Skypilot Theatre Company presents ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART.../ COMB YOUR HAIR (OR YOU'LL LOOK LIKE A SLAVE)
SkyPilot Theatre Company, long an incubator of new plays in the Los Angeles area, Jason Weissand Theatre of Arts will present the Los Angeles premiere of a double bill of two new works byLos Angeles playwrights-ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART... by Sean Abley and COMBYOUR HAIR (OR YOU'LL LOOK LIKE A SLAVE) by LeeLee Jackson, each a nationalfinalist (of four total) for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival 2017 JohnCauble Short Play Award.
ABSENCE MAKES THE HEART... by Sean Abley is a modern take on the Hans ChristianAndersen fable "The Red Shoes." In the original tale a ballet dancer is driven to her death by anuncontrollable urge to dance. In this adaptation, the aftermath of the story is told in monologuesby twenty different characters affected by her death, near and far.The production is directed by Chrisanne Blankenship-Billings, and the cast includes: Catherine Davis Cox, Easton Schirra, Marie-Francoise Theodore, Maggie Manyan, Ian Stanley, MJ Brown,Javier Melgar Santovena, Ian Salazar, Natalie Nicole Dressel, Sarah Lilly, Andrea Ma Gee,Thomas Colby, Francoise Tiadem, Carlyle Coash, Keith Wheeler, Sarah Marcum, Morry Schorr, Kasey Millar.
COMB YOUR HAIR (OR YOU'LL LOOK LIKE A SLAVE) by LeeLee Jackson is abeautiful yet painful collection of testimonies from young Black women navigating Americansociety. Through scenes and monologues, COMB YOUR HAIR (OR YOU'LL LOOK LIKE ASLAVE) explores how Black women, regardless of their curl pattern, hair length or texture,contend with the tension between ownership of the self and others' sense of entitlement to theirbodies.
Boasting a cast and production team made up almost entirely of Black women, the production isdirected by Kumi James. The cast includes Skye Ellis, Mia Boykin, MJ Brown, Alexa Crismon, Carene Rose Mekertichyan, and Shereen Macklin.
SEAN ABLEY is an award-winning playwright, screenwriter, journalist, and the currentdramaturg for SkyPilot Theatre Company. He has over thirty plays published by Playscripts,Brooklyn Publishers, Heuer Publishing, Next Stage Press, and Eldridge Plays and Musicals withtitles like End of the World (With Prom to Follow), The Adventures of Rose Red (Snow White'sLess-Famous Sister), Horror High: The Musical and Attack of the Killer B's. His play PopcornGirl was the 2nd place winner of the National Partners of the American Theatre Award as part ofthe Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival 2017, and his play Absence Makes theHeart... was a national finalist for the John Cauble Short Play Award at KCACTF the same year.His recent Los Angeles theatrical endeavors include the world premieres of Dr. Frankincenseand the Christmas Monster (Write/Act Repertory), L.A. Tool & Die: Live! (Celebration Theatre),Larva! (SkyPilot Theatre Company), the L.A. premieres of Bitches! (Magnum Players) andAttack of the Killer B's (Factory Theater West, BackStage West Garland Award winner-BestAdaptation). His television writing includes multiple episodes of So Weird (Disney Channel),Sabrina, the Animated Series (Disney/UPN), Digimon (Fox Family), as well as several pilotsincluding Bench Pressly, The World's Strongest Private Dick with Ahmet Zappa. His producedscreenplays include the B-movies Socket, Witchcraft 15: Blood Rose and Witchcraft 16:Hollywood Coven. He was one on the founders of Chicago's prolific Factory Theater in 1992(still going strong as of this writing), the creator of the "Gay of the Dead" blog on Fangoria.com,and just has that pesky thesis left to complete for his MFA in Playwriting from The PlaywrightsLab at Hollins University.
JALISA LEELEE JACKSON is a Black playwright who is committed to writing a modernnarrative for womxn and femmes of the African diaspora. While pursuing her undergraduatedegree, Jackson collected a number of testimonies from Black womxn. After asking them abouttheir hair experience, she compiled them into a play titled, Comb Your Hair (Or You'll Look Likea Slave). In 2017, Jackson's play was honored as a finalist in the Kennedy Center AmericanCollege Theatre Festival. Jackson is currently pursuing her Master In Fine Arts at the Universityof California, Riverside. She has won a number of awards for her work in theatre as well as herpassion for Sociology.
ABOUT THE DIRECTORS
CHRISANNE BLANKENSHIP-BILLINGS is a director and producer of live theatre. She hastaught Viewpoints in Chicago and Los Angeles and uses this methodology in all of her directingprojects. She believes the study of Viewpoints begins by emphasizing body awareness. Ittransforms a character's motivation and objective into a vocabulary that actors and directors usewhen creating natural actions in a theatrical environment.She has spent a lifetime studying the Shakespeare canon as well as Elizabethan theatre ingeneral. She as participated as Production Manager, Actor or Director for several ofShakespeare's plays.
Directing credits include (in Chicago) 1776 at The Apollo Theatre; Shadowlands at PutzchStudios; Ancient History, Sure Thing and Gertrude Stein and a Companion at Strawdog Theatre;Amanda and Eve at Bailiwick Theatre; and Dracula-A Musical at The Theatre Building; (in LosAngeles) Catching the Butcher at Long Beach Playhouse; Antigone at The Lyric Theatre; QueenChristina goes Roman at The Complex Theatre; A Midsummer Night's Dream at HollywoodForever Cemetery; Vampire Lesbians of Sodom at The Bootleg Theatre; and Golden WatchChain at The Globe Playhouse.
She was a co-producer of Borealis Productions located in Aurora IL. Producer credits includeChildren Of Cain at The Playwrights Center; Not For Your Mothers Basement at The HalstedTheatre Center; Artistic License at The Bailiwick Theatre; and I'm Not Rappaport, I Do! I Do!,and Hallelujah Hopscotch all at Temple Hill Dinner Theatre.
KUMI JAMES is a multidisciplinary artist, scholar, and activist currently based in Los Angeles,CA. Her work focuses on contending with the many levels of violence that black peopleexperience. Her work is guided by questions such as "what is anti-black violence?" "can blackpeople heal from the violence they experience?" and "what does it mean to create blackcommunity in an anti-black world?" James' short film savage (2014) was an official selection atthe GLITCH Film Festival in Scotland in 2015 and recently was exhibited as part of the exhibitThe Exposed Suture (Second Cycle) at Rond-Point Projects in Marseilles, France in March 2017.Here artistic work and graduate research has garnered her several awards, including the FlorenceFrench Arts Scholarship, Eugene Cota-Robles Fellowship, Cabot-Wellington Foundation Grant,Hispanic Scholarship Fund McNamara Family Creative Arts Grant, National HispanicFoundation for the Arts Filmmaker Scholarship, Fulbright Research Fellowship, and UCLAGene Reynolds Award for Directing. Kumi James earned her MFA in Film from ColumbiaUniversity in 2013.
Founded in 2004, SKYPILOT THEATRE COMPANY is a non-profit ensemble of residentplaywrights, actors, directors and designers producing provocative, compelling and challengingnew works for the Los Angeles theatre-going audience. 2010 saw SkyPilot shift gears away fromproducing revivals and towards writing and producing only original plays. Notable productionsinclude Samathan Macher's To The New Girl and War Bride, Adam Hahn's Kong: A GoddamnThirty-Foot Gorilla, Nathan Wellman's Inhale Harmonica, Liz Shannon Miller's Light's Off,Eyes Closed, Jeff Goode's The Emancipation Of Alabaster Mcgill, Greg Machlin's Keith Haring:Pieces of a Life, and Earthbound: An Electronica Musical by Adam Hahn (book), JonathanPrice (music), and Chana Wise (lyrics). In 2017 SkyPilot launched its SkyPilot Runwaydevelopment track, beginning with Daniel Rover Singer's (The Complete Works of WilliamShakespeare (Abridged)) newest work, The Cave.
Jason Weiss is a highly regarded actor, director and educator with over 20 years ofprofessional experience. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in performance and pedagogyfrom the University of Florida and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in performance from the University of Miami. He came to Theatre of Arts in November of 2011 as a faculty member, and between then and September 2015, taught Acting, Theatre History, Industry Preparation, and directed the Summer Film Intensive. He was appointed Executive Director of Theatre of Arts in October of 2015.