Billy Porter and More to Participate in Talkbacks Following A STRANGE LOOP
Ucross, a prestigious artist residency program and creative laboratory for the arts in northeast Wyoming, is proud to announce the debut of "Ucross Spotlight": a nationwide series of performances, live readings, moderated panels, and cultural events featuring its esteemed alumni. "Ucross Spotlight" will debut on Wednesday, June 19, at Playwrights Horizons (416 West 42nd Street), with a conversation between Michael R. Jackson, Billy Porter and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, moderated by Jacobs-Jenkins. The panel will follow a performance of Jackson's provocative new musical A Strange Loop, whose world premiere at Playwrights Horizons is presented in association with Page 73. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit UcrossSpotlight.eventbee.com.
Jackson's A Strange Loop is a daringly original exploration of selfhood through the lens of blackness and queerness. Jackson, a 2019 Whiting Foundation award winner, 2017 Jonathan Larson Award and 2017 Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Award winner, wrote this "semi-autobiographical" work (his professional debut) about a young artist at war with a host of demons - not least of which are the punishing thoughts in his own head - in an attempt to capture and understand his own "strange loop." Jackson, Porter, and Jacobs-Jenkins first came to Ucross through the organization's twenty-year partnership with The Sundance Institute Theatre Program.
Ucross has provided more than 2,000 residencies to some of the world's most accomplished artists, including ten Pulitzer Prize winners, eight MacArthur "genius" grantees, seven Tony Award winners, six National Book Award winners, and two Academy Award winners. Other Ucross Spotlight events are currently being planned for the fall in Jackson, Wyoming and New York City.
"Ucross's mission has always been to give artists the crucial gift of uninterrupted time and space needed to focus on creative work. The new Ucross Spotlight series will allow us to expand awareness of the amazing work that emerges from time spent at Ucross," said Ucross President Sharon Dynak. "Michael R. Jackson is one of the theatre's most significant new writers, and it has been a great honor to support him with two Ucross residencies. The Spotlight event on June 19 will give the audience a special chance to hear directly from the writer about how his creative process works."
"The opportunity to work in a state-of-the-art studio while taking in breathtaking beauty in Ucross is one of the most inspiring experiences of my career to date," said Jackson. "I'm honored that they've chosen to amplify my show and give me, Billy and Branden the opportunity to discuss the joys and challenges of creating art on stage and screen in 2019.
Porter, a Tony Award-winning actor (Kinky Boots) and tireless advocate for the LGBTQ community, took part in the 2018 Sundance Institute Playwrights and Composers Retreat at Ucross, a three-week retreat that brings playwrights, composers and dramaturgs together for concentrated work at Ucross. Porter's other accolades include the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical, the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical, and the 2014 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album for his role as Lola in Kinky Boots. He is currently enjoying universal critical acclaim for his performance as Pray Tell in the FX series Pose, which earned Porter a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor - Television Series Drama. Porter and Pose will return for a second season later in 2019.
"Michael's talent is extraordinary; A Strange Loop is a show that will stay with its audience far past curtain call," said Porter. "I look forward to an honest discussion about what can happen when queer Black artists feel stuck in their own loop, and allow the voices of others to impede their vision."
Jacobs-Jenkins won the 2014 Obie Award for Best New American Play for his plays Appropriate and An Octoroon, and was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2016 as well as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play Everybody in 2018. A graduate of Princeton, Jacobs-Jenkins also attended The Sundance Institute Retreat at Ucross.
Ucross, located in the foothills of Wyoming's Bighorn Mountains, offers the world's most dedicated artists the gift of uninterrupted time, studio space, and living accommodations on the foundation's 20,000-acre ranch. Founded in 1981 by Raymond Plank, who passed away in November 2018, Ucross boasts a distinguished alumni list that includes Colson Whitehead, Yaa Gyasi, Annie Proulx, Terry Tempest Williams, Elizabeth Gilbert, Ann Patchett, Ricky Ian Gordon, and Adam Guettel. The artists work in a diverse range of creative disciplines, including fiction, nonfiction, playwriting, poetry, music, dance, painting, mixed-media, drawing, and sculpture. In September 2018, three Ucross alumni were selected for the long-list for the 2018 National Book Award for Fiction: Tayari Jones (An American Marriage), Sigrid Nunez (The Friend), and Rebecca Makkai (The Great Believers); with Nunez ultimately winning the Award in November.
With book, music, and lyrics by Jackson, A Strange Loop is directed by Stephen Brackett and choreographed by Raja Feather Kelly. The cast features Antwayn Hopper, James Jackson, Jr., L Morgan Lee, John-Michael Lyles, John-Andrew Morrison, Larry Owens, and Jason Veasey. The creative team includes Arnulfo Maldonado (Scenic Designer), Montana Levi Blanco (Costume Designer), Jen Schriever (Lighting Designer), Alex Hawthorn (Sound Designer), Cookie Jordan (Hair, Wig, and Makeup Design), Charlie A. Rosen (Orchestrator), Rona Siddiqui (Music Director), Michael R. Jackson (Vocal Arrangements), Tomoko Akaboshi (Music Coordinator), and Erin Gioia Albrecht (Production Stage Manager). Performances take place on the Mainstage at Playwrights Horizons through July 7.
Photo Credit: Walter McBride / WM Photos