national tour of Les Misérables (covering Marius and Enjolras.) Broadway: Pippin (Lewis, u/s Pippin). National Tour: The Book of Mormon (Swing, u/s Elder Price). Regional: Next to Normal (Regional Premier and elsewhere; Gabe), Jesus Christ Superstar, Love Changes Everything, Chamberlain. Other favorites include HAIR, Urinetown, and Anything Goes. Mike has also performed with dozens of symphonies across the country in shows such as Cirque Musica, "The Spy Who Loved Me" with Sheena Easton, and West Side Story at the Hollywood Bowl with the LA Philharmonic, conducted by Gustavo Dudamel. Mike holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from the College-Conservatory of Music (CCM) and currently resides in New York City.
Christine Cornish Smith
Christine Cornish Smith was most recently seen on Broadway in the Original Revival Cast of Kiss Me, Kate!, where she was a featured dancer in the ensemble and covered Lois Lane/Bianca. Christine is most well known for her portrayal of Bombalurina in the OBC revival of CATS, where she was nominated for a 2017 Chita Rivera Award for Best female performance in a Broadway Musical. She was also seen in the OBC of My Fair Lady in 2018 at Lincoln Center. A cum laude graduate of the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, other credits include: Laurey Williams in Susan Stroman’s Oklahoma! at the MUNY, Sheila Bryant in A Chorus Line at the Riverside Theater, original revival tour of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat helmed by Andy Blankenbuehler, and more. She has also performed as a principal vocalist with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic, the Phoenix Symphony, and the Niagara Symphony Orchestra, as well as was a finalist in Kurt Weill’s Lotte Lenya Vocal Competition in 2014. She appeared in the 25th Anniversary Concert performance of Crazy For You at Lincoln Center and has also appeared on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight” with John Oliver, “Good Morning, America”, “The Today Show”, “The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade”, and “The Tony Awards". Christine is a teacher for Steps on Broadway, Broadway Dance Center, CLI studios, Institute of American Musical Theater, Broadway Workshop, Broadway On Demand, Broadway Classroom, among other programs. She has been featured on Playbill.com, Broadway.com, Inside Dance Magazine, and BroadwayBox as one of the "Incredible Debuts" of the 2016 Broadway season. Catch Christine on the upcoming season of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” on Amazon Prime Video coming fall 2021!
Broadway: OBC CATS (Pouncival), Tuck Everlasting. Off-Broadway: Grand Hotel (Encores!). Tours: Hamilton (Chicago), A Chorus Line (Richie), Bring It On: The Musical (La Cienega). Regional: Kennedy Center, TUTS, MUNY, Asolo Rep. Dance Companies: The Chase Brock Experience, Life Dance Company, and the Von Howard Project. Film: Happy, Yummy, Chicken. TV: Under The Influence, Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade, GMA, Today Show. Executive Producer, writer, and star of the award-winning web series, NEIGHBORS - now available to stream on YouTube. Sharrod is the CEO of multi-media company, Cocoa Dusted Productions - dedicated to telling stories by queer folx and people of color. “Keep Going”.
Meet the Team
Andre is a composer/lyricist based out of New York City. His musical, The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit (Book by Allan Knee) had its world premiere at the Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester, England in 2019.
Other works include: A Problem with the Pattersons (Book by Laura Zlatos), The Wolf (Book by Joe Calarco), Thursdays at 4:15, Other Women and Whisper, Love.
Awards include: 2014 ASCAP Foundation Cole Porter Award, given “in recognition for his outstanding talent as a musical theatre composer and lyricist,” as well as a 2015 New Voices Project Merit Award.
Andre is a member of ASCAP, an alumnus of the ASCAP Johnny Mercer Songwriter’s Workshop, a current member of the BMI-Lehman Engel Advanced Musical Theatre Workshop, and a graduate of the College Conservatory of Music at the University of Cincinnati.
Douglas Lyons is an actor, writer, director, composer, and playwright. Writing - TV: Fraggle Rock (Apple TV). Theater: Polkadots (Off Broadway Alliance Winner Best Family Show, Atlantic Theater Company), Chicken and Biscuits (Queens Theatre), Sunshine (Long Wharf Theatre), Pete(Her)Pan (Pace New Musicals), Five Points(world premiere Theater Latte Da), now directed by Hamilton's Andy Blankenbuehler, Fatigue with Jodi Piccoult, We The People (TheatreworksUSA), The Hamlet Remix and Sunflower ( Flint Rep). Acting - Broadway: Beautiful (Original Cast) and The Book of Mormon. Tours: Rent, Dreamgirls and The Book of Mormon 1st National. Douglas is also the founder of The Next Wave Initiative, a scholarship program dedicated to supporting the future of Black Theater artists.
Melissa Rain Anderson
Melissa Rain Anderson (Director) Regional Premier of The Play that Goes Wrong and The Wolves at The Repertory Theater of St. Louis; A Christmas Carol at Denver Center Theater Company (several years); Macbeth, Big River and The Cocoanuts at Utah Shakespeare Festival; The Wolves at Syracuse Stage and All is Calm- The Christmas Truce of 1914 at Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Melissa is an Affiliate Artist at Geva Theatre Center where she has directed In the Heights, HAIR, La Cage Aux Folles, A Funny Thing…Forum, Spamalot, Spelling Bee among others. Upcoming: RII at Santa Cruz Shakespeare. Melissa lives in New York City with her husband, actor Jim Poulos.
Julie is an NYC based artist and educator. Most recently Julie was seen on the First National Tour of Hello,Dolly! Other favorite credits include: The First National Tour of La Cage Aux Folles; Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls, Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors, (Theatre Aspen); Dyanne in Million Dollar Quartet (Florida Repertory Theatre); Lila Dixon in Holiday Inn (Fingerlakes Musical Theatre), Janet in The Drowsy Chaperone (The Cape Playhouse), Peggy Sawyer in 42nd Street (Weston Playhouse, Forestburgh Playhouse, Fingerlakes Musical Theatre); Miss Dorothy in Thoroughly Modern Millie (Ogunquit Playhouse); and Katherine in Newsies (Arts Center of Coastal Carolina). Julie serves as the Artistic Director for Broadway Method Academy in Fairfield, CT where favorite choreography credits include The Music Man, High School Musical Jr., Legally Blonde Jr, and Broadway Sings! Proud CCM Grad.
Design Credits: KNEAD (The Alliance Theatre, world premiere), AFTERGLOW, and MY NAME'S NOT INDIAN JOE (Davenport Theater, off-broadway), A REAL BOY (59E59, Off-Broadway), JONAH AND OTTO, and TRIAL OF AN AMERICAN PRESIDENT (Theatre Row, Off-Broadway),THE NIGHT ALIVE (Guild Hall, NY), THE DODGERS (Hudson Theater, LA). Associate Design Credits: JITNEY (Broadway-Tony Award Nom. for Set Design), PHISH NYE CONCERT ’16/’17 (Madison Square Garden), THE CHILDREN (Broadway), INK (Broadway), ANASTASIA (First National Tour + EU Productions) & SAMSON ET DALILA (The Metropolitan Opera). Ann is a Live Design/LDI 30 Under 30 recipient for working professionals that are on the rise in live production, a New York Innovative Theater Award 2x Nominee for Best Set Design, and a United Solo Festival Award Winner for Best Set Design. Syracuse University Alumna & proud member of USA 829.
Off-Broadway: Accidentally Brave (DR2), We Are The Tigers (Theatre80), Midnight at the Never Get (York Theatre) Red Roses, Green Gold (Minetta Lane), The Woodsman (New World Stages, PBS), Afterglow, A Dog Story, Ken Davenport's That Bachelorette Show. London: It Happened in Key West. Regional: The Bikinis! (Long Wharf Theatre, Riverside Theatre, WBT), Romeo & Juliet (CSC) Midsummer, Macbeth, Hamlet (SOS). Recent credits include: Kerrigan and Lowdermilk's The Bad Years, FMK, More Than All The World.
Kevin Heard is a sound designer and entertainment producer based in New York City. His theatrical sound design work has been heard Off-Broadway: Einstein’s Dreams, safeword., #DateMe, The Hello Girls, Midnight at The Never Get, In & Of Itself; on Broadway (as Associate Designer): The Minutes, All the Way, The Cherry Orchard, The Country House; and the International Premieres of Fun Home, Kinky Boots, and Matilda in Manila, Philippines; also, dozens of regional productions from coast to coast. Kevin is an independent producer and general manager who works frequently with BenDeLaCreme Presents, among others, and recently produced his first feature film with The Jinkx and DeLa Holiday Special, now streaming on Hulu.
Kate Lumpkin Casting
New York Theatre: OSCAR @ The Crown, We Are Here (dir. Steven Hoggett), Medusa, We Are The Tigers, Safeword, Afterglow, Cleopatra, The Bad Years, Eco Village, A Complicated Woman, Boarders, Between The Bars,Unraveled, Letters to the President, Reunion '69, Single Rider, Diaspora, The Other Side of Paradise, Counting Sheep, Sitting Bull's Last Waltz, The Excavation of Mary Anning, Agent 355, Emma: A New Musical, Love In Hate Nation, Five Points, Hart Island, Eastbound, Interstate, Honey Dipped Apocalypse Girls, Fefu and Her Friends. National Tour: Bandstand (1st National Tour). Regional Theatre: Endlings at American Repertory Theater & NYTW, West Side Story at The Kennedy Center, On The Town at The Kennedy Center, Beau at The Adirondack Theatre Festival, Evocation to Visible Appearance at Actors Theatre of Louisville, We Are Here at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Opium at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas , A Christmas Carol 18', 19' at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Reunion '69 & Reunion '85 at the Newman Center.
Andrew is a writer, cellist, and actor based in NYC. CONCERTS: Alan Cumming, Brian Stokes Mitchell, Kate Baldwin, Disney's Into the Woods, and many more. PIT ORCHESTRAS: A Little Night Music, Into the Woods, Baby, Floyd Collins, The Light in the Piazza, Jane Eyre, The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit, Clicquot. RECORDINGS: The Way to the Lighthouse, We the Nighthawks, Only Boyfriend (Brendan Maclean and Lance Horne), The Astonishing Times of Timothy Cratchit, and numerous collaborations with the sensational musicians behind Apartment Sessions. ACTOR: The Fulton Theatre, Virginia Repertory Theatre, Theatre Raleigh, Marvell Repertory Theatre, Firebone Theatre. WRITER: Plant: The Second Coming (Nashville Film Festival, Indie Series Awards), In the Desert Footlights (Sundance New Voices Lab and Orchard Project Finalist).
Stage Management Credits include Midnight at the Never Get (York Theatre Company), Paradise Lost (Fellowship for the Performing Arts), Afterglow (Davenport Theatre), Othello: The Remix (Westside Theatre), Cagney the Musical (Westside Theatre), and Drunk Shakespeare. Film/TV PA Credits: Law & Order: SVU, TED Talks. Graduate of Pace University. Member of AEA.
Evan Bernardin Productions
EBP is a general management firm specializing in consulting and management for theatrical productions. Touring: Million Dollar Quartet, Charlie Brown Christmas, Counting Sheep (International Tour) Select Off-Broadway: We Are The Tigers, Eco-Village, Afterglow, Diaspora, Must. Other: The Bikinis, The Dodgers (LA), The Navigator (NYT Critics Pick). EBP has worked with Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS (BCEFA), New York Musical Festival (NYMF), Fringe (NY & LA); collaborative projects include performances at Lincoln Center, The United Nations, The Havard Club, Cornell University, Georgetown’s Gaston Hall, The Culture Project, The Ohio Theater and The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Chisholm Designs is a New York-based Web Development company, specializing in the curation of a strong and effective digital presence for individual artists to Fortune 500 companies. Clients range from Broadway performers, National tours, non-profits, award-winning orchestras, internationally acclaimed doctors, production houses, and more.
Marquee Digital is a New York-based tech startup innovating the theatre industry with ground-breaking digital program solutions. The Marquee is a paperless program for the 21st century, employing contactless, eco-friendly, and ADA-compliant technology to create an interactive and highly intuitive experience for audiences at the theatre, opera, art fairs, conferences, and concerts. In the company’s first year, Marquees have been opened in venues across the United States and in more than 80 countries around the globe.
Pre-Show Snack or
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Grab a Bite
American | 1635 Amsterdam Ave
Gastropub with a farm-to-table menu. Microbrews, craft cocktails & area-sourced comfort fare served in a roomy, rustic-chic space.
American | 3431 Broadway
Burgers, pasta & other Italian & American eats served in a snug bistro with a neighborhood vibe.
Oyster Bar | 3452 Broadway
Japanese option for several varieties of ramen, plus snacks, a raw bar & sophisticated cocktails.
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Cozy pub offering a huge selection of craft beers on tap, plus spirits & cocktails.
Mexican | 1618 Amsterdam Ave
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Raise a Glass
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While You Wait
With the help of our friends at Theatrely.com, Marquee Digital has you covered with exclusive content while you wait for the curtain to rise.
How Black Women-Led Outdoor Productions of Shakespeare Took NYC by Storm This Summer
Summer in New York City means the return of outdoor theatre. This year, audiences can see two outdoor Shakespeare productions led by Black women—a rare if not historically absent trend on the stage.
The first to premiere is the Public Theatre’s production of Richard III, led by actress-playwright Danai Gurira (of Black Panther fame). It’s part of the Public’s annual “Free Shakespeare in the Park” series at The Delacorte Theatre in Central Park, and Richard III is running through July 21.
The second Bard show to premiere is the Classical Theatre of Harlem’s production of Twelfth Night, led by actress Kara Young (a recent Tony nominee for Clyde’s). It’s part of Classical Theatre of Harlem’s own tradition of presenting classical works at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater at Marcus Garvey Park, and Twelfth Night is running through July 29.
The directors of these productions, Robert O’Hara for Richard III and Carl Cofield for Twelfth Night, both started at the Columbia University School of the Arts, and have gone onto successful careers in both theatre and academia. O’Hara is the playwright of works such as Insurrection: Holding History, Bootycandy, and Barbecue, and is a recent Tony nominee for his direction of Broadway’s Slave Play. Cofield is the chair of the NYU Grad Acting program, as well as the associate artistic director of the Classical Theatre of Harlem.
Theatrely spoke to both auteurs over Zoom about directing Black productions of Shakespeare, the special resonance of the Bard’s words as spoken by Black actors, and the unique opportunities presented by outdoor theatre.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How did you get involved in your production, and what drew you to directing your show?
Carl Cofield: When we did season planning, we definitely wanted to introduce the Harlem community to something joyous, something fun. I think everybody coming out of COVIDcould use a little fun. For us, Twelfth Night was something that we thought could speak to the community, engage the community on many different levels, and just bring us back, hopefully to enjoy a moment of theatre together and really celebrate Harlem.
Robert O’Hara: I have a long history with the Public Theater. It was the first place I interned as a graduate student in the mid-to-late nineties, and I’ve done several productions with them. So when Oscar Eustis asked me to consider doing a Shakespeare in the Park, it had always been a dream of mine. I also immediately thought to myself, “I want to work with Danai Gurira.” I had that completely opposite thought pattern as Carl. I was like, “What I don’t want to do is do something nice and sweet and happy and joyous,” because I tend to like the tragedies and the dark Shakespeare plays. Also, I wanted to work with Danai on something a little bit meaty in that she has a very charismatic persona, and I wanted to see what her playing a villain would feel like.
It’s fascinating that you both had the opposite reaction on whether to do comedy or tragedy. How do you think that those two two genres are speaking to what audiences are looking for in theatre right now?
Cofield: Well, I think it’s a blessing right now to have two productions like that to come from us. To piggyback on what Robert was saying, I’ve wanted to work with Kara Young forever. I think this is a beautiful aligning of the planets, where audiences can come and see Robert’s wonderful take on this tragedy, and then come up and see something completely different. To see these two beautiful women lead these companies, and tell these stories in unique but possibly similar ways—I would just say it’s an exciting time to be an audience member in New York City.
O’Hara: I second Carl, seeing particularly Black women able to speak in various communities, and tell various stories, is absolutely necessary. So I don’t think it’s very odd at all for directors to have different takes and different interests. I think allowing Black women to embrace their Blackness in Shakespeare is very exciting to have that in New York at this moment.
The complexities of both of your shows hit upon other elements of identity as well, including gender expression in Twelfth Night and disability in Richard III. How did you go about tackling identity in your productions?
O’Hara: The moment I said I wanted to do work with Danai and Richard III was the decision that we would not be performing disability. In fact, there is no world “disability” in Richard III, they call him “deformed,” which has a completely different tone and meaning. Instantly, of course, there is backlash because of the history of white men for centuries wiping their ass, essentially, with Richard: they’re putting a hump on their back, or tying their hand, or sliding their feet across the floor. So I wanted to open up the conversation about why it is that we’re so in demand that the character Richard III be played by a disabled actor or be disabled. Any of these characters can be played by a disabled actress. So that’s the way we approached it. I wanted to surround Richard and Danai with as large a diverse group of people as possible. We began to realize that Richard is actually suffering from the projections of other people around him. If you have a diverse community, then Richard is no different than anyone else. Richard has an interior hatred of himself because of how he is internalizing the projections of others. A Black woman in particular has to deal with projections of others all the time and have to negotiate that. So we have a very particular production here in which the disability of Richard, his otherness, really is internalized and projected. So I’m opening up the conversation. We have several disabled actors in our show, and I believe that it is actually quite exciting just to open up the idea of where disability lives inside Richard III.
Cofield: For us, it’s an exciting opportunity when I look at the magical place that Illyria is. It’s a place where you can excel if you are versed in two currencies: wit and music. For our company, having a room full of beautiful Black and Brown people tell this story and tap into it is something truly special. The show takes on a new meaning, when you see a beautiful Black woman enter the space and say, “Where am I?,” I think that’s what drew me most to this part, because historically Black people have done the most with the least. When Viola washes up, she has nothing but her wit, intelligence, charisma, and sensibilities, and she's able to navigate, excel, and prosper in a world. I think as a Black theatre artist, there are a lot of times in those positions where we’re handed a flashlight, a cardboard box, and some scotch tape, and they say, “make theatre,” and somehow we do.
O’Hara: That’s what Shakespeare allows you to do. It allows you to create a world. Many of these worlds we’ve seen over the centuries are inhabited by white folks and subscribe to white behavior. When you enter into this space of the Black and Brown body, it changes the molecules of the space. Danai is a fully Black person in this part. When you have a Black woman say a line such as, “since I cannot prove a lover… I am determined to prove a villain,” that speaks to a whole history of how we have actually put Black women into the role of villain. All of these layers of history are inside that passage. It is not the same if a white man says it; we have tons and tons of examples of white men being villains.
Some Black audiences and artists have historically felt very conflicted about Shakespeare. In 1964, James Baldwin wrote the essay “Why I Stopped Hating Shakespeare” to track his progress from detesting the Bard to appreciating him. In 1996, August Wilson delivered the speech “The Ground on Which I Stand,” which criticized colorblind casting practices often found in Shakespeare productions of the time. What would you say to Black audience members who, in 2022, are still skeptical about Shakespeare or skeptical about seeing Black productions of his work?
Cofield: I would say, “Come!”
O’Hara: I would say: “You don’t have to come.” You can come or you don’t have to come, but we’re not a monolith. There’s a lot of shit I hate, that I don’t want to see, you know? Black people are not some group of people that have to be spoken to as if, “you all have to like the same thing.” No! Come, and try something new or interesting. You may change your mind. Or don’t come! Go see whoever you want to see, that’s on you. I don’t live my life expecting Black people to reward me for all my choices. I’m all about you making your decisions and if you do come, enjoy yourself. If not, there’s plenty of things to do. There’s plenty of things to do in Central Park in the summer. You do not have to come to the Delacorte.
Cofield: I couldn’t agree more with Robert… I hope it stimulates conversation, but I’m not going to alter or change what I believe in. I believe in stories, and telling stories enriches all of us. I invite you to get on the love train, but if you don’t want to get on the love train, the love train leaves at 11:00 and it’s going to leave whether you [are] on it, or not.
O’Hara: Exactly! Exactly.
Both of these productions are taking place in outdoor theatres. How does performing outside enhance elements of the show, or maybe provide challenges you wouldn’t expect?
Cofield: I think performing outdoors enhances the production because you’re getting the true taste of New York. I’ve been fortunate enough to work in an outdoor space, at Classical Theatre of Harlem, for the past seven years. There are people who live in our space. Let’s underline that: there are people who live in our space. The beauty of that is they get to see arts also, and their opinion is just as valid as the person who’s willing to pay $300 to see the hottest Broadway show. Two years ago, I did The Bacchae. I’ve had conversations with a gentleman who lives in the space, and a lot of times we can overlook or undervalue those peoples’ opinions. But this brother said, “You know, when Dionysus comes down, what he should do is the…” and I’m like, “Yes, yes, tell me more about it!” To me, that is the beauty of this outdoor space. We have politicians seated next to doctors, seated next to people who are less fortunate. I really love that both the Public and the Classical Theatre of Harlem embrace this idea that arts are for everyone. So as opposed to looking at the challenges that performing outdoors present, I think of the opportunity.
O’Hara: I agree. I think that when you’re performing or producing a show outside, then that is part of the performance. Our first preview was canceled because of rain. Our second preview was shut down in the middle of Act 2 because of rain. That becomes a part of the show. Both of these venues are incredibly beautiful. Carl is right that it gives you a sense of community that I don’t think we have very much. I mean, you certainly don’t get a sense of community by paying $300 to see a Broadway show. You know what that community is, and you’re supposed to regulate yourself and your behavior to that community. Here, there is a sort of an openness. People come as they are. I have never understood this idea of dressing up on a Wednesday night to go sit in the dark. Seeing people just coming out the way they woke up or the way they walk through life is so exciting to me, especially watching outdoor theatre.
2022 Primetime Emmy Nominations: SCHMIGADOON!, EUPHORIA, More Make a Splash
It seems theatre—and its stars—has once again made an impact on the TV landscape. The nominations for the 2022 Primetime Emmy Awards include Tony winners and nominees, musical series, and stage favorites.
Of the most notable nominations were the love for Schmigadoon!, currently filming Season 2 with a new focus on musicals of the ‘60s and ‘70s, including for choreographer Christopher Gatelli, songwriter Cinco Paul, and composer Christopher Willis.
Gatelli will compete against Ryan Heffington, who choreographed Euphoria's viral high musical scene set to “Holding Out for a Hero,” along with several other scenes in the HBO drama. “I’m Tired” and “Elliot’s Song,” both of which feature lyrics by star and Emmy winner Zendaya, will go head-to-head with Cinco Paul’s “Corn Puddin’” in the Music & Lyrics category.
Euphoria, nominated for Outstanding Drama Series, also saw nods for Sydney Sweeney (Supporting Actress, Drama), who will soon star in the stage-to-screen adaptation of Is This A Room. Sweeney—who likely couldn’t be happier—also scored a nomination for her work in The White Lotus (Supporting Actress, Limited Series).
Elsewhere, The Tony Awards Presents: Broadway's Back!, which aired last September, was nominated in the Variety Special (Live) category. Tony winners, Tony nominees, and a host of stage favorites also heard their name called this morning for their work on TV, including Rachel Brosnahan, Jean Smart, Steve Martin, Martin Short, Andrew Garfield, Oscar Isaac, Sebastian Stan, Toni Colette, Lily James, Laura Linney, Brian Cox, J. Smith-Cameron, Billy Crudup, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Hannah Waddingham, Mare Winningham, Harriet Samson Harris, Nathan Lane, James Cromwell, Colman Domingo, Arian Moayed, and Tom Pelphrey.
Jodie Comer, who will make her Broadway debut in the spring with Prima Facie, is nominated for the final season of Killing Eve; Jane Lynch, currently starring in Funny Girl through August, earned a nod for her guest role in Season 1 of Only Murders in the Building.
Behind the scenes, Sergio Trujillo scored a nod choreographing Annie Live! (Variety or Reality Programming). In addition, a certain painter is definitely having a moment: The Andy Warhol Diaries is nominated for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Series. Theatre fans can currently head to the East Village to check out Chasing Andy Warhol; in the fall, Paul Bettany will play The Factory creator opposite Jeremy Pope as Jean-Michel Basquiat in The Collaboration on Broadway.
Reframing the COVID-19 Pandemic Through a Stage Manager’s Eyes
When the COVID-19 pandemic was declared a national emergency in the United States in March 2020, Broadway veteran stage manager Richard Hester watched the nation’s anxiety unfold on social media.
“No one knew what the virus was going to do,” Hester said. Some people were “losing their minds in abject terror, and then there were some people who were completely denying the whole thing.”
For Hester, the reaction at times felt like something out of a movie. “It was like the Black Plague,” he said. “Some people thought it was going to be like that Monty Python sketch: ‘bring out your dead, bring out your dead.’”
While Hester was also unsure about how the virus would unfold, he felt that his “job as a stage manager is to naturally defuse drama.” Hester brought this approach off the stage and onto social media in the wake of the pandemic.
“I just sort of synthesized everything that was happening into what I thought was a manageable bite, so people could get it,” Hester said. This became a daily exercise for a year. Over two years after the beginning of the pandemic, Hester’s accounts are compiled in the book, Hold Please: Stage Managing A Pandemic. Released earlier this year, the book documents the events of the past two years, filtering national events and day-to-day occurrences through a stage manager’s eyes and storytelling.
When Hester started this project, he had no intention of writing a book. He was originally writing every day because there was nothing else to do. “I am somebody who needs a job or needs a structure,” Hester said.
Surprised to find that people began expecting his daily posts, he began publishing his daily writing to his followers through a Substack newsletter. As his following grew, Hester had to get used to writing for an audience. “I started second guessing myself a lot of the time,” Hester said. “It just sort of put a weird pressure on it.”
Hester said he got especially nervous before publishing posts in which he wrote about more personal topics. For example, some of his posts focused on his experiences growing up in South Africa while others centered on potentially divisive topics, such as the 2020 election and the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
Despite some of this discomfort, Hester’s more personal posts were often the ones that got the most response. The experience offered him a writing lesson. “I stopped worrying about the audience and just wrote what I wanted to write about,” Hester said. “All of that pressure that I think as artists we put on ourselves, I got used to it.”
One of Hester’s favorite anecdotes featured in the book centers on a woman who dances in Washington Square Park on a canvas, rain or shine. He said he was “mesmerized by her,” which inspired him to write about her. “It was literally snowing and she was barefoot on her canvas dancing, and that seems to me just a spectacularly beautiful metaphor for everything that we all try and do, and she was living that to the fullest.”
During the creation of Hold Please, Hester got the unique opportunity to reflect in-depth on the first year of the pandemic by looking back at his accounts. He realized that post people would not remember the details of the lockdown; people would “remember it as a gap in their lives, but they weren’t going to remember it beat by beat.”
“Reliving each of those moments made me realize just how full a year it was, even though none of us were doing anything outside,” he adds. “We were all on our couches.” Readers will use the book as a way to relive moments of the pandemic’s first year “without having to wallow in the misery of it,” he hopes.
“I talk about the misery of it, but that’s not the focus of what I wrote... it was about hope and moving forward,” Hester said. “In these times when everything is so difficult, we will figure out a way to get through and we will move forward.”
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