Cast Announced for AMANI World Premiere Presented by National Black Theatre & Rattlestick Theater

Performances are set to run from February 6 through March 5, 2023 at Rattlestick Theater in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village.

By: Dec. 15, 2022
Cast Announced for AMANI World Premiere Presented by National Black Theatre & Rattlestick Theater

National Black Theatre has announced the cast for the world premiere of AMANI - the first mainstage co-production of its 2022-2023 programmatic 55th season themed Love, A Ritual Of Repair. Presented in partnership with Rattlestick Theater, AMANI is written by rising playwright a.k. payne (FILLING BASINS, where the pathways meet) and directed by current NBT Soul Series Directing Resident Josiah Davis (Mr. Saturday Night, Lessons In Survival: 1971). Performances are set to run from February 6 through March 5, 2023 at Rattlestick Theater in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. Tickets on sale now.

"I am so excited to begin this journey of building AMANI! It is a tremendous gift to nurture this new work in a space as supportive, nourishing, intentional, collaborative and reminiscent of home-those seemingly ever-elusive spaces of rest for Black folks moving in this diaspora- as National Black Theatre." says, a.k. payne, Playwright. "Working with Josiah to imagine the community that will inhabit this universe- in which Black folks can: be free, genius, mourn and move, be children, grow, change, love, touch and breathe-it has all been such a dream. We are thrilled to invite more collaborators into what has already been such an abundant journey of imagining worlds in which we can fly."

"The process of discovering the collaborators to embody the world of Amani was delicate, sensitive, and led by intuition." says, Josiah Davis, Director & Soul Directing Resident. "This play proposes a future of possibility and a culture of abundance. So I was looking for more than just actors. I was looking for humans who would be able to contribute to that culture in a deep way and elevate our production process. I was looking for humans who lead with light. Who holds poetry in the body. Have souls made of music.Who know how to hold joy and grief at the same time. Are soft. Who push limits and interrogate boundaries. Humans who dream."

The cast for the world premiere of AMANI includes Omari K. Chancellor (Soft) playing Robert Richards / Davion / Lamar Davis / A Series of Men, Kai Heath (On Sugarland) playing Kofa, Denise Manning (What To Send Up When It Goes Down) in the titular role, Eden Marryshow (INK) playing Smith, Mars Rucker (A Strange Loop) playing Daisa.

AMANI takes us on a personal journey that shows the world through the eye of a daughter, Amani as she grows up building a rocket ship with her father. Her father, who vows to make it to outer space: where his child can breathe easy, where there are no gangs to take his first love's life, nor prisons to take Black boys' best years. As Amani moves into adulthood, she seeks her voice and her own dreams. Will Amani make it to the moon?

The creative team to help bring AMANI to life includes Maruti Evans (Set Design), Marika Kent (Lighting Designer), Kathy Ruvuna (Sound Designer & Composer), Nehemiah Luckett (Music Director/Pianist), Mika Eubanks (Costume Designer), Brittany Bland (Projection Design), Nissy Aya (Dramaturg), Ann C. James (Intimacy Coordinator), Daniel Brothers (Props Master), Allison Esonnason (Assistant Costume Designer), Tom Dyer (Master Electrician), Sightline Fabrication (Set Fabrication), Destiny Lilly (Casting Director), and Alex Cortinas (Casting Assistant). Additional members of the creative team will be announced soon.

"This production is a beautiful moment when NBT gets to partner with Rattlestick Theater to produce AMANI ," says Jonathan McCrory, NBT Executive Artistic Director. "It is a meaningful work that illuminates the values we both share; the power to invest in the brilliant new voices that will lead the American Theatre. That is what a.k. and Josiah embody, the soulful brilliance that we as a society need in this critical moment. With the commitment of this stunning cast and creative team, they will generate a production that can shine a light on the love housed in the ritual of repairing our own blueprint to self/collective liberation."

This production comes as a part of NBT's SOUL Directing Residency which is a rigorous yet creative playground for Black directors to gain exposure, New York City credentials and, most importantly, technical skills. Piloted in fellowship with the inaugural Directing Resident, Ebony Noelle Golden and the site-specific work, 125th & FREEdom. This program provides a home for one director for a minimum of 18 months and additional former recipients of this residency are Dominique Rider 2019/2021 with Beauty in the Abyss. The goal of this residency, like the other two (producing and playwriting) housed in the SOUL Series LAB, is to strengthen the artistic relationship between historically Black theatrical institutions and cutting-edge artists. It's meant to be a creative laboratory and home for Black artists and is dedicated to the acceleration and creation of innovative cultural productions, based on NBT's pedagogy forged in 1968. The goal of the program is to diversify the narratives, the points of access, and possibilities being developed and produced around Black lifestyle in American theatre.

AMANI officially opens on February 16, 2023 with preview beginning February 8, 2023 and with the initial run closing March 5, 2023. All performances will be at Rattlestick Theater located at 224 Waverly Pl, New York, NY. Performances for the run of AMANI are Pay-What-You-Can on Wednesdays and ticket prices start at $35, Thursdays through Mondays. General Admission tickets are available now at https://www.nationalblacktheatre.org/amani

About a.k. payne (Playwright)

a.k. payne (she/they) is a playwright and theatermaker with roots in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her plays love on and engage the interdependencies of Black pasts, presents and futures to find/remember language that might move us towards our collective liberation(s). They hold a B.A. in English and African-American Studies from Yale College and are currently pursuing an MFA in playwriting from Yale School of Drama. Their work has been finalist for the L. Arnold Weissberger New Play Award, semifinalist for the O'Neill National Playwriting Conference and winner of the David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award. Their plays have been workshopped with Manhattan Theater Club's "Groundworks Lab" and Roundabout Theater Company. In all their work they strive to create abundant space for Black folks' freedom dreams, in community.

About Josiah Davis (Director)

Josiah Davis (he/him) is a director, choreographer, performer, designer whose work intersects expressive movement, live music, emerging technology and ritual to breathe new life into physical storytelling. He is the Associate Artistic Director of On The Verge Theatre Company-Santa Barbara, a New York Theatre Workshop 2050 Fellow and a Theatre Lumina company member. He received an MFA from Brown/Trinity Rep in Directing and a BA from UCLA School of Theater, Film, and Television.

About Denise Manning (Amani)


Denise Manning AKA "The Lizzo of the American Theater" is a New-York City-based Actor-vist, Comic, and Musician. Check out Denisemichellemanning.com for upcoming shows and latest credits. Her recent credits include; starring in God is A Comedian a self-written and self-produced comedic short film, For the Boys award-winning web series, Keep This Far A Part award winning short film by Tyler English-Beckwith, G.O.A.T by Ngozi Anyanwu, What to Send Up When It Goes Down by Aleshea Harris,The Watering Hole by Lynn Nottage, Stefania Bulbarella and Charly Evon Simpson, Rosieby Lily Houghton at EST,Daddy written by Jeremy O. Harris ,The Chronicles of Cardigan and Khente at Soho Rep, National Black Theatre 48 Hours in Harlem,and The Fire This Time Festival.She has done over 75+ readings/workshops of developmental work across the tri-state area. She'd like to thank all the Black folx, especially Black women, past and present who single-handedly save America, The world, and the arts with little to no thanks.

About Eden Marryshow (Smith)


Eden Marryshow is an award-winning Director/Writer/Actor from Flatbush, Brooklyn. For over a decade, Eden served NYC's Department of Education as a Paraprofessional where he taught some of city's most marginalized youth. Latina "Peanut" Bilbro, one of his most beloved students, would always tell him that she believed in him, she knew he was going to be on stage and make movies someday. On June 22nd 2006, Eden received a call that Peanut was killed in a drive-by shooting. He decided it was time to follow his dream... and prove Peanut right. Since that decision, Eden wrote, produced, directed and starred in the Nationally Theatrically released Feature Film Bruce!!!!, which garnered Marryshow multiple awards. He is currently in post-production for his newest feature, "Can You Stand The Rain," which is a love-note to his brother, Shawn Xavier Brown, who he lost last year. Theatre credits include INK (MTC/Broadway), Guys & Dolls (Kennedy Center), Seven Guitars (Arena Stage), Pipeline (Actors Theatre), Game On (Kennedy Center). Marryshow recently recurred on Netflix's "Archive 81," and previously "Jessica Jones" and "It's Bruno." A huge thanks to my parents, Cesa, KMR, Victor Villar-Hauser, and The Boothe Group. To my Peanut... dreams do come true.

About Kai Heath (Kofa)


Kai Heath (she/her) hails from Harlem NYC. She is thrilled to be a part of Amani. NBT holds a unique place in her life as a harlenite. Off Broadway theatre credits include Leticia in Blooms (Ensemble Studio Theater) Dawn in Bodies They Ritual ( Clubbed Thumb)The Rowdy in On Sugarland (New York Theater Workshop) Messenger in The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park. Regional credits Hall in Men on Boats (Baltimore Center stage) Averie in Dot (People's Light Theater) Hotspur in Henry IV: Part One at Shakespeare's Globe.

About Mars Rucker (Dasia)


Mars Rucker is a multi-artist, genderqueer being & experience. Projects: "Alline/Ikette" OG Bway cast TINA- "Rochelle"-MAJOR, film prod. by Tarell Alvin McCraney & Glenn Davis "Ensemble/U/S Madame Sisseretta" OG cast of BLACK NO MORE-Signature Theatre & OG Bway Cast of A Strange Loop Principal U/S. EP "variations in green" out now (They/Them) Instagram: @mars_the_mantis

Omari K. Chancellor (Robert Richards/Davion/Lamar Davis/A Series of Men)


Omari K. Chancellor can be seen in Peter Farrelly's film The Greatest Beer Run Ever on Apple+ after a world premiere at TIFF. Omari was seen in the world premieres of Soft by Donja R. Love and I Am a Walrus by MJ Kaufman at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. They have also appeared at UCB Los Angeles and Flappers Comedy Club. Chancellor is a 2021 graduate of the NYU Grad acting program.

About National Black Theatre


NATIONAL BLACK THEATRE (NBT), the nation's first revenue-generating Black arts complex, was founded in 1968 by the late visionary artist Dr. Barbara Ann Teer. NBT is the longest-running Black theatre in New York City, one of the oldest theatres founded and consistently operated by a woman of color in the nation, and most recently included in the permanent collection of the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. NBT's core mission is to produce transformational theatre that helps to shift the inaccuracies around African Americans' cultural identity by telling authentic stories of Black lives. As an alternative learning environment, NBT uses theatre arts as a means to educate, enrich, entertain, empower and inform the national conscience around current social issues impacting our communities. Under the leadership of Sade Lythcott, CEO, and Jonathan McCrory, Executive Artistic Director, NBT helps re-shape a more inclusive American theatre field by providing an artistically rigorous and culturally sensitive space for artists of color to experiment, develop and present new work. Working with trailblazing artists from Nona Hendrix to Jeremy O. Harris, and helping to launch the careers, most recently, of artists such as Dominique Morisseau, Radha Blank, Mfoniso Udofia, Saheem Ali, Lee Edward Colston II, and Ebony Noelle Golden, and incubating Obie Award-winning companies like The Movement Theatre Company and Harlem9's 48Hours in Harlem, NBT's cultural production remains unparalleled. Located in the heart of Harlem, NBT welcomes more than 90,000 visitors annually; has produced 300+ original works; won an Obie award and 58 Audelco Awards; received a CEBA Award of Merit; and has been nominated for multiple Drama Desk awards. NBT is supported by grants from Booth Ferris Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Ford Foundation, New York Community Trust, Shubert Foundation, Howard Gilman Foundation, Jerome Foundation, Mellon Foundation, Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone Development Corporation, William Randolph Hearst Foundation, City Council of New York, City of New York Department of Cultural Affairs, New York State Council on the Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, and private donations. Visit nationalblacktheatre.org or follow NBT on Facebook (@NationalBlackTheatre) and Twitter/Instagram (@NatBlackTheatre).

About Rattlestick Theater

Founded in 1994 by David Van Asselt and Gary Bonasorte, Rattlestick Theater has been steadfast in producing diverse, challenging, and provocative plays while fostering the future voices of the American theater. Now in its 29th year, the company is focused on energetic theater that responds to the complexities of our culture in conversation with community partners. From its historic West Village theater, Rattlestick has produced the first plays and early works of some of today's leading voices, including Martyna Majok (Ironbound), Diana Oh (mylingerieplay), and Heidi Schreck (There Are No More Big Secrets). They are proud to make Rattlestick a place where some of our nation's most celebrated playwrights feel safe to test their boldest ideas, including Dael Orlandersmith (Until the Flood), José Rivera (Massacre, Sing to Your Children), and Sam Hunter (Lewiston/Clarkston, nominated for the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play and the Outer Critics Circle Awards for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play). Recently, Rattlestick received several prestigious grants allowing us to commission new work from writers such as Cusi Cram, Mahira Kakkar, Stacey Rose, Arturo Luis Soria, Liba Vaynberg, and Rhiana Yazzie; runs the Van Lier Playwrights Program, the Terrence McNally Incubator Program, and supports immigrant artists through the Global Gab and Global Forms Programs..



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