Billy Porter's WHILE I YET LIVE Begins Previews Tonight
Primary Stages in association with Susan Dietz (Fela!, Mothers and Sons), presents the world premiere of While I Yet Live by the Tony-winning star of Kinky Boots and Angels in America, Billy Porter, and directed by Tony Award nominee Sheryl Kaller (Mothers and Sons, Next Fall, Adrift in Macao). While I Yet Live plays a limited, six-week engagement, tonight, September 24, through October 31 at Primary Stages at The Duke on 42nd Street - a NEW 42ND STREET project (229 West 42nd Street). Opening night is Sunday, October 12 at 5PM.
This new work about a young man's coming of age in Pittsburgh amongst a bevy of fascinating and strong-willed women features Elain Graham (The Picture Box, "Smash"),Sheria Irving (Romeo & Juliet, Ethel Sings), Emmy Award winner S. Epatha Merkerson(Come Back, Little Sheba; "Law & Order"), Kevyn Morrow (Ragtime - Olivier nominee;Dreamgirls), Larry Powell (Broke-ology, The Christians), Sharon Washington (The Scottsboro Boys, Wild With Happy), and Tony Award winner Lillias White (The Life, Fela!).
"This play is a love letter to my mother, my sister, and the women who raised me," says Porter. "Reflecting on my own life experience as a gay, black, Christian man, and survivor of abuse, I wanted to write a play that was about family, faith and the healing power of forgiveness, three things very necessary to move forward and make change in your life. Change is possible, but it takes patience."
While I Yet Live features a set design by James Noone, costume design by ESosa, lighting design by Kevin Adams, sound design by Leon Rothenberg, original music by Jerome Kirkland, Jr., music supervision by James Sampliner, and casting by Stephanie Klapper Casting.
While I Yet Live will play a limited engagement today, September 24 - October 31 at The Duke on 42nd Street - a NEW 42ND STREET project. Performances are Tuesday-Thurs 7pm, Fri 8pm, Sat 2 & 8pm, Sun 3pm. There is an added 2pm matinee on Wednesday, October 29.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS:
ELAIN GRAHAM (Delores) was last seen as Mum in in the critically acclaimed, Debbie Tucker Green's born bad at SoHo Rep. Televison credits include: Recurring roles on "666 Park Avenue" (Grandma Lottie Clarke), "Smash" (Vanessa Strickland), "Unforgettable," "Law and Order," "Law and Order SVU." She was Etta Mae Burrell on the long running Daytime Soap Opera, "Another World." Other Stage Credits, Lena Younger, A Raisin in the Sun (VSC), Mrs. Dickson, Intimate Aparrel (Two River Theater). The Woman, in Lynn Nottages', Banana Beer Bath (EST Going to the River Festival) Portia in Julius Caesar (Hartford Stage Company).
SHERIA IRVING (Tonya) was last seen in the Off-Broadway premiere of Ethel Sings following her Broadway debut in Romeo and Juliet. Other work in New York includes Happy Place (MTC);Serial Blackface (Playwrights Horizon); Ashes (CATF); Regional credits include The Winter's Tale (Yale Rep), Hollow Roots, Wintertime, Blacktop Sky (Yale School of Drama), Anna Bella Eema, Becoming Sylvia (Williamstown Theater Festival). BADA, M.F.A., Yale School of Drama 2013. www.sheriairving.com.
S. EPATHA MERKERSON (Maxine) has won critical acclaim for her work in theatre, television and film. She is best known for her 17-season run as Lieutenant Anita Van Buren on NBC's "Law and Order," (2006/2010/2011 NAACP Image Award). Her credits include the HBO filmLackawanna Blues (Emmy, Golden Globe, SAG, Gracie Allen, 2006 Image Award and an IFP Spirit Award nomination) Radio (Cammie Award), Black Snake Moan, Terminator II: Judgement Day, Random Hearts, Navy Seals, Mother and Child directed by Rodrigo Garcia, The Six Wives Of Henry Lefay, Peeples with David Alan Greer and Kerry Washington and Steven Spielberg's Lincoln. She has completed filming on two independent films The Challenger with Michael Clark Duncan, directed by Kent Moran and Sexual Healing a biopic about Marvin Gaye with Jesse L. Martin. Ms. Merkerson's extensive theatre work includes the 2008 Broadway revival of Come Back Little Sheba, directed by Michael Pressman (Tony Award nomination), August Wilson's The Piano Lesson (Tony, Drama Desk and Helen Hayes Award nominations), Birdie Blue (Obie Award), I'm Not Stupid (Obie Award), The Old Settler (Helen Hayes Award) and F*cking A by Suzan Lori Parks (Lucille Lortel Award nomination). On television Merkerson was a series regular on "Peewee's Playhouse", The Cosby Show spin-off "Here And Now", and Dick Wolf's "Mann And Machine." She has made guest appearances on "The Cosby Show," "Frasier" and "The Closer" and "Being Mary Jane." Merkerson has appeared in the pilots "Moe's World," "Equal Justice" and "Elysian Fields" and most recently "Babylon Field" with Meagan Good. TV movies include A Mother's Prayer with Linda Hamilton,A Place For Annie with Sissy Spacek, Breaking Free with Jobeth Williams and NBC's Exiled with Chris Noth. She appeared on NBC's Deception, was the host for Find Our Missing on TVOne and The Gabby Douglas Story for Lifetime. In January 2012 Ms. Merkerson completed her first feature documentary as executive producer/co-director. The Contradictions Of Fair Hope has received numerous awards including the 2012 Best Documentary Award from the Philadelphia Independent Film Festival, and the San Diego Black Film Festival, the Dikalo Award from the Festival International Du Film Panafricain (Cannes), the Teaneck International Film Festival's Jury Award, the Roxbury International Film Festival's Henry Hampton Award and the Paul Robeson Award for Best Documentary from the Newark Black Film Festival. A native of Detroit Michigan, Ms. Merkerson holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Wayne State University and three Honorary Doctorates, from her alma mater in 2009, University of Maryland Eastern Shore in 2012 and Montclair State University 2013. She lives in New York City.
KEVYN MORROW (Vernon) Broadway original casts: The Scarlet Pimpernel, Dream, Smokey Joe's Café, Leader of the Pack, Dreamgirls (1987 revival), A Chorus Line (1990 closing). West End: 125th Street, Ragtime - Olivier Best Actor Nom. Off-Broadway: Boys in the Band, Blue. Regional: The Whipping Man, It's A Wonderful Life, Gem of the Ocean, Stormy Weather, First Wives Club -NAACP Best Actor Nom., Race, Radio Golf , Les Miserables (Javert), Xanadu, The Pajama Game (Sid), The Three Musketeers (Aramis), Five Guys Named Moe, Thunder Knockin'..., Our Town, Tambourines to Glory - Helen Hayes Best Actor Nom. Film:The Trade, Stayin' Alive. Television: "The Kennedy Center Honors" (featured),"Half-Share"-pilot (series regular), "Hostages," "Good Wife," "Elementary," "L & O, "Coach," "Murphy Brown," "Person of Interest," "Hope and Faith," "Ed", "One Life..", "Kidsworld" (host).
LARRY POWELL (Calvin) is a native of Los Angeles based in New York City. As an actor he was most recently seen in the critically acclaimed Lucas Hnath play The Christians directed by Les Waters which premiered at the 38th Humana Festival of New Plays at The Actors Theatre of Louisville. Other Recent Highlights: The Mountaintop (Actors Theatre of Louisville); Goddess (O'Neill National Music Theatre Conference); Ruby Place (New Plays Now);The Flower Thief (Fire This Time Festival); Dutchman (LABrynth's NYNY Festival); The Brothers Size (Everyman Theatre); Marcus; Or The Secret of Sweet (City Theatre); Brokeology (Lincoln Center Theatre & KCRep); and three seasons at The Fire This Time Festival. Training: Carnegie Mellon University (Roth-Levine Award).
SHARON WASHINGTON (Eva) Select credits include Broadway: The Scottsboro Boys; Off-Broadway: Wild With Happy (Public Theater/NYSF) Lortel nomination, Audelco Award; Luce(Lincoln Center/LCT3); The Scottsboro Boys (Vineyard Theatre); The Overwhelming(Roundabout), String of Pearls (Primary Stages), House & Garden (MTC). Regional: King Lear(Denver Center), Intimate Apparel (Guthrie). Film: The Bourne Legacy, Michael Clayton; TV: "Gotham", "Blue Bloods", "The Blacklist", "Damages", and all three NY "Law & Order" franchises.
LILLIAS WHITE (Gertrude) Credits include Broadway shows: Barnum, Once on This Island,Cats, Chicago, Dreamgirls, Fela! (Tony nomination) and The Life for which she received theDrama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Friends of New York Theatre, and Tony Awards. Off Broadway: Crowns, The Princess & the Black Eyed Pea, Waiting for Godot, The Best Is Yet To Come, and Romance In Hard Times (OBIE Award). TV: "Sesame Street," "Great PerformancesSouth Pacific" on PBS. Film: Disney's animated Hercules, Pieces of April. Lillias has performed her cabaret and concert shows all around the world.
BILLY PORTER (Playwright). Is a Tony Award, Grammy Award, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Award winner for Best Actor in a Musical for his portrayal of Lola in the Tony Award winning Best Musical Kinky Boots. Other Broadway credits include: Miss Saigon, Five Guys Named Moe, Grease, Smokey Joe's Caféand Dreamgirls Off Broadway and regional: Angles in America, Birdie Blue, Romance In Hard Times, The Merchant of Venice, Radiant Baby, Topdog/Underdog, King Lear, The Further Adventures of Hedda Gabler, Songs For A New World, Jelly's Last Jam. His one-man show, Ghetto Superstar: The Man That I Am,debuted at The Public Theater in NYC in conjunction with City Theatre of Pittsburgh and was nominated for a 2005 GLAAD Media Award. He was named "Pittsburgh's Performer of the Year 2003-2004" by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Film and Television credits include: The Humbling (w/ Al Pacino), The Broken Hearts Club,Intern, Noel (with Susan Sarandon and Robin Williams), "The Big C," "Law & Order," "Law & Order: SVU," "Shake Rattle & Roll"-Little Richard, "Another World", "Twisted", "The Oprah Winfrey Show," A Very Rosie Christmas," "The Tonight Show," and multiple appearances on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." Recent Recordings: "Billy's Back On Broadway" (Concord), "Kinky Boots," "At The Corner Of Broadway + Soul - "LIVE" from Joe's Pub," ""Untitled" (A&M records). His original song "Time" has been featured thrice on the mega-hit television series "So You Think You Can Dance." Directing/Writing: Company, Letter's From 'Nam,The Wiz, Signed, Sealed, Delivered: The Music Of Stevie Wonder (starring Chaka Khan), Being Alive,Twilight In Manchego, Once On This Island, (NAACP Award) The Soul Of Richard Rodgers, Five Guys Named Moe, Altar Boyz, Rent (Associate Director: Off-Broadway Revival), "Wicked Summer Nights Concert Series" at The Ford Amphitheater starring Shoshana Bean, Eden Espinosa and Stephen Schwartz, "Patina Miller Live at The Delfonte Room." BFA in Drama from Carnegie Mellon University where he is also an adjunct professor and The Professional Program in Screenwriting from UCLA. billyporter.com
SHERYL KALLER (Director). Sheryl's direction was seen most recently on Broadway in Terence McNally's Tony nominated play, Mothers and Sons with Tyne Daly. She also recently directed the world premiere of Nick Blaemire's new musical A Little More Alive at Kansas City Repertory Theatre, Roundabout Theatre Company's Underground production of Too Much Too Much Too Many, and the LCT3 production of Mr. Joyby Daniel Beaty. Ms. Kaller received a Tony Nomination for Best Director for the Broadway production of Next Fall by Geoffrey Nauffts. She has directed at many other theaters including The New Group, Pasadena Playhouse, Primary Stages, Williamstown Theatre Festival, A.C.T., New York Stage and Film, The Geffen, Philadelphia Theater Company, Bucks County Playhouse, the York, EST, National Theater of the Deaf and Naked Angels. She has directed and developed a plethora of new plays and musicals with writers including Christopher Durang, Peter Melnick, Regina Taylor, Dick Beebe, AnnMarie Milazzo, Kyle Jarrow, Theresa Rebeck, Richard Dresser and Alan Menken. Sheryl is currently in development with David Henry Hwang, Annmarie Milazzo, Kyle Jarrow and Geoffrey Nauffts, among others.
PRIMARY STAGES is an Off-Broadway theater company dedicated to inspiring, supporting, and sharing the art of playwriting. We operate on the strongly held belief that the future of American theater relies on nurturing playwrights and giving them the artistic support needed to create new work. Since our founding in 1984, we have produced more than 120 new plays, including Donald Margulies' The Model Apartment (1995 premiere and 2013 revival); David Ives' All in the Timing (original 1993 production and 2013 revival); Kate Fodor's Rx; Charles Busch's The Tribute Artist and Olive and the Bitter Herbs; A.R. Gurney's Black Tie; Horton Foote's Harrison, TX and Dividing the Estate (Two 2009 Tony Award®nominations); Brooke Berman's Hunting and Gathering (one of New York Magazine's Top TenPlays of 2008); Terrence McNally's Dedication or the Stuff of Dreams (starring Nathan Lane andMarian Seldes) and The Stendhal Syndrome (featuring Isabella Rossellini and RichardThomas); Danai Gurira and Nikkole Salter's In the Continuum (which went on to tour the U.S., Africa, and Scotland); and Conor McPherson's St. Nicholas (which marked the playwright's U.S. debut). In 2008, Primary Stages was honored with the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Body of Work, which encompasses much more than the plays we produce for the stage. Primary Stages supports playwrights and develops new works through commissions, workshops, readings, and our education and training programs: The Dorothy Strelsin New American Writers Group, the Marvin and Anne Einhorn School of Performing Arts (ESPA), and the Fordham/Primary Stages MFA in Playwriting. Through these programs, Primary Stages advocates for our artists, helping them make important-and often transformative-connections within the theater community.
About The New 42nd Street - Building on the foundation of seven historic theaters, The New 42nd Street leads the dynamic evolution of the reinvented 42nd Street, cultivating a unique New York City cultural and entertainment destination through its three projects: The New Victory Theater, a performing arts theater devoted to kids and families; the NEW 42ND STREET Studios, a state-of-the-art, 10-story performing arts complex for rehearsal, performance and arts administration; and The Duke on 42nd Street, an intimate black-box theater. An independent, nonprofit organization, The New 42nd Street is committed to the transformational power of the arts.
About The Duke on 42nd Street - The Duke on 42nd Street is an intimate black-box theater available for rental to both domestic and international nonprofit and commercial organizations. Featuring a gallery along all four walls and a custom-built, state-of-the-art seating system, the flexible-use space offers full light, sound and support systems in various configurations. The Duke on 42nd Street is a fully-staffed, full service facility in the heart of the theater district. Many performing arts companies have called the space their home, including The Royal Court Theatre, Transport Group, Theatre for a New Audience, Lincoln Center Theater, Steppenwolf Theater Company, Armitage Gone! Dance, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Naked Angels, Classical Theater of Harlem, Playwrights Horizons, 92nd Street Y's Harkness Dance Project, The NYC Tap Festival and Lincoln Center Great Performers and the National Theater of Great Britain.