The production runs February 23-25 at REDCAT

By: Feb. 05, 2023
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One of the American theater's seminal writers, Adrienne Kennedy captures the Black experience in America in the 20th century with a trademark embrace of symbolism, lyricism, and mythic figures. In this world premiere production, Etta and Ella Harrison are talented academics on the Upper West Side - as well as sisters and rivals. After a lifetime of competition, they are on the verge of destroying each other. Next-generation director Monty Cole employs a cinematic approach to this intricate blend of monologue, dialogue, voiceover, and prose in a work that is part experimental play, part narrative thriller.

The production runs February 23-25 at REDCAT. The cast includes Sarahjeen François as Etta, Tori Danner as Ella, and Wesley T. Jones as Troupe.

Director Monty Cole says, "It's such an honor to direct a first production of any writer's creation, but the legendary Adrienne Kennedy has once again created an incredibly potent and mysterious puzzle made from fragments of her life, her imagined lives. The play's Neo-Noir framework and surrealist visuals create such an unforgettable experience. Etta and Ella on the Upper West Side is a shot to the chest."

CNP Executive Artistic Director Travis Preston adds, "I am beyond thrilled to premiere an affecting new work from Adrienne Kennedy, a creative tour-de-force whose impact on the American theater is incalculable," said Travis Preston, CNP Executive Artistic Director. "Monty and the creative team continue her legacy by advancing and redefining what theater can accomplish. It is a joy to witness the artistic fruit of such generational talents."


Adrienne Kennedy, Playwright

Adrienne Kennedy is an award-winning playwright, lecturer, and author. Her plays include Funnyhouse of a Negro (Obie Award), June and Jean in Concert (Obie Award), Ohio State Murders, A Movie Star Has to Star in Black and White, A Rat's Mass, The Owl Answers, Motherhood 2000, Electra and Orestes, She Talks to Beethoven, An Evening with Dead Essex, A Lesson in a Dead Language, and The Lennon Play. She is the recipient of an Obie Award for Sleep Deprivation Chamber, which she co-authored with her son Adam. Other awards include a Guggenheim Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Lila Wallace Reader's Digest Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature, the 1990 American Book Award, and induction into the Theater Hall of Fame. Her published works include In One Act, Alexander Plays, Deadly Triplets, He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box and Other Plays, and the memoir People Who Led to My Plays. She was also commissioned to write plays for Jerome Robbins, The Public Theater, Mark Taper Forum, Juilliard School, and the Royal Court in England. She has been a visiting lecturer at Yale University, New York University, Harvard University, and University of California at Berkeley, where she was Chancellor's Distinguished Lecturer in 1980 and 1986. In 2018, Kennedy was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame for Lifetime Achievement in the American Theater.

Monty Cole, Director

Monty Cole is an award-winning theater and film writer-director based in Chicago, Illinois. He has directed for The Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf, Center Theatre Group, The Playwrights Center, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Victory Gardens Theater, CalArts Center for New Performance, Cape Cod Theatre Project, Alley Theatre, American Blues Theater, and others. His reinterpretations of classics from Eugene O'Neill's The Hairy Ape to Hamlet have received awards and critical praise in Chicago. His play American Teenager is a commission from The Goodman Theatre's Playwrights Unit.

He is currently an artist in residence at CalArts Center for New Performance, a fellow at Hermitage Artist Retreat, and a research scholar of the Bridge to Faculty at University of Illinois Chicago. In 2021, Cole directed three short films: Six Feet Apart by Isaac Gomez; Sons of Toledo, written by Cole and Matt Foss; and his own short, Whole. Recently, Cole directed an episode of The Cymbeline Project for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Coming up, Cole will direct Incendiary by Dave Harris at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre in Washington, D.C. Monty has a BFA in Theatre Studies from Emerson College and an MFA Directing from CalArts. | Instagram | Twitter | IMDb

Maleke Clemmons (Pianist)

Maleke Clemmons is a piano player based in LA, originally from Chicago. Maleke moved to Los Angeles to study at California Institute for the Arts. While living in Chicago, he performed at venues such as the Pritzker Pavillion, Ravinia, Room 43, and the Jazz Showcase. In Los Angeles he has played at the Blue Whale, The Mint, The Falls, and has recorded at Capitol Records. In 2017 he won his first California Music Video Award with the Artist Group Maryama for the song "Where the Mermaids Are." He has played with Legendary Musicians such as Bobby Watson, Antonio Hart, Bobby Broom, Gerald Clayton, Steve Lehman, Joel Ross, and Yo Yo Ma. While playing in LA, he teaches at California Institute for the Arts, Irvine School of Music, and Watts Towers.

Sarahjeen François (Etta)

Sarahjeen François is a Haitian-American performer and playwright from Miami, Fl. Her creative work is an exploration of the Afro-mythic, where through a folkloric lens, she highlights the complexities of Black femme personification. An MFA Acting alum of CalArts, she is known for her roles in the Netflix Original Series Pretty Smart (2021), QCODE Media's suspense-thriller podcast The Burned Photo (2022), and films such as Neckline (2022 Golden State Film Festival | International Cosmopolitan Film Festival of Tokyo | Marina Del Ray Film Festival | California Women's Film Festival) and The Graveyard Shift (2012 Garden State Film Festival). Her artistic endeavors in theater have led her to work with CalArts Center for New Performance, Teatro Línea de Sombra, REDCAT, Horizon Theatre Company, Peach State Opera, The Atlantic Center for the Arts, Castello San Basilio, Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum, and others. IMDb IG

Tori Danner (Ella)

Tori Danner is an LA-based actor, voice artist, writer, and producer. She's a graduate of the MFA Acting program at CalArts. She was Born in Nigeria and raised in Kuwait, where she spent 23 of her life. She focused her last few years there as a talk show host on a popular television program featuring artists throughout the Middle East. She also worked as a radio broadcaster. She's currently known for her ongoing role as Morenike in CBS's hit sitcom Bob Hearts Abishola. Some of her previous theater credits include: Ophelia in Hamlet, Mark Antony in Julius Caesar, and Desdemona in Othello. Through her talent and unique story, Tori hopes to encourage people to shirk the certainty of their comfort zone and pursue their passions. She would like to thank her family for their continuous encouragement and support.

Wesley T. Jones (Troupe)

Wesley T. Jones, born and raised in Detroit, Michigan, is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University's BFA Acting program. He's been featured in shows like Chicago PD, Bull, Blue Bloods, and Ava DuVernay's When They See Us. Theatrically, Wesley has done a number of Off-Broadway and regional staged works. His most recent theater credits include Anna Deveare Smith's Twilight: Los Angeles 1992, done at New York's Signature Theatre, winner of the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Revival (2022), which was remounted by Harvard's American Repertory Theatre last fall. Jones is honored to bring life to Kennedy's work here at REDCAT. Gratitude.

CalArts Center for New Performance (CNP), Producer

CalArts Center for New Performance is the professional producing arm of California Institute of the Arts, established to provide a unique artist-and project-driven framework for the development and realization of original theater, music, dance, media, and interdisciplinary projects. Extending the progressive work carried out at CalArts into a direct dialogue with professional communities at the local, national and international levels, CNP offers an alternative model to support emerging directions in the performing arts. It also enables CalArts students to work shoulder-to-shoulder with celebrated artists and acquire a level of experience that goes beyond their curriculum.


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