LADY DAY AT EMERSON'S BAR AND GRILL to Launch Portland Stage's 2017-18 Season

LADY DAY AT EMERSON'S BAR AND GRILL to Launch Portland Stage's 2017-18 Season

Portland Stage has announced the kick-off to its 2017-2018 Season with Lady Day At Emerson's Bar and Grill by Lanie Robertson, starring Tracey Conyer Lee. Previews Tuesday Sept 19-21, Opening Night Friday Sept 22, 2017

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill shows a unique portrait of Billie Holiday at the end of her career in an intimate concert at Emerson's Bar and Grill. Over the course of a jazz set, Lady Day sings some of her most famous songs and peppers the audience with snippets from her past, through banter that is both inspiring and soulful. Between her breathtaking set a history of joy and pain is revealed, in addition to a life that was elevated to the spotlight and yet still held down due to the color of her skin. Billie Holiday's life story through the songs that made her famous is a poignant story about one of the greatest jazz singers of all-time.

Playwright Lanie Robertson writes about iconic artists and the societal issues they faced in Nasty Little Secrets, Alfred Stiegletz Loves O'Keeffe, and Woman Before a Glass. His plays have been produced internationally and at the Alley Theatre, Arena Stage, Delaware Theatre, Edinburgh Festival, Festival d'Avignon, George Street Playhouse, Kennedy Center, Old Globe, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Playwrights Horizons, Primary Stages, Theatre de la Huchette, Theatre Petite Montparnasse, Theatre Silvia Montforte, Vineyard Theatre, Virginia Stage, Walnut Street Theatre, Westside Arts, and Williamstown Theatre Festival. Current plays include nobody Lonesome for Me and The Gardener. Recently he completed his first novel, Monkey to the Solution. He's a member of the Dramatists Guild, Writers Guild, East; and the Societe des Auteres et Compositeurs Dramatiques.

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill premiered in Atlanta at the Alliance Theater in 1986 before opening Off-Broadway at The Vineyard Theater later that year. The recent Broadway production starred Audra McDonald in 2014 and the production transferred to London in 2017. The Portland Stage production will be star Tracey Conyer Lee's fourth time playing the iconic Billie Holiday.

Portland Stage creates one-of-a-kind productions specifically planned for its community. Each season, Artistic Director Anita Stewart seeks a way to connect the plays with a thematic thread. For the 2017-2018 Season, that thematic thread is a sense of discovery about the characters. A viewer might believe they know who they are meeting in the first scene, but as the plays unfold, audiences discover that characters they thought they knew have an unexpected side. According to Stewart, these stories highlight the individuality of people. She hopes the community will see themselves in them, and will be able to relate experiences to their own lives, to their communities, and to their own family traditions right here in Maine.

"It is always inspiring to have a group of people who see a body of work, start to finish. I greatly appreciate the willingness of our audience to venture with us on a wide range of theatrical journeys. I'm especially excited about the lineup for the upcoming 2017-2018 Season, which includes several new plays that I think audiences will like" says Stewart.

There is a lot within this season to think about, experience and discuss. For more information, or to subscribe, visit

Single tickets are on sale for all of the shows listed. Subscribers can always renew by phone, or in-person at the Box Office. All subscribers get a 15% discount off adult tickets to this year's holiday show, It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, sold separately from subscription packages. Call the box office for more information at 207.774.0465.


Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill
by Lanie Robertson
September 19 - October 15

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill recounts Billie Holiday's life story through the songs that made her famous. It's 1959, Billie Holiday is performing in a run-down bar, during one of her last performances of her lifetime. Through her poignant voice and moving songs, one of the greatest jazz singers of all-time shares her loves and her losses.

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar and Grill is presented by special arrangement with SAMUEL FRECH, INC.

Complications from a Fall
by Kate Hawley
October 24 - November 12

When Helen needs to leave her elderly mother to attend a conference, she reluctantly calls on her absent younger brother Teddy for help. Over the weekend, Teddy truly sees his mother-perhaps for the first time-and learns secrets from the past in this heartwarming drama about the memories we cherish, and those we try to forget.

It's a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play
adapted by Joe Landry
November 24 - December 24

We'll celebrate the Holiday Season with this beloved American classic. This heartwarming story of renewal is retold as a 1940's radio broadcast complete with sound effects performed live on stage. With the help of an ensemble and an angel named Clarence, George Bailey discovers the million different ways we are tied to those around us.

Produced by special arrangement with Playscripts,Inc. (

Babette's Feast
Conceived and developed by Abigail Killeen
Written by Rose Courtney
Adapted from the short story by Isak Dinesen
January 23 - February 18

A refugee transforms a closed religious community by sacrificing all she has to throw a lavish dinner party. Through her radical hospitality, this mysterious woman converts her guests' deeply held notions of scarcity and judgement and opens them up to give and receive abundant grace. This adaptation re-imagines the story you thought you knew about Babette's singular feast: deep, funny, dangerous, sensual, and beautiful.

Red Herring
by Michael Hollinger
February 27 - March 25

Maggie's a tough, Boston cop, trying to get her finger on the one man who gave her the slip: Jack Murphy, a sly crime boss who worked his way into her heart. As she deals with murder, mystery, and intrigue in Boston Harbor, she also has to deal with Frank, an FBI gumshoe with a proposal more dangerous than commie spies, murderous mobs, and McCarthyism combined: marriage.

The Niceties
by Eleanor Burgess
April 3 - April 22

In this riveting two-person drama, Zoe, a biracial student, and Janine, her white professor, meet to discuss their differing views on Zoe's paper about slavery and the American Revolution. This polite clash of ideas soon landslides into an explosive discussion of race, history, privilege, and social justice.

Sex and Other Disturbances
by Marisa Smith
May 1 - May 20

Join us for the world premiere of New England playwright Marisa Smith's latest play. Sarah's husband is obsessed with the collapse of Western civilization. On a search for happiness and escape, she unexpectedly finds herself having a little affair, wondering, "What's the harm?" Sarah finds out the hard way in this fast-paced comedy about friendship, love, sex, and other disturbances.

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