Cast Complete for Final PlayLabs by Jocelyn Bioh & Lily Houghton at MCC Theater

Cast Complete for Final PlayLabs by Jocelyn Bioh & Lily Houghton at MCC Theater

MCC Theater today announced the complete cast and creative team for 2017-18 Tow Playwright-in-Residence Jocelyn Bioh's Happiness and Joe, the third of the 2017 PlayLabs readings to be held on October 2nd at 7pm as well MCC Youth Company Alum Lily Houghton's Dear, the final of the 2017 PlayLabs readings to be held on Monday October 16th at 7pm, both at the Lucille Lortel Theatre (121 Christopher Street).

Written by Jocelyn Bioh and directed by Saheem Ali, the cast of Happiness and Joe will include Joaquina Kalukango and Austin Smith.

Happiness and Joe are madly in love and their wedding is the most anticipated event in the (fictional) African country of Upendo. But the rising tensions in the country are becoming harder to ignore and they find themselves, unwittingly, in the center of it. Written by Jocelyn Bioh, whose play School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girl Play will be presented as part of MCC Theater's mainstage season. Bioh is also MCC's 2017-2018 Tow Playwright-in-Residence.

Written by Lily Houghton and directed by Jenna Worsham, the cast of Dear will include Michele Selene Ang, Lilly Englert, and Coral Peña..

April has disappeared from her college campus, and her three friends convene in their dorm's shared bathroom to trade theories about her whereabouts and attacks against each other. When April's paper on female serial killers begins to bare striking similarities to their behavior, the students are forced to face their own secrets and rage. Written by MCC Youth Company alum Lily Houghton, Dear explores the violence against and within young women today.

The PlayLabs reading series invites audiences to engage directly with playwrights as they develop new works for the theater. Each reading includes a post-show reception with wine and snacks, offering a chance to discuss the work and mingle with the playwrights, actors, MCC leadership, and other audience members.

All readings are at 7pm at the Lucille Lortel Theatre (121 Christopher Street). Dear is sold out, but $15 tickets are still available for Happiness and Joe. Both performances will include a post-reading reception with the artists and MCC leadership. For tickets and more info, visit www.mcctheater.org.

Past PlayLabs playwrights include MCC's Playwright-in-Residence Neil LaBute, Pulitzer Prize winner Stephen Adly Guirgis, Tony winning Dear Evan Hansen book writer Steven Levenson, Pulitzer Prize finalist Anthony Rapp, and MCC mainstage alums John Pollono (Small Engine Repair and Lost Girls) and Stephen Belber (Don't Go Gentle), among others.

In addition to the PlayLabs series, the 2017-18 MCC Theater Season includes the NYC premiere of Charm (currently running until October 15, 2017), a play by Chicago-based, Jefferson Award-winning playwright Philip Dawkins and directed by Helen Hayes Award winner and 2017 Lucille Lortel Award nominee Will Davis; School Girls; Or, the African Mean Girls Play (November 1 - December 10, 2017) by 2017-2018 Tow Playwright-in-Residence Jocelyn Bioh and directed by 2017 Tony Award Winner Rebecca Taichman, developed last year at MCC's PlayLab series; Relevance (February 1 - March 11, 2018) by JC Lee and directed by Tony nominee Liesl Tommy; Transfers (April 5 - May 13, 2018) by MCC Youth Company Playwriting Lab Director Lucy Thurber and directed by Jackson Gay; and the world premiere of MCC Playwright-in-Residence Neil LaBute's new play, Reasons to be Pretty Happy (August 16 - September 23, 2018), to be directed by MCC alum Leigh Silverman.

MCC Theater's playwright development program, PlayLabs, helps foster the MCC artistic community by providing writers intensive dramaturgical support, as well as the opportunity to work alongside professional directors and actors to engage public audiences in the development of new work. The PlayLabs reading series incorporates informal post-show gatherings for conversation between artists and audiences that enliven and stimulate the often solitary and insular writing and development process. Plays developed as part of PlayLabs have gone on to full productions at MCC, as well as at other nonprofit theaters in New York and overseas, adding vibrant new works to the contemporary theatrical canon.

The company's education initiatives serve more than 1,200 public school students throughout New York each year through a mix of programs for students and teachers inside and outside the classroom. Employing the tools of theater alongside traditional academic and career-readiness, the programs empower young people to find and express their own voices, and become engaged citizens throughout and beyond their academic careers. Dedicated mentors provide students with support as they explore acting, writing, directing, and theater production alongside professionals in the field, and provide college- and career-readiness opportunities to complement the theater-focused initiatives.

The centerpiece of the institution's education programs is the MCC Theater Youth Company, the first free, after-school company of its kind associated with a professional theater. Since its founding in 2001 as an eight-member ensemble, the Youth Company has grown to serve more than 100 students each year and now includes a flagship Youth Company and satellite groups developed in partnership with schools in Washington Heights and Brooklyn.

MCC Theater is one of New York's leading nonprofit Off-Broadway companies, driven by a mission to provoke conversations that have never happened and otherwise never would. Founded in 1986 as a collective of artists leading peer-based classes to support their own development as actors, writers and directors, the tenets of collaboration, education, and community are at the core of MCC Theater's programming. One of the only theaters in the country led continuously by its founders, Artistic Directors Robert LuPone, Bernard Telsey, and William Cantler, MCC fulfills its mission through the production of world, American, and New York premiere plays and musicals that challenge artists and audiences to confront contemporary personal and social issues, and robust playwright development and education initiatives that foster the next generation of theater artists and students.

MCC Theater's celebrated productions include Penelope Skinner's The Village Bike; Robert Askins' Hand to God; John Pollono's Small Engine Repair; Paul Downs Colaizzo's Really Really; Sharr White's The Other Place (Broadway transfer); a fully reimagined version of the legendary musical Carrie; Jeff Talbott's The Submission (Laurents/Hatcher Award); Michael Weller's Fifty Words; Alexi Kaye Campbell's The Pride; Bryony Lavery's Frozen (Broadway transfer; four 2004 Tony Award nominations including Best Play, Tony Award for Best Featured Actor); Tim Blake Nelson's The Grey Zone; Rebecca Gilman's The Glory of Living (2002 Pulitzer Prize finalist); Margaret Edson's Wit (1999 Pulitzer Prize); and ten plays by Playwright-in-Residence Neil LaBute, including Reasons to Be Happy, reasons to be pretty (Broadway transfer, three 2009 Tony Award nominations, including Best Play), Some Girl(s), Fat Pig, The Mercy Seat, and most recently All The Ways To Say I Love You. Many plays developed and produced by MCC have gone on to productions throughout the country and around the world.

Blake West joined the company in 2006 as Executive Director. MCC will open its first permanent home in 2018 in Manhattan's Clinton neighborhood, unifying the company's activities under one roof for the first time and expanding its producing, artist development, and education programming. The theater is currently in the midst of a $35 million campaign to support its expansion and growing artistic operations, with $30 million raised to-date.

ABOUT THE ARTISTS:

Jocelyn Bioh (Playwright) is a Ghanaian-American writer/performer from New York City. NYC acting credits include: In The Blood, Everybody (Signature, Lortel Nomination), Men on Boats (Playwrights Horizons), An Octoroon (Soho Rep), Neighbors (The Public Theater), and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time which won the Tony Award for Best Play in 2015. Her plays include: 2015 Kilroys List selection Nollywoods Dreams which was presented in the Spring of 2017 as part of The Cherry Lane Mentor Project, School Girls (Kilroys List 2016), Happiness and Joe (2017), African Americans (Ruby Prize Finalist 2011), Goddess (book writer), and The Ladykiller's Love Story, of which she conceived the story and wrote the libretto with music/lyrics by Cee Lo Green. She is a commissioned playwright with MTC and Atlantic Theater Co, is a Resident Playwright at Lincoln Center and is a Tow Foundation Playwright in Residence with MCC for 2017/18. B.A in English/Theatre from The Ohio State University and MFA in Playwriting.

Saheem Ali (Director). Originally from Nairobi, Kenya, Saheem is a director of plays and musicals with an emphasis on new work. Recent credits include Where Storms Are Born (Williamstown Theater Festival), Kill Move Paradise (National Black Theater), Twelfth Night (The Public), Nollywood Dreams (Cherry Lane), Dot (Detroit Public Theater), The Booty Call (Inner Voices), and A Lesson From Aloes (Juilliard). He has workshopped new plays at Playwrights Realm, MCC, New York Stage & Film and PEN World Voices. He has co-written two musicals with composer Michael Thurber: The Booty Call (Roundabout Underground Reading Series) and Goddess (O'Neill Musical Theater Conference). He was the associate director of The Tempest at The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park. He is a Usual Suspect and former Directing Fellow at New York Theater Workshop, SDC Sir John Gielgud Fellow and Shubert Fellow.

Joaquina Kalukango (Happiness). Currently in Fucking A (Signature Theatre).Other credits include Nettie in the Broadway revival of The Color Purple, Encores! Wild Party. Broadway: Holler If Ya Hear Me and Godspell. Off-Broadway: Our Lady of Kibeho (Signature Theatre), Antony and Cleopatra (The Public Theater and Royal Shakespeare Company), Emotional Creature (Signature Theatre and Berkeley Rep), Hurt Village (Signature, Theatre World Award, Drama Desk Award nomination) and Rent (NWS). Favorite regional credits include Camae in The Mountaintop (Arena Stage and Alley Theatre, Helen Hayes Award), Sarah in Ragtime (Hangar) and Ti Moune in Once on This Island (Hangar). Juilliard graduate.

Austin Smith (Joe) made his New York theatrical debut starring in Branden Jacobs-Jenkins' Obie Award winning play An Octoroon at Theatre for a New Audience. He is an original Broadway cast member of Hamilton, where he had the opportunity to play both Aaron Burr and George Washington. He was last seen in the world premiere of Sarah Ruhl's How to Transcend a Happy Marriage at Lincoln Center, starring Marisa Tomei and directed by Rebecca Taichman. He has appeared on television on "Odd Mom Out" on Bravo. He is a graduate of The Juilliard School.

Lily Houghton (Playwright) is a twenty-two year old playwright born and raised in Manhattan. She wrote her first play at age seventeen before completing her B.A. in Theater and Clinical Psychology with a minor in Literature at Bennington College. Her plays have been developed at MCC Theater Company, NYU, 20% Theater Company Chicago, Yale University's Writers' Conference, Bennington College, University of Michigan Theater Conservatory, and the Jermyn Street Theatre in London.

Jenna Worsham (Director). Stage Director and Activist. Broadway: The Parisian Woman (upcoming, Associate Director); The Heidi Chronicles (Associate Director); Picnic (SDC Fellowship). Recent Directing: Blue Ridge by Abby Rosebrock (Williamstown, Boris Sagal/Drama League Directing Fellow); The Siblings Play by Ren Dara Santiago (Cherry Lane Mentor Project); Street Children by Pia Scala-Zankel (New Ohio Theatre, NY Times Critics' Pick); Gun Country (Houses on the Moon Theater, A.R.T/New York Gural Theater); Have You Been There by Emily Zemba and The First Immigrant by Martyna Majok (Williamstown, Studio); East Coast Curriculum by Lucy Thurber (Lee Strasberg Institute); Invincible Ones by Samantha Cooper (Signature Center/Columbia MFA); Here to Be Seen (featuring a cast of formerly incarcerated women, commissioned by the Brooklyn DA); Kids by Daniel Talbott (IRT); The Vagina Monologues for Taconic Prison. Jenna is the recipient of a Jonathon Alper Directing Fellowship (MTC), a member of the The Actors Studio Directors Unit, the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab and an Affiliated Artist of New Georges.

Michele Selene Ang (Greta) hails from the San Francisco Bay Area, California. In 2016, she graduated with a degree in Theatre Performance from Fordham University at Lincoln Center. Soon afterwards, she was cast in the hit Netflix series "13 Reasons Why" as Courtney Crimsen. Her past theatre credits include Bryna Turner's Bull in a China Shop for LCT3. She is currently shooting season two of "13 Reasons Why" in Northern California.

Lilly Englert (April) made her stage debut as "Hermia" in Julie Taymor's critically acclaimed adaptation of A Midsummer Night's Dream at Theatre for a New Audience (TFANA). Additional theater credits include "Marina" in Pericles directed by Trevor Nunn (TFANA), "Cordelia" in King Lear opposite Michael Pennington and "Cissy" in the Trip Cullman-directed Punk Rock at MCC Theater. Englert can next be seen in the feature Wilde Wedding, by writer/director Damian Harris, opposite Glenn Close and John Malkovich. She will also appear in the upcoming feature Ask For Jane with Sarah Ramos and Cody Horn. Lilly trained at Stella Adler and RADA.

Coral Peña (Francie) originates from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic and was raised in Harlem, New York. She is a proud graduate of NYU Tisch's School of the Arts. Recent projects include: Steven Spielberg's "The Post" and "24: Legacy". Past TV/Film includes: Dabka (Tribeca 2017), Carrie Pilby, "Blue Bloods." She is excited to be a part of Dear and MCC Theater's PlayLab, and wants to thank her manager Michal Zecher, her agents at Innovative Artist, and her amazing family for all their continuous love and support.




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