Monika Jolly Stars in World Premiere of THE WHO & THE WHAT at La Jolla Playhouse, Beg. Tonight

Monika Jolly Stars in World Premiere of THE WHO & THE WHAT at La Jolla Playhouse, Beg. Tonight

La Jolla Playhouse presents its final production for its 2013/14 season: the world premiere of The Who & The What, by Ayad Akhtar, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright for Disgraced and author of the acclaimed novel American Dervish, directed by Kimberly Senior (Disgraced), running tonight, February 11 - March 9, 2014 (press opening: Wednesday, February 19 at 7:30pm) in the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre.

The cast features Monika Jolly (Theatre@Boston Court's 1001) as "Zarina," Meera Rohit Kumbhani (Classic Stage Company's As You Like It) as "Mahwish," Kai Lennox (TV's Justified) as "Eli" and Bernard White (Playhouse's The Seven, Dogeaters) as "Afzal."

The creative team includes Jack Magaw, scenic designer; Elisa Benzoni, costume designer; Jaymi Lee Smith, lighting designer; Jill BC DuBoff, sound designer; Gabriel Greene, dramaturg; and Dana DePaul, stage manager.

Raised in a conservative Muslim family in Atlanta, the outspoken and brilliant Zarina routinely clashes with her traditional father and sister. Zarina's one outlet - her recently-completed book about women and Islam - threatens to tear her family apart for good. With humor and ferocity, Ayad Akhtar's The Who & The What examines the giant chasm between our traditions and our contemporary lives.

Touted as one of Time Magazine's "10 Reasons for Theater Lovers to Leave New York in 2014," The Who & The What had its first developmental reading last year during The Playhouse's inaugural DNA New Work Series. Following the presentation, Playhouse Artistic Director Christopher Ashley programmed the play as part of the 2013/2014 season.

"This daring new play tackles many hot-button issues surrounding religion and family traditions, but with tremendous wit and wisdom," said Ashley. "After its first reading during last year's DNA Series, I immediately wanted to continue developing this provocative new piece from one of the country's premiere playwrights. We welcome the opportunity to work with this superb cast and creative team to bring Ayad's latest work to life."

Tickets for The Who & The What are available online at LaJollaPlayhouse.org or by calling the Patron Services Office at (858) 550-1010.

Named one of the "Theatre Faces to Watch in 2014" by the L.A. Times, Ayad Akhtar (Playwright) won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for his play, Disgraced. The production ran at Lincoln Center Theatre in 2012 and at London's Bush Theater in 2013 and won Chicago's Jeff Equity Award for Best New Play in 2012. Also a novelist and screenwriter, Akhtar is the author of American Dervish, published in 25 languages worldwide and named a 2012 Best Book of the Year by Kirkus Reviews, Toronto's Globe and Mail, Shelf-Awareness and O (Oprah) Magazine. As a screenwriter, he was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay for The War Within. He has received commissions from Lincoln Center and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. He is a graduate oF Brown and Columbia Universities, with degrees in Theater and Film Directing.

Kimberly Senior (Director) is a Chicago-based director, where credits include Want and The North Plan (Steppenwolf); The Letters (Writers' Theatre); The Whipping Man (Northlight Theatre); After the Revolution, Madagascar, The Overwhelming and The Busy World Is Hushed (Next); Disgraced (American Theater Company); All My Sons and Dolly West's Kitchen (TimeLine Theatre); among others. She also directed the New York's Lincoln Center production of Disgraced. Senior is an Artistic Associate at Next Theatre, Strawdog Theatre and Chicago Dramatists. She also served as Program Director and as a dramaturg for Steppenwolf's First Look Repertory of New Work. As an educator, she spent ten years as an administrator and Resident Artist with Steppenwolf for Young Adults. In addition, she ran and/or taught programs for Court Theater, Northlight Theater, Redmoon Theater, Victory Gardens, Metropolis, Act One Studios and Acting Studio Chicago. She is an adjunct faculty member at Columbia College where was the recipient of the 2010 Excellence in Teaching Award. She has been nominated for five Joseph Jefferson Awards in Directing.

Monika Jolly ("Zarina") recently appeared on stage as "Scheherezade/Dahna" in the west coast premiere of 1001 at The Theatre@Boston Court. She has also appeared off-Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theater, Target Margin Theatre, as well as regionally at A.C.T. in San Francisco and the Stella Adler and 24th Street Theatre in L.A. Her film and television projects include: M. Night Shyamalan's, After Earth with Will Smith and Jaden Smith; HBO's Cinema Verite ("Yvonne") with Diane Lane, Tim Robbins, James Gandolfini; The Scenesters with Sherilyn Fenn; Two:Thirteen with Teri Polo, Mark Pellegrino and Kevin Pollack and Soccer Mom with Dan Cortese and Missi Pyle. TV credits include: Entourage, Arrested Development, The O.C., Hannah Montana, Standoff, as well as recurring roles on The Bold and the Beautiful, Lincoln Heights and several national commercials. She received her B.A. in acting from UCLA's School of Theater Film and Television and a post-graduate degree at The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts.

Meera Rohit Khubani's ("Mahwish") credits include the New York premiere of Jesus in India at Ma-Yi Theater Company, the world premiere of Holy Crab! at Ensemble Studio Theater, Richard II at The Pearl and As You Like It and Twelfth Night at Classic Stage Company. Regionally she has appeared in Around the World in 80 Days at Pittsburgh Public Theatre as well as workshops at Playwrights Horizons, New York Theatre Workshop and Ensemble Studio Theater. Film and TV credits include The Black Box, NYC 22, The Late Show and Offliners. Ms. Khubani holds a B.A. in Neurobiology and Theatre Arts from UC Berkeley and an M.F.A. in Acting from Columbia University.

This will mark Kai Lennox's ("Eli") debut at the La Jolla Playhouse. Regional credits include The Dadaists, Alfie (The Met Theatre). Mr. Lennox is a regular on the new AMC series Line of Sight and was a regular on the ABC series The Unusuals. Other television credits include Justified, House of Lies, Vegas, NCIS and House. Mr. Lennox has played in such films as The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Hitchcock, Ruby Sparks, Beginners, Yes Man, Boogie Nights as well as Nightmoves, which will be released in the spring of 2014. Mr. Lennox is an L.A. native and L.A.C.H.S.A Alumnus.

Bernard White ("Afzal") has appeared in La Jolla Playhouse's productions of Dogeaters and The Seven. Off-Broadway credits include Blood and Gifts at Lincoln Center, Landscape of the Body at Signature Theatre, Sakharam Binder at Play Company and The Death of Garcia Lorca at the Public. Regional credits include Troilus and Cressida and Henry V at Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Art at East/West Players, Wings of Desire at American Repertory/Toneelgroep Amsterdam, Blithe Spirit and Lucy and the Conquest at Williamstown Theatre Festival. He has appeared in the films Captain America: Winter Soldier, Vino Veritas, It's Kind of a Funny Story, Alvin and the Chipmunks, Quarantine, The World Unseen, American Dreamz, Land of Plenty, Raising Helen, The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions, Scorpion King, Pay it Forward and City of Angels, as well as the Silicon Valley, Gray's Anatomy, Touch, Castle, The Good Wife, N.C.I.S, among others, for television.

The nationally-acclaimed, Tony Award-winning La Jolla Playhouse is known for its tradition of creating the most exciting and adventurous new work in the theatre. Founded in 1947 by Gregory Peck, Dorothy McGuire and Mel Ferrer, The Playhouse is considered one of the most well-respected not-for-profit theatres in the country. Numerous Playhouse productions have moved to Broadway, including the currently running hit Jersey Boys and Hands on a Hardbody, as well as Memphis, Big River, The Who's Tommy, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, A Walk in the Woods, Billy Crystal's 700 Sundays, the Pulitzer Prize-winning I Am My Own Wife, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Farnsworth Invention, 33 Variations, Bonnie & Clyde, Chaplin, Peter and the Starcatcher and Hands on a Hardbody. Located on the UC San Diego campus, La Jolla Playhouse is made up of three primary performance spaces: the Mandell Weiss Theatre, the Mandell Weiss Forum Theatre and the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Center for La Jolla Playhouse, a state-of-the-Art Theatre complex which features the Sheila and Hughes Potiker Theatre. La Jolla Playhouse is led by Artistic Director Christopher Ashley and Managing Director Michael S. Rosenberg.

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