Cast and Creative Team Announced for SISTER AFRICA

By: Jul. 05, 2017
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SISTER AFRICA, Stephanie Liss' world premiere drama about efforts to aid female and child victims of the Congo's ongoing civil war, will be performed by a cast of actors from the worlds of feature films, opera and the Chicago theater scene. Elayne LeTraunik, Associate Artistic Director of Genesis Theatrical Productions, Chicago veteran actor, and director of SISTER AFRICA, announced casting today.

Liss's play draws from the playwright's own experiences travelling to the Democratic Republic of the Congo with members of Jewish World Watch, an activist organization dedicated to ending genocide and mass atrocities worldwide and to providing support and building resilience to those living in conflict-affected communities. The play is based on hundreds of hours of interviews - not only with the victims of rape and torture, but with child soldiers, the staff of Jewish World Watch, and its co-founder and president, Janice Kamenir Reznik. It is a play about two peoples, Jews and Congolese, who have lived through unspeakable horrors and how they can help to heal each other. SISTER AFRICA will include an original incidental score by composer and recording artist RebbeSoul, known as a pioneer of contemporary Jewish music.

Appearing as the Rabbi will be Jimmy Binns, (Mark Rothko in RED at Redtwist Theatre, Charlie in Edward Albee's SEASCAPE at Oak Park Festival Theatre and co-creator of Chicago Theatre Works' FLANAGAN'S WAKE). Melissa Nelson (THICKER THAN WATER for Genesis) will play the strong and determined Miriam - a composite of Liss and Janice Reznick - through the September 3 performance. Hillary Hensler (THIS IS TO MOTHER YOU for Broken Nose Theatre) will take over the role for the final weekend (September 7-10).

Melissa Nelson, Jimmy Binns Takesha Meshe Kizart, a singer and actress who has performed with major opera companies and symphony orchestras across the U.S. and Europe, has been cast as Mama Jette, a composite of women Liss met in conflicted areas of the Congo. Kizart recently sang the lead role of Esther in Ricky Ian Gordon's chamber opera adaptation of Lynn Nottage's play INTIMATE APPAREL for Lincoln Center Theater. Christopher McClellan, who appeared in MONEY MAKE 'M SMILE (Her Story Theater at Greenhouse and Victory Gardens) and will be seen in the upcoming feature film ABNORMAL ATTRACTION starring Malcolm McDowell and Gilbert Gottfried, will play Cesar, a Congolese teenage soldier. Above: Takehsa Mishe Kizart, Christopher McClellan Devan Mays, a new-to-Chicago recent graduate of the University of Texas, will play Amani, an adult male who was formerly a child solider and is now trying to rescue boys. RMATION

By Stephanie Liss
Directed by Elayne LeTraunik

August 17 - September 10, 2017

Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, Sundays at 3 pm.
Ticket prices $32.00, seniors and students $17.00
Performances at Athenaeum Theatre, Studio One
2936 N. Southport Ave., Chicago
No late seating. Recommended for ages 18+ due to intellectual content.

Running time is approximately 80 minutes with no intermission

More info at
Tickets on sale now at or 773-935-6875

Stephanie Liss (playwright) is a playwright and television writer whose groundbreaking work consistently gives voice to the voiceless. Her plays have been produced in New York at the Makor/Steinhardt Center of the 92 St. Y, in Denver at the Whizen Center and in Los Angeles at the Skirball Center. The plays include ON HOLY GROUND (World Premiere at Met Theatre, Los Angeles; Chicago Premiere by Genesis Theatrical Productions in 2014), JIHAD (World Premiere by Genesis Theatrical Productions in 2015) - a play about the effects of a suicide bombing on an Israeli mother and a Hamas mother - and DAUGHTER OF MY PEOPLE. In television, she is a Writers' Guild Award winner and Emmy Award nominee. Her television credits include: SECOND SERVE - THE RENEE RICHARDS STORY, the Writers Guild nominated DAVID - THE David Rothenberg STORY, RUNAWAY FATHER, GOING UNDERGROUND, A CHILD LOST FOREVER, and HIDDEN IN SILENCE, for which she won a WGA Award.

In 1992, Liss was among six writers (and the only female) invited to accompany the United Nations High Commission on Refugees to Somalia and Bosnia in order to document the stories of the genocides and wars in both countries. She was also the first playwright-in-residence for the Center for Jewish Culture and Creativity. Liss is an alumna of The Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, where she studied theatre.

RebbeSoul (composer) is an American-Israeli Jewish singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, composer, and producer. Performing since the early 1990s, he has released five solo albums and has recorded with the bands Hamakor and Common Tongue. He is known for his diverse sound, drawing from a variety of styles and cultures. Over the course of his career, he has gradually expanded from a conventional Jewish rock sound to incorporate folk, soul, jazz, new-age and worldbeat, as well as sounds from South American, Caribbean, West African, Middle Eastern, Yemenite, and Sephardic music. Although primarily a guitarist, he also uses a wide variety of instruments in his music, most notably the balalaika. Burger attributes his eclectic sound to his years as a session musician, where he was forced to be a "chameleon" and play in many different styles.

Elayne LeTraunik (director) is the Associate Artistic Director of Genesis Theatrical Productions. She is a native Chicagoan and has been involved in the Chicago theatre scene since the 1970s. A graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago with honors in History and Theatre, she continued her acting studies at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London, England.

Elayne has worked extensively both as an actress and a producer and starred in the Chicago premieres of NUTS and EXTREMITIES. She also appeared in BEYOND THERAPY, which featured Skipp Sudduth and Carmen Roman. As a producer, she oversaw a number of award winning and critically acclaimed productions including the Chicago premiere of A DYBBUK and a revival of CLASS ENEMY.

Jewish World Watch (JWW) is a hands-on leader in the fight against genocide and mass atrocities, engaging individuals and communities to take local actions that produce powerful global results. Founded in 2004 by Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis and Janice Kamenir-Reznik as the Jewish response to the genocide in Darfur, it has grown from a collection of Southern California synagogues into a global coalition that includes schools, churches, individuals, communities and partner organizations that share a vision of a world without genocide. JWW bears witness to first-hand accounts in conflict regions, partners with on-the-ground organizations to develop high-impact projects that improve the lives of survivors and help build the foundation for a safer world, and inspires our communities to support tangible projects and advocate for political change. JWW has allocated almost $5 million for relief and development projects that have helped tens of thousands of people in Sudan and

Genesis Theatrical Productions NFP, Inc. is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to finding and developing new works and using theater as a way to promote communication in a global society. SISTER AFRICA will be the company's 16th production since its founding in 2006.


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