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Theater for the New City Presents Powerful Production Of Victor Vauban Jr.'s LEAVES

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The play earlier won the Riant Theatre's 32nd Strawberry One-Act Festival's "Best Play Award" out of more than 30 presented.

Theater for the New City Presents Powerful Production Of Victor Vauban Jr.'s LEAVES

 

NEW YORK CITY - Theater for the New City is finishing off the summer with a noteworthy presentation of Leaves, a powerful drama written and directed by Victor Vauban Jr. about assimilation, colorism, the importance of family, love and mental health.

Vauban, whose play in 2019 won Best Drama in the Riant Theatre's 32nd Strawberry One-Act Festival, has written a moving drama that tells the story of a family, complex relationships and the many issues they face.

He finds inspiration for his narratives from artists such as August Wilson, Tennessee Williams, Henrik Ibsen as well as the late Nina Simone, who said, “the artist’s duty is to reflect the times.” 

Life itself feeds, fuels and inspires Vauban’s hunger for truth, drama, memorable characters and well-written dialogue.

In this domestic drama playing through August 29th, Vauban introduces us to Muriel (Dierdra McDowell), a devoted housewife living happily with her beloved husband Curtis (Ben Rowe) and their two children, James (Riyadh Rollins) and Rhonda (Cassandra Borgella).

Lianni Awah, Matthew Harling and Alton Ray complete this family circle playing Muriel and Curtis in their youth years.

“They are a quintessential middle-class, African American family living a normal life in Syracuse,” Vauban said. “Despite their content and conventional appearance, this family also has its secrets.”

Before long, we witness their unraveling with heated accusations and discussions that involve everything from loyalty and colorism to assimilation and mental health, all of which remain controversial subjects within the African American community.

A cast of ten brings “Leaves” to life, including Dierdra McDowell, Ben Rowe, Patricia Fields, Cassandra Borgella, Riyadh Rollins, Soyini Crenshaw, Khalfani Louis, Lianne Awah, Matthew Harling and Alton Ray.

Costume design is by Carolyn Adams; set design is by Matteo Esposito, Lytza R. Colon and Victor Vauban Junior with sound by Geoffrey Christopher and Dayvis Ferreras.

“Like a lightning bolt, Mr. Vauban tackles topics as family, loyalty, colorism, unity, assimilationism and mental health, which is still a taboo in the African-American community,” the Community News wrote of “Leaves.”

The play earlier won the Riant Theatre's 32nd Strawberry One-Act Festival’s "Best Play Award" out of more than 30 presented.

Van Fisher, artistic director and founder of the Riant Theatre, described “Leaves” as a play where Vauban “captured a family that everybody can relate to and the joy and love that this family has for one another.”

“It's a relationship that we all can admire and want for ourselves. This play needs to be seen by more audiences,” Fisher said. “The audiences that saw ‘Leaves’ were stunned when they realized what was happening in the play. People were very moved by the play and shared their comments with me after the show."

A former circus performer, Vauban fell in love with the art of writing and has had his works featured by the Writer’s Guild in The Guild magazine and had his plays read at the Classical Theater of Harlem’s workshop. He is a constant presence in theater festivals in New York City.

Vauban took part in “Writers in Performance” at the Tribeca Performing Arts Center under the tutelage of Mario Giacalone, program director of the BMCC Tribeca Performing Arts Center, in 2012.

His works are attentive to the inevitable dilemmas society has faced since the beginning of history, presenting memorable characters and relationships set against the backdrop of dramatic plots.

He tells the story of individuals and families, as well as society itself, while shedding light on issues and human strengths and weaknesses woven into the fabric of life.

If Vauban seems to have an eye for the balancing act of human life, he has a long history of teaching related to social issues and society.

He taught in the social program of Cirque du Soleil, Cirque du Monde and performed with a number of international circus companies such as UniverSoul Circus, Gran Circus Norte-Americano, Beto Carrero Show, Gran Bartholo Circus and Circus Amok.

Vauban is an eternal admirer of the arts, always willing to share his passion for arts with his students, friends, and community. His work has gained recognition for its involving and conscious approach to delicate themes still taboo in African American circles, such as assimilation, colorism, mental health, and the mass incarceration of people of color.

“My main goal as a writer/director is to advance social change by encouraging a safer, better informed, and more cohesive community,” Vauban said. “Through theater, I seek to facilitate a deeper understanding of self and others, and a greater acceptance of different cultures and ways of being, so that we can’t be pitted against each other so easily.”

Dierdra McDowell (Muriel) leads the cast of ten in this well wrought production. She was born in Brooklyn, New York with Panamanian roots. As the first American born in her family, other family members often joked about her "celebrity status.” McDowell surrounded herself early on in the area of the arts, attended the High School of Art and Design and then completed studies at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and FIT in New York City.  She studied acting at the Susan Batson Studio (formerly Black Nexxus), the T. Schreiber Studio, and the Marishka Phillips Theatrical Preparatory (MPTP).

Ben Rowe plays Curtis the patriarch of the family. He is a New York-born actor who has enjoyed working on productions large and small and stages of all sizes for the past two decades. He is elated to be part of this latest production of "Leaves."

Costume design: Carolyn Adams.

Set Design: Matteo Esposito, Lytza R. Colon, V.V.J.

CAST: Dierdra McDowell, Ben Rowe, Patricia Fields, Cassandra Borgella, Riyadh Rollins, Soyini Crenshaw, Khalfani Louis, Lianne Awah, Matthew Harling and Alton Ray.

“Leaves,” Theater for the New City,155 First Ave, Aug. 12-29, 2021, Thurs.-Sat. at 8 p.m. and Sun. at 3 p.m.; $18, students and seniors $15. (212) 254-1109, www.theaterforthenewcity.net.


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