Matrix Theater Company Returns With STICK FLY 4/4-5/31
An upper class African American family wrestles with parental expectations, sibling rivalry, and issues of class and race. Following a two-year hiatus, Joseph Stern's multiple award-winning Matrix Theatre Company returns with the West Coast premiere of Stick Fly by Lydia R. Diamond, an important new play from one of America's freshest and most dynamic voices. Shirley Jo Finney directs Chris Butler, Avery Clyde, Tinashe Kajese, Terrell Tilford, John Wesley and Michole Briana White at The Matrix Theatre, April 4 through May 31, with previews beginning March 26.
Sensitive Kent LeVay and his slick brother Flip see their weekend at the family vacation home as the perfect opportunity to introduce their girlfriends to their parents. Instead, they stumble onto a domestic powder keg of prejudice, hypocrisy and family secrets. Set in the elite, upper crust community of Martha's Vineyard, where African Americans have had a cultural history dating back to the early 1600s, Stick Fly explores complex and intertwining issues of family, trust and class in an incisive and brutally funny look at one complicated family in disarray. Race and privilege intersect in this thought-provoking and touching family comedy about fathers and sons, fathers and daughters, boundaries and class.
"Lydia's voice is so refreshing because she opens a portal onto a segment of society that most Americans have not been privy to - the African American upper middle class," explains Shirley Jo Finney, who worked closely with the playwright to develop the script. "Now that Barack Obama is in the White House, this play is even more timely. But although Stick Fly touches on important issues like class and race, it's ultimately a universal tale about family relationships."
Stick Fly received its world premiere at Chicago's Congo Square Theatre Company, followed by a production at New Jersey's McCarter Theatre, and is the recipient of the 2006 Black Theatre Alliance Award for Best Play, a 2006 Joseph Jefferson Award nomination for Best New Work, and it was a finalist in 2008 for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize. The Chicago Tribune wrote, "There's no question that Diamond is a major talent. Stick Fly not only is an impressively ambitious play, it's also a piece with heart." Variety called Stick Fly "a well-cut jewel of a play [that] leaps with flinty dialogue... a refreshingly vital story about relationships and richly complex characters. Although race and class are pivotal issues here, the drama is human."
Shirley Jo Finney directed the critically acclaimed East Coast premiere of Stick Fly at the McCarter Theatre. She has directed all over the country including at the Pasadena Playhouse, Goodman Theater, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Cleveland Playhouse Crossroads Theater Company, Actors' Theater of Louisville Humana Festival, Mark Taper Forum, American College Theatre Festival and Sundance Theatre Workshop. She received NAACP Image, BackStage West Garland and LA Weekly Awards as well as an Ovation Award nomination for her direction of Yellow Man at The Fountain Theatre. In Fall 2009, she will direct the Broadway revival of For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enough.
"It's rare and wonderful when you find a director with whom you share a similar passion for the work and an understanding for the world of your play," says Diamond.
One of the most promising young artists to come out of the thriving Chicago theater scene in many years, Lydia Diamond's other plays include Stage Black (3rd place Theodore Ward Prize); The Gift Horse (2nd place Kesselring Prize, 1st place Theodore Ward Prize); The Inside (published in TriQuarterly, where she is a contributing editor); and Voyeurs de Venus (2006 Joseph Jefferson Award for Best New Work, 2006 BTAA Award for Best Writing, commissioned by Steppenwolf Theatre Co.). Diamond's adaptation of Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye premiered at Steppenwolf Theatre, won the Black Arts Alliance Image Award for Best New Play, was recently remounted at Steppenwolf and moved to a co-production with New Victory Theatre in New York. Diamond's third Steppenwolf Theatre commission, Harriet Jacobs, based on Jacobs' life, was workshopped at The Kennedy Center's New Visions/New Voices Festival and at United Kingdom's Old Vic Theatre (New Voices Program), and received its world premiere last year at the Steppenwolf. She was a 2007 TCG/NEA Playwright in Residence at Steppenwolf and a Huntington Playwright Fellow, and is currently a TCG Board Member and on faculty at Boston University.
Chris Butler (Kent LeVay) received Ovation, NAACP, Garland, and Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards for his performance in Yellowman at The Fountain Theatre. Other theater credits: the Broadway revival of 110 in the Shade (Studio 54); One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and You Can't Take it With You (Rubicon Theatre); Blue (Pasadena Playhouse); A Raisin in the Sun, The Piano Lesson, and Much Ado About Nothing (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); and A Midsummer Night's Dream (Old Globe Theatre).
Avery Clyde (Kimber Davies) Theater highlights include: The Good Person of Setzuan (Irene Ryan Award nominee); the Southeast premiere of Neil LaBute's BASH; Brilliant Traces (Best Actress nominee, Orlando Fringe Festival); and Crimes of the Heart (Mad Cow Theatre, Orlando, FL). Indie features: the title role in Life with Fiona (Grand Jury prizes at Rome International and Estes Park); The Salena Incident (Cannes); UnBound (Best Supporting Actress nomination, 168 Film Festival); Harry S. Truman:Samurai Detective; and the upcoming Moon Lake Casino. She is currently a series regular on the web series Nosferajew.
Tinashe Kajese (Cheryl Washington) was most recently seen in the American premiere of Athol Fugard's Victory (current LA Weekly Award nominee for Leading Female Performance). Broadway: Coram Boy. Off-Broadway: Bulrusher (Urban Stages); In The Continuum (Primary Stages); The Safety Net (Michael Weller Theatre); The God Botherers (59E59 Street Theatre); Richard III (American Theatre of Actors); Macbeth (Classical Theatre of Harlem); Angela's Mixed Tape (New York Theater Workshop). Regional: Yale Rep, Center Theatre Group, Woolly Mammoth, Cincinnati Playhouse, GeVa Theatre, Hangar Theatre, St. Louis Shakespeare Festival.
Terrell Tilford (Flip LeVay) Theater credits include: directed and performed in Peter J. Harris' The Johnson Chronicles: Truth & Tall Tales About My Penis (Bootleg Theater); Pontius Pilate in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot (Black Dahlia); Darren Lemming in the West Coast premiere of Richard Greenberg's Take Me Out (Geffen Playhouse); the original workshop production of Yellowman (McCarter Theatre); The Memorandum (The Guthrie); The Exonerated and Involuntary Homicide (The Actors' Gang); Malcolm X in El-Hajj Malik: Malcolm X (National Black Arts Festival).
John Wesley (Dr. Joseph LeVay) reprises the role he played in the East Coast premiere of Stick Fly at the McCarter Theatre. Other theater credits: Seven Guitars, A Streetcar Named Desire, Jitney and Blues for an Alabama Sky (Denver Center for Performing Arts); Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (GeVa); Richard II, Coriolanus, Twelfth Night, Two Gentlemen of Verona (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Ionesco's Macbett and Toys in the Attic (Old Globe Theatre - Atlas Award for the latter); An American Clock, Wild Oats (Mark Taper Forum); OyamO's I Am A Man (Fountain Theatre - Drama -Logue Award for Best Supporting Actor). Over 70 films and television movies including 48 Hours, Missing In Action, Believers, The Twenty, Big Fish, The Wood, 13th Child and Remember the Titans. He was artistic and producing director of the Southern California Black Repertory Company, where his productions of Athol Fugard's Sizwe Bansi Is Dead and The Island went on to tour for three years.
Michole Briana White (Taylor Bradley Scott) previously performed the role of Taylor Bradley Scott at the McCarter Theatre. Michole is an OBIE, Drama Desk and AUDELCO Award-winning actress for her performance in the original Off Broadway production of August Wilson's Jitney. More recently, she was seen in Wilson's final play, Radio Golf, at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and the Huntington Theatre in Boston. She has worked with renowned directors and writers including Sydney Lumet, Spike Lee, Suzan-Lori Parks and Kenny Leon.
Under the leadership of producer Joseph Stern, The Matrix Theatre Company endeavors to build a creative environment by exploring a variety of theatrical genres and styles that constantly challenges both actor and audience. This innovative technique has been critically acclaimed and rewarded - including numerous Ovation, L.A. Weekly, Drama-Logue and Backstage Garland Awards, and a total of 40 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards - the largest number of LADCC Awards garnered by any intimate theater in Los Angeles. The Matrix Theatre Company has been honored by the LADCC with consecutive Outstanding Production awards for The Tavern (1993), The Seagull (1994) and The Homecoming (1995); Outstanding Ensemble for Mad Forest (1996); and with four LADCC awards for The Water Children (1998). The Birthday Party (2001) was named Best Revival Production by the L.A. Weekly and received numerous nominations and awards, including five LADCC nominations.
Stick Fly previews March 26 through April 3, opens for press on Saturday, April 4, and continues through May 31. Previews and performances are scheduled Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm and Sundays at 3 pm. All tickets are $25.00. The Matrix Theatre is located at 7657 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046. For reservations and information, call 323.960.7740 or go to www.plays411.com/stickfly.