The Fountain Theatre's THE BALLAD OF EMMETT TILL Extends Thru April 25

The Fountain Theatre's THE BALLAD OF EMMETT TILL Extends Thru April 25

The West Coast premiere of The Ballad of Emmett Till by Ifa Bayeza will extend at The Fountain Theatre through April 25. This is the production's second extension. Word of mouth was so strong and so positive during previews that the first extension was announced before the play even opened.

The Fountain Theatre opens its 20th Anniversary Season with the West Coast premiere of Ifa Bayeza's daring, folk and gospel-infused The Ballad of Emmett Till in celebration of Black History Month. Shirley Jo Finney (Yellowman) directs Bernard K. Addison, Rico E. Anderson, Lorenz Arnell, Adenrele Ojo and Karen Malina White in the five-week run, February 20 through March 20, with low-priced previews beginning February 11.

Part history, part mystery and part ghost story, Bayeza's jazz/gospel/folk integration of past, present, fact and legend turns the story of the 1955 murder of 14-year old Emmett Till, whose shocking death helped spark the nascent civil rights movement, into a soaring work of music, poetic language and riveting theatricality.

The result, says Fountain co-artistic director Stephen Sachs, is a fast, immensely theatrical, 90-minute version with a cast of five that "celebrates a young man who lived, not an icon who died."

With this production, the Fountain celebrates another life lived as well. Shirley Jo Finney stepped in to direct The Ballad of Emmett Till after director Ben Bradley was found murdered in his home on January 2. "Because Ben loved the play and the project so much, we were determined to go forward," explains Sachs. "Shirley Jo is a fabulous director and a longtime member of the Fountain family. Ben worked with her many times and adored her."

Ifa Bayeza is an award-winning playwright, producer and conceptual theater artist. Her works for the stage include Amistad Voices, Club Harlem, Kid Zero, Homer G & the Rhapsodies, for which she received a Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays fellowship, and The Ballad of Emmett Till, which received its world premiere at the Goodman Theatre in May 2008 and which garnered the 2008 Mystery Writers of America Edgar Award for "Best Play." Bayeza received numerous honors for The Ballad of Emmett Till, including research fellowships from Brown University, Columbia College in Chicago and the Eugene O'Neill 2007 Playwrights Conference. Her work has been performed at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, Crossroads Theatre, BRAVA, Cosmic Theater in Amsterdam and at the Sorbonne. Bayeza served as the original dramaturg and set designer for Ntozake Shange's for colored girls at New Federal Theatre and The Public Theater. A graduate of Harvard University, Bayeza is co- founder of the theatrical think-tank DBA Studios, a founding board member of the SonEdna Foundation of Mississippi and a member of the Dramatists Guild of America. She lives in Chicago.

Shirley Jo Finney directed Yellowman at the Fountain, for which she received NAACP, Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, Back Stage Garland, and LA Weekly Awards for Best Director. Other Fountain credits include Central Avenue and From the Mississippi Delta. She has directed all over the United States including at the McCarter Theater, Pasadena Playhouse, Goodman Theater, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Cleveland Playhouse, Crossroads Theater Company, Actors' Theater of Louisville Humana Festival, Mark Taper Forum, American College Theatre Festival and Sundance Theatre Workshop. She directed the East Coast premiere of Lydia Diamond's Stickfly at the McCarter, followed by the West Coast premiere at The Matrix Theatre for which she was nominated for an Ovation Award. She premiered a new play based on a children's book, Alice, written by Whoopi Goldberg at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C, which went on to tour nationally. She has directed several episodes of the UPN series Moesha and the Naked TV project for Fox Television, and she is the recipient of the International Black Filmmakers Award for the short film Remember Me. In the spring of 2011, she will direct the world premiere of a new opera about Winnie Mandela in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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