EllaRose Chary and Brandon James Gwinn are an award-winning writing team specializing in stories that take a fresh look at the queer community with cutting-edge music. They’ve been commissioned and produced by The Civilians/Encores! Off-Center at City Center, The Tank, Prospect Theater, 54 Below, Theatre C, All For One Theatre, NY Theatre Barn. They’ve been in residence at Ars Nova, Rhinebeck Writers Retreat/Triple R Residency, The O’Neill Theatre Center, Catwalk Institute, and The Polyphone Festival at UArts. They’ve been awarded grants from NAMT and Anna Sosenko Trust. As Dramatists Guild Fellows, they’ve been featured many times by the Guild and The Dramatists Guild Foundation, including in The Dramatist Magazine. Ella’s work has also been recognized as a Kleban Award Finalist, NYFA Fellowship Finalist, Kernodle New Play Award Finalist, and with Weston and BOH Cameronian Arts Awards. Brandon has been a Richard Rodgers Award Finalist, celebrated piano bar entertainer, LiveNation touring artist, and is also known for his work as a music producer. He produced and performed on the albums TWO BIRDS & ONE STONE by Trixie Mattel (Winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race Allstars 3), which debuted at #1 on the iTunes Top Albums chart and Billboard Heatseekers.
Just announced – Psalmayene 24 will join Mosaic Theater’s Senior Artistic Staff where, over the next three years, the DC playwright and director will create new works, participate in Mosaic’s community outreach programs and audience interactions and initiate a new Directors/Playwrights Cohort. This is being made possible by an award from The National Playwright Residency Program, funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in collaboration with HowlRound Theatre Commons. The program provides salary and benefits for three years. The residency begins July 1, 2020.
Psalmayene 24, responding to the announcement: “In many respects, I am a native son of the community that Mosaic Theater serves. Having grown up in Brooklyn, New York, and now having lived in the Washington, DC area for more than half of my life—over 25 years—I proudly call DC my home. I came of age, as a man and an artist, in DC. I wrote my first play in DC. I met my wife in DC. So, as my adopted hometown, I feel a strong connection to many of the theaters in the DC area—especially Mosaic. True to its name, Mosaic is a theater with a wonderfully diverse audience. As someone who grew up in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn during a time when it was a beacon of multiculturalism, I feel most at home in communities where diversity reigns supreme. (And when I say diversity, I mean diversity of all types: race, class, religion, sexual orientation, etc.) As an artist who sees myself as an integral member of the community that Mosaic serves, it is my belief that I am well qualified to represent authentic creative impulses that reflect the spirit of this community.
“My intention is to impact this community through the National Playwright Residency Program by creating plays that act as a reflective prism meant to reveal and illuminate the soul of the community. There is a validation that occurs when people see a play that speaks to their particular experience. Plays have the ability to feed parts of the human spirit that we didn’t know were malnourished. When plays voice the humanity of a specific community, these plays have the potential to sing in harmony with universal yearnings that connect us all.”
Mosaic Theater describes the proposed projects on the drawing boards : “Mosaic is excited to help develop a new project already in the drafting stage, written and to be performed by the author himself, entitled Dear Mapel, based on the Psalmayene 24’s letters (actual and imagined) to the deceased father he hardly knew, sharing a coming-of-age story within a coming-to-terms hole in his heart. Additional projects include a hip-hop theatrical portrait of DC’s controversial “Mayor For Life,” Marion Barry. Just as provocative and dynamic is The Street Corridor Initiative, a showcasing of proud DC voices culled from interviews of residents along H Street where Mosaic performs, focusing on two public transport vessels bringing residents up and down the corridor; the infamous X-2 bus and the newer, suspiciously regarded play-toy of gentrification, the DC Streetcar.
“Another proposed work, Freedom Strike, tells the story of a Black performance artist who cuts off the head of Abraham Lincoln from the Emancipation Statue—a controversial DC statue of a freed Black man and Abraham Lincoln. The play will investigate the cost of freedom on the Black body. Additionally, Psalmayene 24 will return to the work that initiated his literary relationship with Mosaic, Les Deux Noirs: Notes on Notes of a Native Son, a reimagining of the meeting between author Richard Wright and essayist James Baldwin, originally commissioned as a response piece to Nambi Kelley’s adaptation of Native Son, which Psalm directed as part of Mosaic’s “Native Son Rep.” Entertaining and vital, a streamlined text and staging of Les Deux Noirs will be fashioned to make the production more wieldy for touring through our “Mosaic on the Move” initiative, and for future productions to come.”
Article by Lorraine Treanor for DCTheatreScene.com.
Audrey Cefaly‘s ALABASTER, and Jacqueline Goldfinger’s BABEL make the Kilroy’s 2019 List of un- and underproduced plays un- and underproduced new plays by woman, trans, and non-binary authors per our survey results. Each play received between 5 and 19 nominations. .
ALABASTER: A darkly comic southern drama about love, art, and the power of women. This heart-wrenching story of a reclusive Alabama folk artist won the David Calicchio Emerging American Playwright Prize. After a tornado barrels through town leaving nothing but death and destruction, only June and her pet goat Weezy live to tell the tale. When a prominent photographer visits to take pictures of June’s scars, both are forced to reconcile the pain of loss and recovery. This all-female drama explores the meaning and purpose of art and the struggle of the lost and tortured souls that seek to create it.
BABEL: What would you do if you had the power to build your own baby? In this version of a near future society, prospective parents learn within the first weeks of conception which genetic traits their child will have, and what behaviors they are likely to exhibit. Based on these test results, the parent(s) are either issued a PRE certification which legally guarantees the baby will be a “good” person or not. Without the certification, the child will be limited in what it is allowed to do. Two couples collide over what to do with their PRE certification test results. With rapid advances in reproductive technology, modern eugenics is science’s Wild West. What will we do to “civilize” it and ourselves? How far will we go when playing God? If you like Booker’s “Black Mirror,” Ishiguro’s “Never Let Me Go,” or Haley’s “The Nether,” then this play is for you.
There is something wonderfully effortless about “The Last Wide Open,” which had its world premiere at the Playhouse in the Park Thursday evening.
That’s not a very compelling description, I know. But it’s a compliment. You see, Audrey Cefaly’s play defies all those laws of time and logic that we grew up with. It’s a play that should, by all rights, be utterly confusing. And, I suppose, if you’re one of those people who insists on grasping every last shred of reason out of a script, it still can be.
But why would you go to the theater and battle the playwright? This is the person you’ve asked to take you on a journey. Give in. Trust your playwright. Give yourself a chance to be enriched by the ride. And what an enchanting ride Cefaly and her cast – and director Blake Robison – take us on.
It all takes place in a small Italian restaurant called Frankie’s. There are just two characters; Lina and Roberto. He’s an Italian immigrant, while she is someone always wanting something she doesn’t have. That has the makings of a story. But Cefaly isn’t content with that. She’s leading us into an adventure.
“The Last Wide Open,” you see, is more than a love story. It is three variations on the same story. All three take place on the same day in the same place. What does that mean, exactly? Well, in the first section of the play, Roberto has spent five years as a dishwasher at Frankie’s. In the second, he’s still the same man, but he is a teacher who is helping out at his uncle’s restaurant – Frankie’s. In the third, he is a bus boy who has only just arrived in America. We meet three different faces of Lina, too; as an impatient, directionless server, a nurse and finally, a part-time server who is a week away from being married.
Confused? Probably, because this sounds much more complicated on paper than when it is played out in front of us. Cefaly has created characters who are, in many ways, just like the rest of us. Sure, there are actorly demands. But Lina and Roberto are people coping with anxiety, longing, uncertainty and the greatest burden of all, trying to find meaning in the humdrum of everyday life.
Is there sadness? Definitely. And apprehension and anger, too. And love? We hope there will be, because by the time we’re a few minutes into the play, we really like these characters. A lot. Kimberly Gilbert (Lina) is a bundle of . . . well, I was going to say “nerves.” That’s true. But there is so much more. Not only does she feel immobilized by the pressures of life, but she is also in a constant dither. Her greatest pride, it seems, is in the precision with which she mops the restaurant floor. And as Roberto, Marcus Kyd seems unflappable, no matter how muddled and chaotic the situation around him. Perhaps he has learned that, as a man with only a rough understanding of English, the safest way to proceed is to smile a lot. And nod occasionally. And be charming.
Oh – there is one more person on the stage, as well. Debra Hildebrand is the chief of the theater’s properties running crew. She’s the one in charge of making sure all that “stuff” on the stage is in the right place at the right time. Usually, the role would have her hidden backstage. But Cefaly wants everyone to be a part of the mix. So Hildebrand wanders in and out at significant moments, moving errant forks or handing the actors musical instruments – just being there when she’s needed. And she has a lovely presence, like a favorite aunt wafting in and out of the room.
There are a handful of songs, too. Written by Matthew M. Nielson, they’re not big musical numbers. They’re more like musical ruminations, except that they’re funnier and more clever than that description makes them sound.
“The Last Wide Open” is much harder to describe than it is to experience. Remember, it’s “effortless,” even in its unusual dramatic format. Should it be three separate plays? Played by separate actors? Who knows? That’s up to Cefaly. And the world she chooses to wrap us all up in is one that manages to be mystical and real. And charming. As I mentioned earlier, trust her. And trust her writing. And while you’re at it, trust her characters, too, no matter where they take us.
Read the full review from the Cincinnati.com here.
June 19 – 25 2019
FIRST MUNY PRODUCTION IN 36 YEARS!
Based on L. Frank Baum’s nostalgic classic, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, The Wiz is considered a cultural phenomenon sparkling with heart-pounding soul, unforgettable gospel and infectious rock rhythms. Grammy Award-winner for Best Cast Show Album, and ranked as one of the highest watched live television musicals, this reimagined familiar favorite will have you ready to “Ease on Down the Road” to meet The Wiz for yourself!
For more ticketing information, click here.