The Playhouse Mainstage
November 1 - 27, 2011
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BLUES FOR AN ALABAMA SKY
By Pearl Cleage
Directed by Sheldon Epps
"Never mind the A train -- you can get to Harlem on the 134 to catch Pasadena Playhouse’s jubilant, stylish revival of “Blues for an Alabama Sky." - Charlotte Stoudt, "Los Angeles Times"
Summer of 1930 in Harlem, New York. The harsh realities of the Great Depression have devastated an ebullient decade of the Harlem renaissance. Disease and poverty have overshadowed the creative euphoria that fueled a surge of African-American artists, writers and luminaries. This is a story with a rich cast of characters, scrambling to survive and make some sense of their overlapping personalities, politics and love lives.
In the tradition of August Wilson's FENCES and FLYIN' WEST (also by Pearl Cleage), BLUES FOR AN ALABAMA SKY takes a vivid and powerful look at a pivotal moment in the 20th century African-American experience. It will be helmed by The Playhouse Artistic Director Sheldon Epps.
RUNNING TIME: 2 hours 30 minutes (includes 15-minute intermission)
Special Thanks To Our Sponsors For BLUES FOR AN ALABAMA SKY
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Special Thanks To Our Sponsors For BLUES FOR AN ALABAMA SKY Opening Night
94.7 – The Wave
Hot Jamz 92 – The Most Music
Radio Free 102.3 FM
Robin Givens (Angel Allen) landed her break-through role as Darlene Merriman on the hit ABC series "Head of the Class" (1986-1991). During that time she co-starred with Oprah Winfrey in the miniseries "The Women of Brewster Place" (1989). Givens then starred in several back-to-back movies including a critically acclaimed starring role in A Rage In Harlem (1991) with Forest Whitaker, Danny Glover & Gregory Hines under the direction of Bill Duke; Boomerang opposite Eddie Murphy in 1992; Foreign Student (1992); Blankman with Damon Wayans and David Alan Grier (1994); She was listed among "Empire Magazine’s" "100 Sexiest Stars in Film History" in 1995. More recently, Givens returned to films working with Tyler Perry on his The Family That Preys Together (1998) with Kathy Bates and the TBS series "Tyler Perry’s House of Payne," as well as a recurring role on USA Network's "Burn Notice." Last season, Givens starred in recurring guest star role on the hit series "Chuck," as well as guest star roles on the CW's "Nikita," Lifetime's "Drop Dead Diva" and BET's "Reed Between the Lines" with Malcolm Jamal Warner. Then she starred in the Fox pilot series "Tagged" in 2011. She has worked extensively on stage including a successful stint on Broadway in the leading role of Roxie Hart in the Broadway production of CHICAGO (2006) and has performed in the Off-Broadway production of THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES (2006). In 2007, she published her first book Grace Will Lead Me Home. She is Co-Chair of "Women Who Care."
Kevin Carroll (Guy Jacobs) has appeared on Broadway as Belize in ANGELS IN AMERICA by Tony Kushner; 45 SECONDS FROM BROADWAY originating the role of Solomon Mantutu by Neil Simon, TAKE ME OUT by Richard Greenberg originating the role of Davey Battle and the Voice in BRING IN 'DA NOISE, BRING IN 'DA FUNK, directed by George C.Wolfe. Off Broadway: Mr. Carroll won the 2009 Obie award for Sustained Execellence. He appeared as Cephus Miles in the New York Signature Theatre's AUDELCO award winninig production of HOME by Samm-Art Williams, Canewell in the NY Signature Theatre's production of SEVEN GUITARS by August Wilson, Originated George in STOP KISS and Miles in The Public Theatre's production of SATELLITES written for specifically for him and Sandra Oh by Diana Son, Horatio in HAMLET in the Park, and Bill Irwin's SCAPIN. In Film: Mr. Carroll appeared in the cult classic Paid In Full as Calvin, Being John Malkovich, The Object Of My Affection as Jennifer Aniston's love interest, The Secret Lives of Dentists, The Notorious Bettie Page directed by Marry Harron, Always Outnumbered with Laurence Fishburne, Jesus' Son and Pipe Dream directed by John Walsh. In Television, Mr. Carroll has appeared on "Law and Order Criminal Intent", "SVU," "Law and Order," "Detroit 187," Strong Medicine," "Numb3rs," "ER," Mr. Carroll is returning as Walter Lee in the Ebony Repertory Theatre's Ovation Award Winning production of A RAISIN IN THE SUN at the Kirk Douglass Theatre in January 2012. Like the fan page www.Facebook.com/aboutkevincarroll.com and visit www.aboutkevincarroll.com.
Kadeem Hardisson (Sam Thomas) is best known for his role as Dwayne Wayne on "A Different World." Other guest stars include "House," "Ghost Whisperer," "Cold Case," "My Name is Earl," "Everybody Hates Chris," "Living Single" and "Girlfriends." His film work includes Made of Honor, Ricochet, Biker Boyz, The Sixth Man, Renaissance Man, Vampire in Brooklyn and White Men Can’t Jump. He is happy to be returning to The Pasadena Playhouse, having previously worked with Sheldon Epps on FENCES.
Robert Ray Manning, Jr. (Leland Cunningham) received his MFA in acting from the University of Washington. A few television and film credits include "Southland," "South of Nowhere," "The Unit," "Criminal Minds," "N.C.I.S." and "Frogtown." He received a 2008 NAACP Theatre Award Nomination in the Best Lead Actor Category for Pasadena Playhouse’s production of DEFIANCE and a 2010 Nomination for BATTLE HYMN in the Best Supporting Category. Robert is represented by The Gage Group. For more information, please visit robertmanningjr.com.
Tessa Thompson (Delia) is a Los Angeles Native. She made her professional debut on stage playing Juliet in ROMEO AND JULIET with The Theatre @ Boston Court, for which she received an NAACP Image Award nomination. After appearing in numerous other productions locally, she then appeared in the American premiere of David Grieg’s PYRENEES, opposite Frances Conroy and Tom Irwin, for Center Theatre Group at the Kirk Douglas Theatre. On Television she has appeared as a series regular on "Veronica Mars" and "Hidden Palms," and has had recurring roles on "Grey’s Anatomy," "Heroes," "Private Practice," "Off the Map" and "Detroit 187." Other TV: "Life," "Mental," "Cold Case." In film, she starred in the multi-award winning drama Mississippi Damned, for which she was awarded a Grand Jury prize for Best Actress. She most recently starred in the film adaptation of Ntozake Shange’s For Colored Girls (Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf) starring opposite Thandie Newton and Whoppie Goldberg. She can be seen this season playing an FBI agent on TNTs "Rizzoli and Isles." She is a proud member of celebrated classical theater company Antaeus and sings in the indie-soul band Caught a Ghost.
Pearl Cleage (Playwright) is an Atlanta-based writer whose works include four novels, What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day (Avon Books, 1997); I Wish I Had a Red Dress (Morrow/Avon, 2001); Some Things I Never Thought I’d Do (Ballantine/One World, 2003); and Babylon Sisters (Ballantine/One World, 2005). She is also the author of a dozen plays, including FLYIN' WEST and BLUES FOR AN ALABAMA SKY, essays, including "Mad at Miles" and "Good Brother Blues," "Vibe," "Rap Pages," and many other publications. Her first novel was an Oprah Book Club pick in October of 1998 and appeared on "The New York Times" best-seller list for nine weeks. Her second novel has been a national book club favorite and appeared on the "Essence" list of bestselling fiction for 2001. Her third novel, Some Things I Never Thought I’d Do, was published in September 2003 and was the choice of the "Good Morning America" Book Club in 2004. Her theatrical works include BOURBON AT THE BORDER, a full-length drama, commissioned and premiered at the Alliance Theatre in 1997 under the direction of frequent Cleage collaborator and Alliance Artistic Director Kenny Leon. Their previous collaborations include BLUES FOR AN ALABAMA SKY, commissioned and premiered at the Alliance Theater in 1995, and FLYIN' WEST, commissioned and premiered in 1992. An anthology of her plays, "Flyin' West and Other Plays," was published by Theatre Communications Group in October 1999. BLUES returned to Atlanta as part of the 1996 Cultural Olympiad in conjunction with the 1996 Olympic Games. Since opening at the Alliance Theatre under the direction of Leon, FLYIN’ WEST has had more than a dozen productions across the country, including The Kennedy Center in Washington, and a 2005 production by Leon’s True Colors Theatre Company. Cleage's collection of essays, "Deals with the Devil and Other Reasons to Riot," was published by Ballantine/One World in 1993. "Mad at Miles: A Blackwoman's Guide to Truth" was published by The Cleage Group in 1991. She is a former columnist for "The Atlanta Tribune," and her work has appeared in numerous anthologies, including "Double Stitch," "Black Drama in America," "New Plays from the Women’s Project," and "Contemporary Plays by Women of Color." Pearl is the mother of one daughter, Deignan, the grandmother of Michael and Chloe, and the wife of writer Zaron W. Burnett, Jr., with whom she frequently collaborates.
Sheldon Epps (Director) has been Artistic Director of the renowned Pasadena Playhouse since 1997. Before beginning his tenure at The Playhouse, he served as Associate Artistic Director of the Old Globe Theatre for four years. He was also a co-founder of the off-Broadway theatre, The Production Company. Mr. Epps has directed both plays and musicals at many of the country’s major theatres including the Roundabout, Manhattan Theatre Club, the Guthrie, Playwrights Horizons, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Arena Stage, and the Goodman Theatre. He conceived the highly acclaimed musicals Play On! and Blues In the Night, which both received Tony Award nominations. He directed productions of both of those shows on Broadway, in London, and at theatres around the world. Mr. Epps has also had a busy career as a television director, helming episodes of shows such as “Frasier,” “Friends,” “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Girlfriends” and many others. For more than a decade, he served as a member of the Executive Board of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers. Mr. Epps received the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award for his efforts and accomplishments at The Pasadena Playhouse. Under his leadership, The Playhouse has earned distinction for productions of artistic excellence, critical and box office success, and highly praised theatrical diversity.
John Iacovelli (Scenic Design) has designed at The Pasadena Playhouse for twenty years including THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST directed by Sheldon Epps and the production of THE TWILIGHT OF THE GOLDS, that went on to Broadway Other Broadway: National Tour: CAMELOT, Emmy Award for PETER PAN staring Cathy Rigby (on A&E). Regional credits: over 200 productions at theatres including The Mark Taper Forum, Geffen Playhouse, South Coast Repertory, The Globe, Berkeley Rep, Magic, Dallas Theatre Center, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Portland Stage, San Jose Rep, San Diego Rep, Walnut Street Theatre, La Mirada Theatre, Philadelphia Theatre Company. Film: Production Designer on Ruby in Paradise starring Ashley Judd in her film debut; Art Director on Honey, I Shrunk the Kids!. TV Production Design: "Beckett Directs Beckett: Endgame with The San Quentin Drama Workshop," "The Old Settler" starring Philycia Rashad & Debbie Allen, "The Gin Game" staring Mary Tyler Moore & Dick Van Dyke, two seasons of "Ed" on NBC, five Seasons of "Babylon 5," three seasons of "Resurrection Blvd.," four seasons of "Lincoln Heights." Awards: LA Drama Critics Circle for Lifetime Achievement in Scenic Design. He is on the Design Faculty, Department of Theatre & Dance, UC Davis. Website portfolio: www.iacovelli.com.
Karen Perry (Costume and Wig Design) Current costume designs include John Grisham's A TIME TO KILL at Arena Stage (dir: Ethan McSweeney); Regina Taylor's TRINITY RIVER TRILOGY at DTC and Goodman Theatre (dir: Ethan McSweeny); Walter Mosely's FALL OF HEAVEN at Cinnplayhouse in the Park (dir: Tony Nominated Marion McClinton); Tarell McCraney's BROTHER/SISTER TRILOGY at The Public Theatre (dir: Pulitzer Nominated Tina Landua and Robert O’Hara); Emily Mann's McCarter Theatre’s 20th Anniversary HAVING OUR SAY; Daniel Beaty's RESURRECTION at Arena Stage (dir: Oz Scott). Recent awards include: Lucille Lortel and Audelco Award for BROTHER/SISTER TRILOGY, NY Signature Theatre's NEC FIRST BREEZE OF SUMMER, SEVEN GUITARS and A Craig Noel Award for Outstanding Costume Design for August Wilson's TWO TRAINS RUNNING at The Old Globe Theatre (dir: Seret Scott). Karen has spent over 13 years collaborating with Gregory Hines on projects including films Bleeding Heart and The Tic Code, CBS's "The Gregory Hines Show" and Showtime's original film Bojangles: The Bill 'Bojangle' Robinson Story.
Jared A. Sayeg (Lighting Design) The Pasadena Playhouse: Associate Designer/SOUTH STREET; Designer/Intimate Opera's AMAHL AND THE NIGHT VISITORS. Broadway: Designer: BRAVO BERNSTEIN, GOTHAM GLORY/Carnegie Hall; Assistant Designer PRIMO, Andrew Lloyd Webber's THE WOMAN IN WHITE and RADIO CITY CHRISTMAS SPECTACULAR. Off-Broadway: HUMBLE BOY, FAME, NOBODY DON'T LIKE YOGI, and MINISTRY OF PROGRESS. Regional: International City Theatre, 3D Theatricals, The El Portal, Laguna Playhouse, Colony Theatre (ON GOLDEN POND, EDUCATING RITA, TRYING/Ovation Nomination), Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, LA Opera, Civic Light Opera of South Bay, and Reprise Theatre Company (CABARET, KISS ME KATE/Ovation Nomination, GIGI, THEY'RE PLAYING OUR SONG, FORUM), THE WHO'S TOMMY starring Alice Ripley. International: QUEEN OF SPADES with Placido Domingo, ROLLING WITH LAUGHTER/Her Majesty’s Theatre, London. Other design affiliations: 2011 NBA All Star Game, 2010 USA International Ballet Competition, 2009 Neil Diamond world tour and in 2008 had the honor of lighting Pope Benedict XVI for the Papal Rally in NYC. His architectural designs include restaurants, exhibits and the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific. Jared became the youngest member of United Scenic Artists-Local 829 and serves as a trustee to the executive board. www.jaslighting.com
Marc Anthony Thompson (Sound Design) is a reluctant singer and indolent songwriter; an autodidactic musician, composer, sound designer and occasional filmmaker. He has collaborated with a wide range of genre defying citizens from Phillip Glass and Spike Lee to Marc Ribot and The Roots. With his internationally based nucleus – Chocolate Genius Incorporated – Mr. Thompson has released 4 discs of songs centered on the themes of Life, Death and The Quest for the Perfect Postprandial.