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Sheen Center Theater Festival To Feature Broadway's Brenda Braxton, Ken Jennings, Tina Fabrique & More

Sheen Center Theater Festival To Feature Broadway's Brenda Braxton, Ken Jennings, Tina Fabrique & More

The Sheen Center for Thought & Culture (18 Bleecker Street, at the corner of Elizabeth Street, NYC) has announced casting for the upcoming third annual Sheen Center Theater Festival taking place June 20 - 23.

Participating Broadway veterans include Tony Award nominee Brenda Braxton (Smokey Joe's Café, Chicago), Tina Fabrique (Ragtime, Noise/Funk),Drama Desk Award winner Ken Jennings (Urinetown, Side Show, Sweeney Todd), Matthew Sims, Jr. (National Tour of Motown The Musical), Zonya Love (The Color Purple).Rounding out The Festival company are Francesco Andolfi, Kent Coleman, Ty Corbin, Daniel Damiano, Matt Golden, Daniel Harray, Trevor Hayes, James Jelkin, James B. Kennedy, Gates Leonard, Joyce Miller, Kathleen O'Neill, Allison Lewis-Towbes, Marcel Mascaro, Mario E. Sprouse, Katie Warns-Steckel, Perri Yaniv, Kara Young, and Kayte Zhang.

Celebrating the voices of established Catholic playwrights in staged reading presentations, this year's full-length plays feature works by playwright Caridad Svich (OBIE Award Winner), Nathan Yungerberg (Cherry Lane mentee under Stephen Adley Guirgus), William Baer (Guggenheim Fellowship recipient), and Erik Ehn (Whiting Award winner), as well as an adaptation of The Gospel of John interpreted by Ken Jennings, best known to Broadway audiences for his performances in the original Broadway companies of Sweeney Todd, Side Show, Urinetown and Grand Hotel.

Admission is free. Reservations are required and can be made online at

"Since its inception two years ago, The Sheen Center Theater Festival has proudly given Catholic playwrights a platform to present exciting, theatrically vibrant, and well-crafted works of theatre," says Kelley Girod, curator of The Sheen Center Theater Festival. "This year's festival features a program of plays by promising, award and prize-winning playwrights that tackle provocative, political, spiritual, and above all, human themes. Caridad, Nathan, William and Erik are writing exciting theater for today's audiences. The Sheen Center is proud to continue its mission of developing relevant new theater and shining a spotlight on the talent creating it."

The Festival schedule...

Thursday, June 20 at 7PM:

Thea by Nathan Yungerberg

Directed by Zhailon Levingston

Musical Direction by Mario Sprouse

Featuring Brenda Braxton, Tina Fabrique, Zonya Love, Matthew Sims Jr., Mario E. Sprouse, and Kara Young

An Afro-surrealist fantasy for anyone who feels they have run out of hope. A fantastical otherworldly journey of a fifteen-year-old girl inspired by the love and light of Sister Thea Bowman. During the early hours of March 30, 1990, a young black girl whose life is saturated with hopelessness finds herself situated in the sky, which isn't really the sky but because it felt like a place that was high above everything, the sky was the best way she could describe it. In the tradition of American oral storytelling, fantasy and folklore, Thea follows fifteen-year-old Josephine on an adventure where she encounters wicked trees, a kaleidoscope of butterflies, and Sister Thea Bowman and her ancestral guardians who are accompanying Thea "home" as she nears the final hours of her life.

Friday, June 21 at 7PM:

Red Bike by Caridad Svich

Directed by Kate Bergstrom

Featuring Allison Lewis-Towbes and Marcel Mascaro

What kind of future will you have living in these here United States? Remember when you were eleven years old and you had a bike, one that made you dream about a world bigger than the one in which you live? This is that memory. Except it is now. Cities change. People change. Get on your bike and ride.

Saturday, June 22 at 7PM:

The Weak and the Strong by Erik Ehn

Directed by Glory Kadigan

Choreographed by Dana Boll

Featuring Francesco Andolfi, Trevor Hayes, James B. Kennedy, Joyce Miller, Kathleen O'Neill, Perri Yaniv, and Kayte Zhang

Inspired by Paul's letters to the Romans and Hebrews, the play is a contemporary look at the mysterious compulsions that lead us to do what we wouldn't and avoid what we would. A rodeo rider, too old to be riding, rides, as his mind and body slip, and his family struggles with the right ways to care.

Sunday, June 23 at 2PM:

Three Generations of Imbeciles by William Baer

Directed by Kathy Gail MacGowan

Featuring Kent Coleman, Ty Corbin, Daniel Damiano, Matt Golden, Daniel Harray, James Jelkin, Gates Leonard, and Katie Warns-Steckel

He won't be able to prevent 70,000 forced sterilizations, but maybe he can prevent one. After forced sterilizations are approved by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1927, David Prescott, a young lawyer in Delaware, fights against all odds to prevent the sterilization of a helpless sixteen-year-old girl. At the Delaware Colony for the Feebleminded (1927), Dr. John Campbell is forcibly prevented from sexually mutilating Abigail Smith against her will. Eventually, David Prescott, a former prosecutor, agrees to try and prevent Abby's forced sterilization, assisted by Eugenics expert Rebecca Dawson. The historical background of this play is the U.S. government's involvement in the forced sterilizations of genetic "defectives" - over 70,000 Americans - made possible by the Supreme Court's Buck v. Bell decision to prevent future "generations of imbeciles."

Sunday, June 23 at 6:30PM:

The Gospel of John

Adapted and performed by Ken Jennings

Drama Desk-winning Broadway actor Ken Jennings (Sweeney Todd, Grand Hotel, Sideshow) started memorizing the Gospel According to John as a spiritual practice during a difficult time in his life. He always had an affinity for the Gospel of John, which seemed to him to be a firsthand account by a man who was actually there. So he memorized it. To make it theatrical, he made a few cuts for time, which he cleared with a Jesuit priest, an Episcopalian priest, a Baptist minister, and a nun of The Order of the Sacred Heart - all of who encouraged him to go on with his presentation. St. John must have told this story over and over again before it was in written form. Ken hopes to tell it to the audience as it might have first been heard.

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