Soho Rep. Announces Complete Casting And Creative Team For Aleshea Harris's IS GOD IS
Soho Rep. (Sarah Benson, Artistic Director; Cynthia Flowers, Executive Director) today announces the complete cast and creative team for the world premiere of Aleshea Harris's Relentless Award-winning Is God Is, directed by Taibi Magar (Ars Nova's Underground Railroad Game), February 6 - March 11, 2018. The play, with which Soho Rep. reopens its longtime Tribeca theater, dauntlessly cracks jokes as it eviscerates. Alfie Fuller and Dame-Jasmine Hughes play Anaia and Racine, twin sisters who undertake a murderous journey from the Dirty South to the California desert, seeking payback for a horrendous act. Is God Is treats both morality and genre as notions to be exploded, drawing on the ancient, the modern, the tragic, the Spaghetti Western, hip-hop and Afropunk in its subversion of theatrical constructs.
Joining Fuller and Hughes in the cast are Teagle F. Bougere, Anthony Cason, Nehassaiu deGannes, Jessica Frances Dukes, Caleb Eberhardt, and Michael Genet. The creative team includes Adam Rigg (set design), Montana Levi Blanco (costume design), Cookie Jordan (hair and wig design), Matthew Richards (lighting design), Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste (sound design), Samantha Shoffner (props design), J. David Brimmer (fight direction), Danielle Teague-Daniels (production stage management), and Genevieve Ortiz (assistant stage managemet).
Aleshea Harris says of Is God Is, "Through this work, I sought to answer what I felt were compelling questions: What would happen if women who had been abused sought eye-for-an-eye justice for themselves and each other unapologetically? What if I wrote characters who spoke a language I spoke growing up (and still speak, depending), a language I've rarely experienced on stage, a language that eschews respectability politics, opting instead for gut-wrenching, unflinching honesty? And what if I took my cues from visual poets like Douglas Kearney and the graphic version of Ionesco's The Bald Soprano, letting the words of my play dance across the page as seems to fit character intention?"
Born in Mississippi and based in Los Angeles, Aleshea Harris performs her own solo work, in addition to being an acclaimed playwright, screenwriter and poet. Her multidisciplinary background has informed her proclivity for writing specifically for actors, creating disruptive, challenging and magnetic roles. Harris situates her work within an Afropunk ideology that explodes perceptions of how black people think, move, and sound; Is God Is explores and relishes the nuances of black Southern speech. In writing the play, she sought to place herself where culture has never allowed her to see herself. Here, she puts black women characters in the driver's seat of the alternately exhilarating and desolating Western genre. Anaia and Racine take the audience on a fast and merciless ride.
The premiere of this audacious work exemplifies the indispensable role of Soho Rep.: to provide a platform for artists to realize their boldest visions, in productions that are regularly among the most ambitious and acclaimed offerings of the theater season. Is God Is received the American Playwriting Foundation's 2016 Relentless Award, presented in honor of Philip Seymour Hoffman. This engagement is the first New York production of one of Harris' plays. She joins a history of playwrights whose breakthrough productions have happened at Soho Rep., including César Alvarez, Alice Birch, Jackie Sibblies Drury, debbie tucker green, Lucas Hnath, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Young Jean Lee, and Dan LeFranc.
Is God Is kicks off Soho Rep.'s triumphant return to the Lower Manhattan storefront it has called home for over 25 years. Soho Rep. Artistic Director Sarah Benson says, "I could not think of a more perfect play with which to welcome audiences back into our theater. When I was sent two of Aleshea's plays I began reading one of them late at night, and before I knew it I had stayed up for hours immersed in her work. I emailed her the very next morning to talk about making a production of Is God Is at Soho Rep. Aleshea's writing is a force. In Is God Is, she has created nothing short of a new theatrical landscape populated by some of the most stunning roles for actors I've ever encountered. I cannot wait to share it with our audiences-especially under the direction of Taibi Magar, who I know will summon everything in her brilliant theatrical arsenal to bring this extraordinary play to the stage."
Performances of Is God Is will take place February 6 - March 11 (see schedule above) at Soho Rep., located at 46 Walker Street in Manhattan. Critics are welcome as of February 14 for an official opening on February 18, at 7:30pm. Tickets are $35 general/$65 premium through March 11, and can be purchased by visiting sohorep.org or calling 212.352.3101. $30 general rush and $20 student rush (valid school ID) tickets are available at the box office 30 minutes prior to curtain for each performance, no advance sales. $0.99 Sunday tickets will be offered on February 25, March 4 & 11 at 7:30pm and are available first come, first served at the box office only.
Aleshea Harris is a playwright, performer and educator who received an MFA in Writing for Performance from California Institute of the Arts. Most recently, she was named the winner of the American Playwriting Foundation's 2016 Relentless Award for Is God Is. Her work has been presented at the Costume Shop at American Conservatory Theater, Playfest at Orlando Shakespeare Theater, VOXfest at Dartmouth College, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, The Theatre @ Boston Court, L'École de la Comédie de Saint-Étienne, National Drama Center in France and in the 2015 anthology The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop. Harris is under commission from Denver Center Theatre Company, American Conservatory Theater and CalArts' Center for New Performance/La Comedie de Saint-Etiénne. She is a MacDowell Fellow and a Hedgebrook alum.
Taibi Magar is an Egyptian-American director based in New York, and a graduate of the Brown/Trinity MFA program. Most recently she directed the critically acclaimed Master at the Foundry Theatre (New York Times Critics Pick). Other recent projects include Underground Railroad Game (Ars Nova, New York Times Critics Pick, OBIE Award for Best New American Work), Dry Powder (The Alley) and We Are Proud to Present...(The Guthrie).
In New York, Magar has directed and developed work for The Foundry, New York Theatre Workshop, Ars Nova, TFANA, the Women's Project Theatre, Rising Phoenix Rep and INTAR Theatre. She is the recipient of a Stephen Sondheim Fellowship, an Oregon Shakespeare Festival Fellowship, a Public Theater Shakespeare Fellowship and the TFANA Actors and Director Project Fellowship, and is an alumna of Lincoln Center Directors Lab. Most recently, she received the Kaplan Fellowship for young artists. She has directed and taught at many academic institutions, including Juilliard, Fordham University, Brown University and New York University.
Magar is currently developing Patrick and Daniel Lazour's We Live in Cairo (2016 Richard Rodgers Award) with New York Theatre Workshop. Upcoming projects include Familiar (The Guthrie and Seattle Repertory Theatre), Sense and Sensibility (Playmakers Rep) and Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare Festival St. Louis).
Teagle F. Bougere (Man) has performed on Broadway in The Crucible, A Raisin in The Sun, and The Tempest. His Off-Broadway credits include Julius Caesar and Cymbeline, along with eight other productions, for the NYSF Public Theater; A Soldier's Play (Second Stage); and A Fair Country (Lincoln Center Theater). Bougere created the role of Invisible Man in the world premiere stage adaptation of Ralph Ellison's novel. Selected regional credits include One man show and An Iliad (Pittsburgh Public Theater); The Real Thing (Studio Theater, Washington D.C.); and Joe Turner's Come And Gone and Blue Door, both directed by Delroy Lindo (Berkeley Repertory Theater). He has appeared on television in The Mist, The Path, Big C, Cosby, What The Deaf Man Heard, and in seven episodes of Law and Order. His film credits include Night At The Museum, Two Weeks Notice, The Pelican Brief.
Anthony Cason (Riley) has performed in New York City in Arden/Everywhere: The As You Like It Project (BPAC). His regional theater work includes A Midsummer Night's Dream and Love's Labour's Lost (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company). His TV and film credits include Law & Order: SVU and The Breaks.
Nehassaiu deGannes (Angie) makes her Off-Broadway debut in this production of Is God Is. She has worked Off-Off Broadway with Target Margin Theater (Abrons, JACK, Bushwick Starr,) Buran Theater, Theatre of The Two-Headed Calf, and in readings with The Lark, New Georges, and New Dramatists. Other New York / New Jersey credits include Marisol, directed by Niegel Smith, Luna Stage; McCarter Theater's Every 28 Hours Plays, directed by Megan Sandberg-Zakian; and EQUUS, with Alec Baldwin, directed by Tony Walton. Selected regional credits include Shakespeare & Co. (Intimate Apparel, Or, *Berkshire Theater Award Outstanding Supporting Actress); Chicago Shakes (King Lear,) and Underground Railway Theater (The Convert). Internationally, she has appeared at the Stratford Festival of Canada (Romeo & Juliet, directed by Tim Carroll); and ay Litmus Theatre/Theatre Passe Muraille. A graduate of the Brown MFA program and Trinity Rep Conservatory, deGannesteaches at Princeton and is a 52nd Street Project Volunteer.
Jessica Frances Dukes (She) has appeared Off-Broadway in Playwrights Horizons's Bootycandy (OBIE Award); and just finished playing Bessie/Vera in Native Son at Yale Repertory Theatre. Other regional credits include the McCarter Theatre production of Intimate Apparel; Actors Theatre of Louisville's Macbeth (Lady Macbeth); Arena Stage's King Hedley II, Vanya, Sonia, Masha, Spike; Centerstage's Detroit 67, Beneatha's Place, and Clybourne Park; Detroit Public Theatre's Detroit 67; Arden Theatre's Stick Fly; Geva Theatre's A Raisin in the Sunand The Piano Lesson; Indiana Repertory's The Piano Lesson; Cleveland Playhouse's Trip to Bountiful; Ford's Theatre's Jitney; Woolly Mammoth Theatre's Bootycandy, The Vibrator Play, Eclipsed, Fever Dream, The Folger, and more. She has appeared on TV and film in NCIS New Orleans (CBS), The Good Wife (CBS), A Raisin in the Sun Revisited (PBS), and Bernard & Huey (film). She earned her MFA from The Catholic University of America.
Caleb Eberhardt (Scotch) is a native of San Francisco, CA, and currently resides in Brooklyn. Previous theater credits include Esai's Table (Cherry Lane Theatre), Choir Boy (ALLIANCE THEATRE/Geffen Playhouse), Hamlet (Theatre of War), and Mother Courage and Her Children (Purchase Rep.) His TV and film credits include Love Beats Rhymes (Lionsgate), The Deuce(HBO), The Defenders (Netflix), The Breaks (VH1), and Roxanne Roxanne (IamOTHER) Training: B.F.A. from SUNY Purchase. He is also a musician.
Alfie Fuller (Anaia) has performed in Yellow Card Red Card (New Ohio), Glass (JACK), Permitted (Kraine), Cowboy Mouth (Labyrinth), Antony & Cleopatra (Am. Theatre of Actors), and As You Like It (New School). Her regional theater credits include Picnic (ALLIANCE THEATRE). She has appeared in the films Standing8 (Best Narrative Short at UrbanWorld Film Festival), and Simoune (Portland & LA Film Festival). She attended the New School for Drama's MFA program.
Michael Genet (Chuck Hall) recently starred as Doctor Dillamond in the Broadway production of Wicked, and in Hamlet at The Old Globe Theatre. His Broadway credits include A Few Good Men, Hamlet, Lestat and Northeast Local. He has appeared Off-Broadway in A Soldier's Play, Fences, All My Sons, Dance of the Holy Ghosts, The Whipping Man, and Resurrection. His film and TV credits include One Fine Day, She Hate Me, 25th Hour, The Affair, The Mysteries of Laura, Ugly Betty, Taxi Brooklyn, The Following, Law & Order, and Tyler Perry's House of Payne. Genet is the author of the critically acclaimed They Must Not Know Who I Think I Am: Lessons in Defiant Resilience and won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Writing In A Motion Picture for the FOCUS Features film Talk To Me.
Dame-Jasmine Hughes (Racine) is a graduate of The Piney Woods School, Tougaloo College (B.A.) and California Institute of the Arts (M.F.A). She has won a 2016 Ivey Award for acting and was nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Female lead by The TBA Awards. Theater credits include Dot (Park Square Theater); Intimate Apparel (Ten Thousand Things); Hurt Village (Ubuntu Theater); Sunset Baby, Jitney and Wedding Band, directed by Lou Bellamy (Penumbra Theatre); and Bright Half Life (Pillsbury House Theatre). She originated the role of Mercedes in Pussy Valley and has appeared in An Octoroon (Mixed Blood Theater), Bus Stop (Rattlestick), Hoodoo Love (Mo'elelo Performing Arts-San Diego), For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide... and Girls of Summer (Whitmore Lindley), Camino Real (Boston Court), King Hedley II and Day of Absence (directed by James Avery), Crackbaby, Late Bus to Mecca, I'm an Actor, They Don't Get It (Tre Stages-LA), and My Barbarians:PoLAAt (REDCAT in Los Angeles and the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York). Her film credits include Katori Hall's directorial debut Arkabutla; Pleasure To Burn; Baby, No Lye; Time Killed; the Big Bang Theory; Stranded in Oblivion; ReTROGRADE; Celebrity Ghost Stories; and Special Ed.
Adam Rigg (Scenic Design) is a Brooklyn-based designer and artist originally from Southern California. His New York Theater credits include Actually (Williamstown Theater Festival/Manhattan Theatre Club), Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. (Soho Rep.), O, Earth. (The Foundry Theatre), Demonstrating the Imaginary Body (The Public Theater's Under the Radar Festival), and Living Here (The Foundry Theatre). His regional credits include Henry IV: Part 1 & 2 (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Invisible Hand (Westport Country Playhouse), and Dear Elizabeth (Yale Repertory Theatre). His opera work includes Breaking the Waves (Opera Philadelphia/Prototype), An American Tragedy (Broad Stage), and Pelleas (Cincinnati Opera). Upcoming: Familiar (The Guthrie/Seattle Rep), Water by the Spoonful (Mark Taper Forum), and Proving Up (Opera Omaha). He has won a Princess Grace Award has been nominated twice for American Theatre Wing Henry Hewes Design Awards. Education: MFA, Yale School of Drama; BA, UCLA.
Montana Levi Blanco (Costume Design) has worked Off-Broadway on The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World (Lucille Lortel Award nomination) and In The Blood(Signature Theatre); Pipeline (Lincoln Center Theater); Ghost Light and War (Lincoln Center Theater/LCT3); Red Speedo and Nat Turner in Jerusalem (NYTW); He Brought Her Heart Back In a Box (TFANA), The Last Match (Roundabout Theatre Company); Hamlet, Teenage Dick, and Pretty Hunger (Public Theater); O, Earth (Foundry Theatre); and Orange Julius (Rattlestick). Regional credits include The Bluest Eye (Guthrie Theater), An Octoroon (Berkeley Rep), Measure for Measure (California Shakespeare Theater). Upcoming: Fairview (Soho Rep), Angels in America (Berkeley Rep), The House That Will Not Stand (NYTW), and Lempicka (Williamstown). Training: Yale School of Drama, MFA; Brown University, MA; Oberlin College, BA; Oberlin Conservatory of Music, BM. montanaleviblanco.com.
Cookie Jordan (Hair and Wig Design) has worked on Broadway productions of Once on This Island, Sunday in the Park with George, In Transit, Eclipsed, Side Show, After Midnight, Fela, A View from the Bridge, and South Pacific. Off-Broadway credits include In The Blood, Everybody, The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World (Signature Theater), and Marie and Rosetta and Midsummers Night Dream (Shakespeare in the Park). Tours include Fela! (National tour), Fela! (European Tour), Dirty Dancing, Flash Dance (National tour). Jordan received an Emmy Award nomination for NBC's The Wiz Live.
Matthew Richards (Lighting Design) has worked on Broadway on Ann. His opera work includes Macbeth at L.A. Opera. Off-Broadway credits include Absolute Brightness... and The Curvy Widow at Westside Arts; The Killer, Tamburlaine, and Measure For Measure at Theatre For a New Audience; and productions with The Atlantic; MCC; Playwrights Horizons; Play Co.; Primary Stages; Rattlestick; and Second Stage. He has worked at regional theaters including the Actor's Theater of Louisville; Arena Stage; Baltimore's Center Stage; Cincinnati Playhouse; Cleveland Playhouse; Dallas Theater Center; Ford's Theatre; The Goodman; Hartford Stage; The Hangar; Hudson Valley Shakespeare; The Huntington; La Jolla Playhouse; Long Wharf; The Old Globe; Shakespeare Theatre; Westport Playhouse; Williamstown Theatre Festival; and Yale Repertory Theatre. He is a graduate of the University of Massachusetts and the Yale School of Drama.
Jeremy Toussaint-Baptiste (Sound Design) is a Bessie-nominated composer, designer, and performer, based in Brooklyn. His work complicates notions of industry, identity, and environment and the implications of the intersections of such phenomena. He is a founding member of performance collective Wildcat!, and frequently collaborates with performers and fine artists, including Jaamil Olawale Kosoko, Will Rawls, and Yanira Castro/a canary torsi. He has presented at the Brooklyn Museum, The Kitchen, Issue Project Room, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Newark Museum, Under The Radar at The Public Theater, The Studio Museum In Harlem, National Sawdust, The Jam Handy (Detroit), Tanz Im August at Hau3 (Berlin), American Realness at Abrons, Gibney Dance, FringeArts (Philadelphia), Judson Church, Stoa Cultural Center (Helsinki), MIT, Arts East New York, JACK, Painted Bride Art Center (Philadelphia), University Settlement, Harlem Stage, and also on Dazed Digital, Complex, and Boiler Room.
Samantha Shoffner (Props Design) Broadway credits include Time and the Conways, The Price, Falsettos, China Doll, Noises Off, and Living on Love (Associate). She served as Props Artisan/Swing Coordinator on Fiddler..., An American in Paris (and on tour), On Your Feet (and on tour), The King and I, Realistic Joneses, Nice Work if You Can Get It, and A Streetcar Named Desire, and designed projections for The Mountaintop. Her West End work includes Hairspray (Maintenance). Her Off Broadway credits include Stuffed (West Side Theatre), Kid Victory (Vineyard) Alligator (New Georges), The End of Longing, Ride the Cyclone (MCC), Macbeth (CTH), A Better Place (The Duke), Familiar (Playwrights Horizons), Sojourners, Songbird(59E59), Travels...Aunt (KEEN), and Seawife and Life of the Party (LaGuardia Arts). Her regional theater credits include A Music Box Christmas (Hersheypark), Macbeth and As You Like It(Hudson Valley Shakespeare); and Company, On Golden Pond, and 25th...Spelling Bee (Bucks County). She has done work for Samsung (Marcel ad), Google (facilities designer), Vince Camuto, Under Armour, and H&M (Coachella, Design), Holiday: Burlington, Jack Spade, Cole Haan, Macy's 2010 (Artisan). Film: Production Design: Common Ground (DNAinfo), Kiddush Club, Greg Holden, Boys in the Street. She is a CityTech Professor of Props & Paint and a graduate of Penn State University.
J. David Brimmer (Fight Director) (Fight Master, SAFD) has choreographed on Broadway for Spring Awakening, The Lieutenant of Inishmore, Grace, W;t, and Speed the Plow, and for the New York Premieres of In The Blood, Yen, Gloria, Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again., An Octoroon, Punk Rock, We are Proud to Present..., Bethany, Mr. Burns..., Blasted, The Whipping Man, Bug, and Killer Joe. He has worked with David Mamet, Sam Shepard, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Suzan Lori-Parks, Ethan Coen, Conor McPherson, Martin McDonough, Tracy Letts, Kenneth Lonergan, Neil LaBute, Wilson Milam, Evan Cabnet, Doug Hughes, Sarah Benson, Joel Schumacher, Ken Russell, and Franco Zeffirelli.
Danielle Teague-Daniels (Production Stage Manager) has worked with many companies, including Actors Theatre of Louisville, Clubbed Thumb, 3LD, Lee Strasberg Institute, LAByrinth theater, Rising Circle Theater Collective, Big Apple Circus, NYU Steinhardt, New Georges', Working Theater, and New Dramatists, to name a few. Last summer she stage-managed Bello Mania at the New Victory Theater, and last fall she worked at Baltimore Center Stage on their premiere of The Christians. She has worked on two very promising workshops that have a future for this upcoming Broadway season: La Jolla Playhouse's Summer: The Donna Summer Musical and Berkeley Rep's Ain't Too Proud. She worked on a Michael Kors fashion show in Shanghai, China, in 2014.
Genevieve Ortiz (Assistant Stage Manager) recent credits include The Christians at Baltimore Center Stage. Her NYC credits include Seven Spots on the Sun at Rattlestick; Alligator at New Georges; The Block at The Working Theater; Pretty Hunger at The Public Theater; The Sun Shines East at The Marjorie S. Deane Little Theater; The Golden Year at WorkShop Theater Company; The Winter's Tale at Actors Shakespeare Company at NJCU; Oleanna at The Players Club; Ghost Dancer at the Mint Theater; and Lost on the Natchez Trace, How I Fell in Love, Rum & Coke, and My Death at Abingdon Theater. Additional NYC credits include Songs of Love: A Mixtape, NY Fringe Festival; NYMTF's This One Girl's Story; and Morgan Street, directed by Anika Noni Rose, at BRIC.
Is God Is kicks off Soho Rep.'s triumphant return to its intimate Walker Street storefront theater, once described by Hilton Als of The New Yorker as "a 70-seat house filled with big ideas." In September 2016, following the discovery that the company had been producing in the space, since moving into the building 1991, without having obtained the proper Certificate of Occupancy, the potential for returning to its intimate home felt slim. Thanks, however, to a citywide effort including the Mayor's Office of Media and Entertainment and the Department of Buildings, Soho Rep. has resolved the bureaucratic issues and made the modest renovations required to move back in, having successfully completed a $500,000 building fundraising campaign led by Executive Director Cynthia Flowers and the Soho Rep. Board with leadership support from The Tow Foundation. Overcoming that hurdle has cleared the way for the company to once again do what it has become esteemed for in its life to date: provide a platform for vastly diverse artists to realize work that is consistently big in scope, formally challenging and civically engaged.