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January 7, Washington, D.C.: Shakespeare Theatre Company is delighted to announce the full cast of The Amen Corner, James Baldwin’s classic parable of passion and perseverance, which will grace the stage at Sidney Harman Hall (610 F St. NW) from February 11-March 15, 2020.
James Baldwin investigates the role of the church in the formation of Black identity and community in The Amen Corner. Building upon the themes of his semi-autobiographical novel Go Tell It on the Mountain, this play explores the dynamics of a dysfunctional family and their struggles with faith and fulfillment in his characteristic beautiful prose. “The lines have wings and humor” (The New York Daily News).
Margaret Alexander (MIA ELLIS), a zealous church pastor of a storefront church in Harlem, must confront the past she left behind when her estranged husband Luke (CHIKÉ JOHNSON) returns. Trying to find his own identity outside of the confines of the church, their son David (ANTONIO MICHAEL WOODARD) bonds with his ailing father over their shared love of jazz music. Margaret’s misguided but fervent beliefs cause further disunity both within their fragile family union and in her congregation as her past comes to light. Baldwin’s enduring themes speak to “truth, vividness and rich humanity” (The New York Post).
“The characters in this world are vivid and real,” explains Director WHITNEY WHITE, current recipient of the Susan Stroman Directing award and an Artistic Associate at the Roundabout. “They are humble and saintly in one moment, hungry for power and change, and willing to upend the current order despite the costs. I truly love all sides of these people, and their ability to bounce back and forth, to turn on one of their own and also to give and take in a comic sense, developing a subject in a way that is just hilarious and multi-colored.” White recently directed the moving What to Send Up When It Goes Down at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company and will make her directorial debut at STC with The Amen Corner.
“When I saw a revival of The Amen Corner at the Royal National Theatre in London in summer 2013,” Artistic Director SIMON GODWIN states, “I was moved by the depth of feeling in Baldwin’s characters, the domestic and spiritual tragedies we see so often in Shakespeare’s works and the play’s classical structure. Then I learned this play has a D.C. legacy, having first premiered at Howard University in the 1950s. I knew then this would be a perfect work to include in my first season, a true American classic.”
“This play is many things,” says White. “It’s a tragedy of the Black American family and the broken home; a love story; a play about the call of art—music in this case; a play about the safety and power of the church as well as the hypocrisy of the church; a play about the very special condition of the Black American woman; a play about womanhood and female sensuality, a woman’s life as a never-ending fight with men; and, a play about the ever-presence of the street.”
Returning to STCare E. FAYE BUTLER (Free For All production of Romeo and Juliet), recipient of seven Joseph Jefferson and two Helen Hayes Awards, JADE JONES (Macbeth), Helen Hayes-nominated DEIDRA LAWAN STARNES (Free For All production of Much Ado About Nothing) who appeared Off-Broadway in for colored girls… (dir. Ntozake Shange), and Helen Hayes Award winner NOVA Y. PAYTON (Kiss Me, Kate), who toured in Smokey Joe’s Café.
A company member at Trinity Repertory Company, MIA ELLIS (Margaret)has starred in Marisol and Ragtime as well as James Baldwin’s Blues for Mister Charlie at Trinity. ANTONIO MICHAEL WOODARD (David)was a Cloris Leachman Award Nominee for his performance in the Pyramid Theatre Company’s production of The Amen Corner, and he has appeared Off-Broadway in Classic Stage Company’s Macbeth. CHIKÉ JOHNSON (Luke) most recently appeared as Disciple Ufot in New York Theatre Workshop’s Production of Runboyrun, and he has an extensive television and film background (Captive State, Empire, Suits). They are all making their STC debuts, as is Broadway actress HARRIETT D. FOY (Amazing Grace, Mamma Mia) who earned her BFA from Howard University,
The cast also features MARTY AUSTIN LAMAR, a faculty member in the Theatre Department at Howard University whoperformed in Ms. Ever’s Boys off-Broadway and recently in Constellation Theatre’s Little Shop of Horrors, PHIL MCGLASTON, who starred in The Little Foxes on Broadway; JASMINE M. RUSH, who earned her MFA at the Academy for Classical Acting, and appeared in As Much As I Can Off-Broadway; frequent PlayMakers Repertory Company performer TRISTAN ANDRÉ PARKS (Ragtime, Life of Galileo), and LAURYN SIMONE, a student at Howard University (BFA Musical Theatre) who appeared in Mosaic Theatre’s Fabulation.
Rounding out the ensemble as members of the Choir are FRANCESE (Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at Morgan’s Little Theatre), NIA-AIYANA MEEKS, who is earning her BFA in Musical Theatre from Howard University (Spell #7 at Howard University), ROBERT E. PERSON (Black Nativityat the Anacostia Playhouse), and THEODORE SAPP (A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder at Virginia Repertory Theatre).
Previews begin February 11, and Press Night will be on Tuesday, February 18 at 7:45 p.m. at Sidney Harman Hall. Tickets are priced from $35-120. To order tickets, please visit our website http://www.shakespearetheatre.org/events/the-amen-corner-19-20/ or call 202.547.1122.
Working with local cultural institutions, community partners, artists and activists, Shakespeare Theatre Company is announcing a series of special events and programming throughout the run of The Amen Corner. For more information about Amen, Baldwin!: A Living Celebration or to register for an event, please visit: http://www.shakespearetheatre.org/amen-baldwin
This project is supported in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.
The restaurant partner for The Amen Corner is Jaleo.
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR
WHITNEY WHITE is a director and musician based in New York. Recent: Our Dear Dead Drug Lord by Alexis Scheer (WP Theatre / Second Stage), For all the Women Who Thought They Were Mad by Zawe Ashton (Soho Rep), A Human Being, of a Sort by Jonathan Payne (Williamstown Theatre Festival starring Andre Braugher and Frank Wood), What to Send Up When It Goes Down (The Movement, NYT Critics’ Pick; Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company), Jump (PlayMakers Rep, NNPN Rolling World Premiere), Canyon (IAMA, LA Times Critics’ Choice), An Iliad (Long Wharf), Rita Tambien Rita (Juilliard), Othello (Trinity Rep), and Br’er Cotton (Endstation). Her original musical Definition was part of the 2019 Sundance Theatre Lab and her musical look at Macbeth, Macbeth in Stride was part of the 2019 Under the Radar Festival (The Public Theatre). Associate Directing: Marvin’s Room (Broadway), If I Forget (Roundabout), The Secret Life of Bees (Atlantic Theatre). Whitney is an Associate Artist at The Roundabout, and current recipient of the Susan Stroman Directing Award. Past fellowships: 2050 NYTW Fellow, Ars Nova, Drama League, the Inaugural Roundabout Directing Fellowship, and Colt Coeur. BA Northwestern, MFA Brown University / Trinity Rep.
ABOUT THE CAST
E. Faye Butler*
STC: Romeo and Juliet (2018 Free For All). TOURS: National: Mamma Mia, Ain’t Misbehavin’, Nunsense, Dinah Was, Don’t Bother Me. REGIONAL: D.C. Area: Arena Stage, Signature Theatre, The Kennedy Center, Olney Theatre; Other: Baltimore Center Stage, St. Louis Repertory Theatre, Court Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, Northlight Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Victory Gardens Theatre, Pasadena Playhouse, La Jolla Playhouse, Yale Repertory Theatre, Dallas Theatre Center, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Fulton Theatre, Arkansas Repertory Theatre, The Muny, Chicago Children’s Theatre. INTERNATIONAL: Performed with the Washington Ballet in La Habana, Cuba in Blues Till June (songs of Etta James); Concert performances in Europe. In February 2019, performed with the Hong Kong Ballet in China. AWARDS: Recipient of seven Joseph Jefferson Awards, two Helen Hayes, four Black Theatre Alliance, RAMI Award, John Barrymore Award for Excellence in Theater, After Dark, Ovation, Kathryn V. Lampkey, Sarah Siddons Leading Lady, Black Excellence, Guy Adkins, 2016 Rosetta Le Noire, Lunt-Fontaine Fellow. OTHER: Recordings: Circle of Firsts. PERSONAL: E. Faye performs across the country in concert, cabaret, club, and theatre venues with her big band EFO Orchestra | E-FayeButler.com.
REGIONAL: Trinity Rep: Marisol, Ragtime, The Mountaintop, To Kill A Mockingbird, Blues for Mister Charlie, Melancholy Play: A Chamber Musical, The Glass Menagerie, Intimate Apparel, The Grapes of Wrath, Clybourne Park | Seattle Rep: A Raisin in the Sun | Santa Cruz Shakespeare: Hamlet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream | Virginia Stage Company: The Book Club Play | The Gamm: Good People | The Williams Project: Blood Wedding | Bread Loaf: Hamlet. FILM: Louder Than Words. TELEVISON: The Good Fight, Elementary, Person of Interest. OTHER: Company member at Trinity Repertory Company. AWARDS: 2016-2017 Margot Skinner Fellow; 2017-2018 Robert Clayton Black Fellowship. PERSONAL: she/her/hers | Mia is also an audiobook narrator, writer, and producer | Training: Brown University/Trinity Rep: MFA in Acting, Tougaloo College: BA in Music/Vocal Performance | Social Media: @ellismia09 | MiaEllis.com.
Harriett D. Foy*
NEW YORK: Broadway: Amelie, Amazing Grace, The American Plan, Mamma Mia and Once on This Island. Off-Broadway: The Young Man from Atlanta, The House That Will Not Stand (AUDELCO Award, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Drama League Nominations), X, On the Levee (AUDELCO nomination) and Crowns (AUDELCO Award). REGIONAL: A Wonder in My Soul (Center Stage); Nina Simone: Four Women (Arena Stage), Ella! First Lady of Song (Delaware Theatre Center), THE HOUSE THAT WILL NOT STAND (YALE REP; Connecticut Critics Award Nomination, BERKELEY REP; Theatre Bay Award); dance of the holy ghosts (YALE REP), Seven Guitars (Baltimore Center Stage), Ambassador Satch (Dubai), The Women of Brewster Place, Polk County (Helen Hayes Nominations), Piano Lesson (Arena Stage). FILM: Winter’s Tale. TELEVISION: Patrice Woodbine on P-Valley (STARZ- 2020), Elementary, Welcome to the Wayne, Orange Is the New Black, Law & Order. BFA in Acting – Howard University “WGATAP!” Original Cast recordings: Amelie, Amazing Grace, Inside Out, Lone Star Love and Reunion. PERSONAL: @divafoyh (twitter) @harriettdfoy (Instagram).
REGIONAL: Morgan’s Little Theatre: Joe Turner’s Come and Gone | DC Dinner Theatre: Serpent of the Street | UMBC Theatre: Dido and Aeneus | Liberty Heights Theatre: Stella Star. INTERNATIONAL: Creative Arts Center (Trinidad, WI): Death and the King’s Horseman, The Blacks, The Wizard of Oz, Dracula Spectacular, Joseph, The Dreamer. FILM: Parents Just Don’t Understand. TELEVISION: MSUC 25th Anniversary MPT. AWARDS: National Cacique Award nomination for Jane Pilkings in Death and the King’s Horseman. PERSONAL: she/her/hers | Francese is a Montessorian, Musician, and Massage Therapist | Teaching: University of Maryland Baltimore County and multiple DC schools | Training: University of Maryland Baltimore County: MA in Intercultural Communication: Spanish Track, University of the West Indies: BA in Spanish and Linguistics, Minor in Theater.
Chiké Johnson is most recently appeared as Disciple Ufot in New York Theatre Workshop’s production of Runboyrun. Other recent productions: Sterling in Two Trains Running in a co-production between Cincinnati Playhouse and the Milwaukee Rep, Brucie in Sweat at American Conservatory Theatre. Cyrus Smith in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at Lookingglass Theatre. Dr. Gibbs in Our Town at the Milwaukee Rep. Walter Lee in A Raisin in The Sun a co-production between Indiana Rep and Syracuse Stage. American Players Theatre where he played Vershinin, Lebret and Ageus. Dr. John Prentice in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner another co-production between Indiana Rep and Geva Theatre. Chiké has an extensive film and television background. Some of his film credits include: Captive State, The Surface, Ass Backwards, and Friends With Benefits. Some of his television credits include but not limited to: Empire, Suits, Chicago PD, Chicago Justice and Orange Is the New Black.
STC: Macbeth, ReDiscovery Reading of Venus by Suzan-Lori Parks. REGIONAL: Round House Theatre: School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play | Ford’s: Into the Woods, The Wiz, 110 in The Shade, 12 Angry Men (Assistant Director) | Signature Theatre: Elmer Gantry, The Scottsboro Boys (Assistant Director), Motown the Reprise (cabaret), Motown Christmas (cabaret)| Rep Stage: Sweeney Todd | Olney Theatre Center: Sweeney Todd, Anyone Can Whistle (staged reading) | Creative Cauldron: Once on This Island (Helen Hayes nomination) | Keegan Theatre: As You Like It, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Hair | Solo Cabarets: Jazzed and Jaded, Killin Em Softly. PERSONAL: Training: Ferrum College: BFA | Upcoming: Much Ado About Nothing at STC | @LittyOfficial.
Marty Austin Lamar*
Off-Broadway: Ms. Ever’s Boys. REGIONAL: Constellation Theatre Company: Little Shop of Horrors. Signature Theatre: Spunk. Olney Theatre Center: Elf. Studio Theatre: Choir Boy. The Kennedy Center: On the Brink, Let Freedom Ring. Portland Center Stage: Ragtime. Wethervane Theatre: Ain’t Misbehavin’, Hairspray. Hippodrome State Theatre: College: The Musical, A Christmas Carol. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts: La Taviata. INTERNATIONAL: Lysistrata. TELEVISION: Law & Order, Invega. FILM: Silent Dove. Marty earned his MFA from the University of Florida and BA from Florida A&M University. Marty serves on the faculty of Howard University and is the Director of Music at Metropolitan AME Church. Marty is a proud member of the Actor’s Equity Association.
Deidra LaWan Starnes*
STC: Richard III (understudy), Much Ado About Nothing (2013 Free for All). NEW YORK: Off-Broadway: for colored girls… (dir. Ntozake Shange). REGIONAL: Huntington Theatre Company: Invisible Man; Folger Theatre: Amadeus, Julius Caesar, King Lear, Studio Theatre: Invisible Man, Passing Strange, In the Red and Brown Water, Radio Golf, The Old Settler, Seven Guitars; 1st Stage: The Member of the Wedding, The Good Counselor; African Continuum Theatre: Intimate Apparel, A Raisin in the Sun (Helen Hayes Nomination), Gingham Dog, I Have before Me a Remarkable Document… (Helen Hayes Nomination), Two Trains Running, Spunk (Helen Hayes Nomination); Olney Theatre Center: A Raisin in the Sun, Doubt (Helen Hayes Nomination), Stuff Happens; St. Louis Black Rep, Constellation Theatre, Adventure Theatre, Rep Stage, Everyman Theatre. FILM: Nocturnal Agony, Ladder 49. AWARDS: Audelco Award for Ensemble in for colored girls, Helen Hayes Award for Ensemble in Invisible Man, Helen Hayes Award for Esther in Intimate Apparel. TRAINING: University of Connecticut: MFA in Drama; University of Maryland; BA in Theatre.
NEW YORK: Broadway: The Little Foxes. Off-Broadway: 59E59 Stages: Some Old Black Man. Signature Theatre Co.: The Orphan’s Home Cycle. The Melting Pot Theatre Co: Home. REGIONAL: The McCarter Theatre Center: Fences. The Long Wharf Theatre: Our Town. Hartford Stage: A Streetcar Named Desire. Triad Stage: And Then There Were None; Crumbs from the Table of Joy. Film: Martin Eden (upcoming), Brawl In Cell Block 99, Little Children, Song One, Keane. TV: High Town (upcoming on STARZ), Elementary, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, The Good Wife, A Gifted Man, Person of Interest, Smash. Other: Swampacolypse on the Pinna network podcast Hero Hotel. Training: MFA Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers Univ.
REGIONAL: Howard University: Spell #7, Urinetown, Studio to Stage Cabaret. PERSONAL: she/her/hers | Nia-Aiyana is a talented young artist and is extremely excited to be a part of The Amen Corner. TRAINING: Howard University: BFA Musical Theatre; Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music and Art and the Performing Arts: Vocal Major.
Tristan André Parks*
REGIONAL: PlayMakers Repertory Company: Ragtime, Life of Galileo, Sherwood: The Adventures of Robin Hood, Leaving Eden, My Fair Lady, Twelfth Night, The Crucible. AWARDS: UNC-Chapel Hills Arts Everywhere Recipient. PERSONAL: he/him/his. Tristan is an art and social justice practitioner who is in collaboration with several social organizations such as DreamYard in the Bronx, Marian C. Jackson Center in Chapel Hill, NC and Durham’s Black August in the Park. Teaching: DreamYeard, UNC-Chapel Hill. Training: UNC-Chapel Hill Professional Acting Training Program: MFA in Acting; University of Memphis: BFA in Theatre. Instagram: @fishgritsandcollardgreens. tristanandreparks.com.
Nova Y. Payton*
STC: Kiss Me, Kate (Hattie replacement). TOURS: Smokey Joe’s Cafe (BJ); 3 Mo’ Divas. REGIONAL: The 5th: Man of La Mancha (Aldonza) and A Night with Janis Joplin; Milwaukee Rep & Prince Music Theatre: Dreamgirls (Effie, Barrymore nom). D.C. credits include: Arena Stage: Newsies, Smokey Joe’s Cafe; Signature Theatre: Ain’t Misbehavin’, Blackbeard, Assassins, Jelly’s Last Jam, La Cage aux Folles; Defying Gravity: Making of a SuperNOVA; Dreamgirls (HHA nom); Hairspray (Motormouth Mabelle, HH recipient); Round House: Caroline, or Change (Caroline) (HHA nom); Imagination Stage: A Year with Frog and Toad; Ford’s Theatre: Ragtime (Sarah); Olney Theatre: Elf the Musical, Godspell; Kennedy Center: Watsons Go To Birmingham, How To Succeed…. (Miss Jones)AWARDS: Helen Hayes Award Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Musical. PERSONAL: She/Her/Hers | Simply-Nova.com.
Robert E. Person
REGIONAL: Anacostia Playhouse: A Nite at the Dew Drop Inn, Wasn’t That a Mighty Day, Black Nativity; ANKH Repertory Theatre: The Wiz; Lincoln Theatre: Where Eagles Fly, Tambourines to Glory; Ira Aldridge Theater: Bubbling Brown Sugar. PERSONAL: Robert is an award-winning national recording artist. PERSONAL: @roberteperson. RobertEPerson.com.
Jasmine M. Rush*
NEW YORK: Off-Broadway: Joe’s Pub / The Public Theatre: As Much As I Can. REGIONAL: Philip Glass Days and Nights Festival: MUD; Sierra Rep Theatre: Intimate Apparel; Lyric Stage Company of Boston: Barbecue, Saturday Night/Sunday Morning; Greater Boston Stage Company/Stoneham Theatre: Laura; Bridge Rep of Boston: The Forgetting Curve; Academy of Classical Acting: Julius Caesar, Pericles. TV: Bull, Blue Bloods, The Sinner, Difficult People. OTHER: Quick Silver Theatre Company (NYC): Company Member PERSONAL: she/her/hers. Jasmine is an African American actress and writer based in Brooklyn, NY. Training: Academy of Classical Acting at George Washington University/STC: MFA in Classical Acting; University of Minnesota – Twin Cities: BA in Theatre Arts. PERSONAL: Instagram: @2jzzy. JasmineMRush.com.
REGIONAL: Virginia Repertory Theatre: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder; Riverside Center for the Performing Arts: The Color Purple, The Hunchback of Notre Dame; Red Branch Theatre Company: Jingle Arrgh the Way; Shakespeare Opera Theatre: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. OTHER: Misinformed Consent (A Film Short). PERSONAL: He/Him/His. Theodore is the coolest father among men! and a part-time Sous Chef.
NEW YORK: Off-Broadway: Children of Killers (Guhahamuka), REGIONAL: Mosaic Theatre: Fabulation (Stephie) PERSONAL: she/her/hers | Lauryn is elated to make her STC debut in The Amen Corner. Training: British American Drama Academy MIO 2018, Howard University: BFA in Musical Theatre. PERSONAL: Instagram: @Lauryn _Simone Twitter: Lady_L97.
Antonio Michael Woodard*
NEW YORK: Off-Broadway: Classic Stage Company: Macbeth (John Doyle) REGIONAL: Williamstown Theatre Festival: A Human Being, Of A Sort; Trinity Rep: Ragtime (Curt Columbus); Pyramid Theatre Company: The Amen Corner, Mississippi Goddamn. TV: Evil (CBS Peter Sollett). AWARDS: Cloris Leachman Award Nominee (The Amen Corner), Alabama State University Faculty Senate Award of Excellence (The Color Purple), Irene Ryan Best Actor Finalist KCACTF Region IV. OTHER: Pure Artistry Café’: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Rites and Reason Theatre: Trippin’ Over Roots, Walk Out! 68’; Brown/Trinity Rep: Loves Labour’s Lost, Twelfth Night, Tick, Tick… Boom!; Leila Barlow Theatre: Crowns, The Color Purple, The Piano Lesson. PERSONAL: He/Him/His | Training: M.F.A. Acting Brown University/Trinity Rep; B.A. Theatre Alabama State University. Instagram: @a.michaelwoodard Facebook: Antonio Woodard or Antonio Michael Woodard. Being-AMW.com.