North Coast Rep Presents GEE'S BAND, 10/16-11/7

North_Coast_Rep_Presents_GEES_BAND_20010101

Gee's Bend depicts the turbulent history of African-Americans in the 20th century by focusing on a single family in the real community of Gee's Bend, AL, which is now famous for the beautiful quilts created by the women that grew up there. A moving tale of three generations of African-American women living in this isolated Alabama town chronicles the courage and resiliency of their life's journey. Gee's Bend highlights the life of Sadie Pettway, from her teenage years to her 70s, and the other women in her quilting circle. Their experiences inspired them to create magnificent quilts that were miraculous works of art, and inspired this haunting play filled with Gospel music that has swept the country. Likewise, it will stir North Coast Rep audiences long after the lights have faded.

October 16 - November 7, 2010
Previews: October 13 - 15, 2010
Tickets: $30 - $47

Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder (Playwright) Born and raised in Mobile, Alabama, playwright Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder graduated from high school early, and immediately moved to New York City to pursue her acting career.

While starring in a small production of And the Tide Shall Cover the Earth, Elyzabeth met Roger McFarland, executive director of Broadway Care. McFarland helped Elyzabeth become better acquainted with the New York theatre community, and it was around this time that upon a suggestion from Wendy Wasserstein herself, Elyzabeth began writing plays. Wilder claims she had always been fond of writing short sketches and monologues for herself to use during auditions. 

Her first play was produced as a reading at the Blackjack Festival of New Plays when Wilder was only 17 years old. She graduated from NYU in 2004 and soon after moved to LA to find more writing opportunities. 

Elyzabeth recently received the 2008 Elizabeth Osborn New Play Award for an emerging playwright. This award was based mainly on Gee's Bend, which was commissioned by the Alabama Shakespeare Festival's Southern Writers Project. There was a staged reading of the play during the project's 2006 Festival of New Plays, and the fully-staged premiere occurred in January, 2007 at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival.  Prior to writing the play, Elyzabeth traveled to Gee's Bend to interview the women of the town who are currently being recognized for their magnificent quilts, created across several generations in their isolated, closely knit community. 

Wilder's initial goal was simply to collect anecdotes about life and quilt making. "I wanted to know what was going on in these women's lives while they were making the quilts," she said. "What stories could they tell?" What resulted was a historically and culturally rich, emotional play about family values, perseverance, and character. While interviewing Mary Lee Bendolph, a Gee's Bend native and a now famous quilting artist, Elyzabeth was told to "Just write it honest."  Wilder later said "That was my promise to her. I just hope my love for these women and these stories can be seen in the work."

She has been working as a writers' assistant for CBS television on Club House. She is also a member of Youngblood, the Ensemble Studio Theatre's program for writers under 30.

Other Works by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder: The First Day of Hunting Season, The Theory of Relativity, Jubilee, Tales of An Adolescent Fruit Fly, Fresh Kills, In Ocean Springs, Hot Blooded: New Monologues from the Members of Youngblood, The Spirit of Ecstasy, The Furniture of Home, The Bone Orchard.

Yvette Freeman (Director) For fifteen seasons, Yvette played the role of Nurse Haleh Adams on the acclaimed dramatic series ER.  She also played the funny but slightly evil character of Evelyn Smalley on the NBC sitcom series Working. Yvette has starred in the Broadway, First National, Paris and International companies of Ain't Misbehavin'. Yvette starred in the New York production Dinah Was, based on the life of the legendary jazz singer Dinah Washington, and won the 1998 Obie for Best Actress. She also received the NAACP Award, Ovation Award, LA Weekly and a Dramalogue Award for her portrayal of Dinah Washington in the Los Angeles production of Dinah Was. Most recently she played the role of 101 year old Dr. Bessie in Having Our Say at the acclaimed McCarter Theater. She wrote and directed the play Life and Loves of Dinah Washington; the short films Remember and The Blessing Way. For more information on Yvette check out her website: www.yvettefreeman.com.

Lanny Hartley (Musical Director) Lanny Hartley is a jazz pianist, conductor and composer who began his career as the pianist for his church in Burlington, New Jersey. With a solid gospel music background he went on to study Music Education at Indiana University. Jazz piano became his love and he performed with such great Jazz artists as Wes Alexandra, Ernie Andes, Jon Hendricks, Lou Rawls, Linda Hopkins, and Ernestine Anderson. Lanny has also played for such Pop Artists as Thelma Houston, The Fifth Dimension, Joe Tex, Syreeta Wright, Al Wilson, and David Clayton Thomas. He has been the Musical Conductor/Director for such shows as Ain't Misbehavin': Tracks (Yolanda King); The Late Great Ladies of Blues and Jazz (Sandra Reeves): The Della Reese Musical Tour; and Dinah Was (New York, Los Angeles, and Williamstown). Hartley screen credits include the television movie Sinatra, as a blind piano player, the motion picture Harlem Nights as a piano player, and as the church organist in the ABC television series Soul Man, starring Dan Ackroyd.
 
Laurence Brown (Macon) Laurence is a San Diego native. His first taste of theater was in the fourth grade where he was persuaded into trying out for the school play The Music Man. Officially bit by the acting bug; he was in any production he could get into from reciting Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech in front of high school classmates to community theater. He attended Saint Augustine high school in North Park and Dillard University in New Orleans. Recently he has performed at Cygnets The Piano Lesson and award winning Fences as well as Moxie's Wet and  Devil Dog Six. Recent TV and film credits include My Name Is Khan, Monk, I Carly, and Cartoon networks new show EagleHeart.
 
Monique Gaffney* (Sadie) Monique was last seen performing in the production of Piano Lesson as Berniece at Cygnet Theatre directed by Delicia Turner-Sonnenberg. Local credits: Man From Nebraska, Yellowman(2007 Craig Noel Award), Bug and Las Meninas at Cygnet Theatre; Doubt at  San Diego REP; No Exit at Diversionary Theatre; Medea and I Have Before Me A Remarkable Document Given To Me By A Young Lady From Rwanda at Compass Theatre(2006 Patte Award); Gibson Girl and BlueBonnet Court for Moxie Theatre in collaboration with Diversionary Theatre; In Arabia We'd Be Kings at Lynx Progressive Theatre; Still Life at New Village Arts; The Scottish Play and Phaedra in Delirium at Sledgehammer; Story Theatre, Stories About the Old Days and The African Company Presents Richard III at North Coast Rep. New York credits: Willie Mae/Martha in Mamba's Daughters at the International Spoleto Theatre directed by David Herskovitz; Josephine Baker/Oscar Micheaux in American Silents directed by Anne Bogart. Also, she is a company member of Omo Ache a local Afro-Cuban dance company. She received her BA from UCSD in acting and also holds an MFA in acting from Columbia University.
 
Charmen Jackson (Alice/Asia) I was introduced to theatre in 2003 as a vocalist in Handel's Messiah-A Soulful Celebration with Common Ground Theatre.  Since then, I put my love of writing to use in a play called Ain't You Heard? which was also my directorial debut with the Ira Aldridge Repertory Players.  Other directorial credits include Night Mother with Ascension Theatre Co, Company Men with Compass Theatre, Co-director for Black Girl with CUFAA,  Assistant Director for Ma Rainey's Black Bottom with San Diego Black Ensemble Theatre, and much to my delight, Assistant Director for The Old's Globe's production of SAMMY, starring Obba Babatunde as Sammy Davis Jr. 

My onstage credits include role of Dussie Mae in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom with San Diego Black Ensemble, understudy for Rasechaba in Gangsters for San Diego Black Ensemble, Netta in Black Girl with CUFAA, ensemble in 5 Shades of Blues, Passion & Honey, and Ernestine Anderson in Raisin' the Rent with IARP, ensemble in Dreamgirls with San Diego Musical Theatre Co, and understudy as Mrs. Muller in Doubt by the San Diego Repertory Theatre.  Gee's Bend initially caught my attention a couple years ago and I intended to direct it in the future, but, the future included my acting in it and I am thrilled to participate in sharing this bit of history that is so relatable to me and my own family legacies. 

Licia Shearer* (Nella) Licia Shearer is a busy actress, singer and dancer whose credits include: (TV) Dexter, Cold Case, Scrubs, House, Help Me Help You, General Hospital, One On One, The Parkers, (Film) Gang of Roses, How To Be A Player, Radio Free Albemuth, (Stage) Ain't Misbehavin', For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf, Little Shop of Horrors, Eden, Finian's Rainbow and Hangin' On A Mustard Seed (one-woman show).  Licia is also a voice-over artist, the creator of Licia-Wear clothing accessories clothing line and she is currently writing a documentary film based on an important piece of American history.

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