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Shirley Jo Finney

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Shirley Jo Finney BIO

Born July 14, 1949 in Merced, CA, Shirley Jo Finney was a multiple award-winning director and actress. She wore her director's hat in some of the most respected regional theaters across the country, including The Fountain Theatre, LA Theater Works, Pasadena Playhouse and Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles; the Goodman Theater in Chicago; Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.; the McCarter Theater and Crossroads Theatre Company in New Jersey; the Alabama Shakespeare Festival; Cleveland Playhouse; Humana Festival at the Actors Theater of Louisville; and the Sundance Theater Workshop in Park City, Utah.

Her affiliation with the Fountain began in 1997, with her acclaimed production of Endesha Ida Mae Holland's From the Mississippi Delta, for which the LA Times highlighted her inventive staging. Under her direction, the smash hit world premiere of Stephen Sachs' spin on L.A's jazz history, Central Avenue, ran for seven months in 2001. Her Los Angeles premiere of Dael Orlandersmith's Yellowman won the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for best production, and earned Finney the Beverly Hills/Hollywood NAACP Theatre Award for best director. Her direction of the Fountain's West Coast premiere of Ifa Bayeza's daring, folk and gospel-infused The Ballad of Emmett Till in 2010 resulted in an awards sweep: Ovation, Los Angeles Drama Critic's Circle, NAACP and Backstage Garland awards for production, direction and ensemble. Other directing credits at the Fountain included world premieres of Citizen: An American Lyric by award-winning PENN poet Claudia Rankin and Fountain Theatre artistic director Stephen Sachs; Heart Song, about three friends who discover their inner ‘duende' through a flamenco class for middle-aged women, also by Sachs; and Runaway Home, a poetic mother-daughter tale set in the wake of Hurricane Katrina by Jeremy J. Kamps, for which Finney received an NAACP Theater Award nomination. She directed Los Angeles premieres of two plays by Tarell Alvin McCraney for the Fountain: In the Red and Brown Water, for which she received Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle, Ovation and NAACP awards, and The Brothers Size, for which she garnered a Stage Raw award nomination and a Stage Scene LA “Scenie” award.

She most recently directed Clyde's by Lynn Nottage at the Ensemble Theatre in Houston, TX, where she had previously directed The Green Book in 2020. Other recent directing credits include the internationally acclaimed South African opera Winnie, based on the life of political icon Winnie Mandela, at the State Theater in Pretoria, South Africa; Facing Our Truth, The Trayvon Martin Project at the Kirk Douglas Theater in Los Angeles; and the Lark Foundation's rolling world premiere of The Road Weeps by Marcus Gardley at the Los Angeles Theatre Center.

Miss Finney was also an established television and film director. She directed several episodes of Moesha, and she garnered the International Black Filmmakers Award for her short film Remember Me.

She was honored with the UCLA Department of Theater Film and Television Distinguished Alumni Award, the Black Alumni Associations Dr. Beverly Robinson Award for Excellence in the Arts, and the African American Film Marketplace Award of Achievement for Outstanding Performance and Achievement and Leader in Entertainment.

An accomplished actress with many television and film credits, she was best known for her portrayal in the historic title role of Wilma Rudolph, the first female three-time gold medalist in the made-for-TV bio picture Wilma.

Miss Finney was an alumnus of the American Film Institute's Director Workshop for Women and held an M.F.A. degree from UCLA. She was a member of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, the Director's Guild, and the Screen Actor's Guild. She was an artist-in-residence at several colleges and universities, including Columbia College in Chicago, UC Santa Barbara, USC and UCLA.

She died on October 10, 2023.

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Shirley Jo Finney News

Playwrights' Arena Honors Denise Blasor, Gregg Daniel, And C. Raul Espinoza At Annual Brunch Gala At LA LGBT Center

Join Playwrights' Arena for their Annual Gala on April 28, 2024. Celebrate the art of playwriting and support the development of new plays in this festive event.
caryn desai Receives Los Angeles Women's Theatre Festival's 2024 Eternity Award

 International City Theatre producing artistic director caryn desai [sic] has been named the recipient of the Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival’s 2024 Eternity Award, presented to an artist whose lifetime achievements have made a lasting contribution to the world of theater.
The 31st Annual Los Angeles Women's Theatre Festival To Host Opening Night Champagne GALA

The 31st Annual Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival will honor eight deserving women for their exceptional career and life achievements in the Opening Night Champagne GALA and Awards Ceremony on March 28, 2024. Hosted by Hattie Winston and Margaret Avery.
Fountain Theatre to Host Memorial Celebration for Shirley Jo Finney at Kirk Douglas Theatre

The Fountain Theatre will host a celebration to honor the memory of Shirley Jo Finney at the Kirk Douglas Theatre on Tuesday, Dec. 12beginning at 7 p.m.
Director Shirley Jo Finney Passes Away at 74

The theater community mourns the passing of celebrated director Shirley Jo Finney, who passed away after battling cancer. The Fountain Theatre will host a memorial service to honor her life and achievements.
 North Coast Repertory Theatre Reveals Lineup For Season 42

 North Coast Repertory Theatre has announced Season 42, featuring a host of plays that include two world premieres, a beloved musical masterpiece, side-splitting comedies, an eerie Gothic thriller, a poignant drama, and a taut psychological study.  
CAMELOT, TARTUFFE, and More Set For North Coast Repertory Theatre Season 42

North Coast Repertory Theatre has announced Season 42, featuring a  host of plays that include two world premieres, a beloved musical masterpiece, side-splitting  comedies, an eerie Gothic thriller, a poignant drama, and a taut psychological study.  
Two Free Performances of CITIZEN: AN AMERICAN LYRIC to be Presented at Inner-City Arts This Month

The Fountain Theatre and Grand Performances will present two free performances of the Fountain’s critically acclaimed, award-winning stage adaptation of Claudia Rankine’s Citizen: An American Lyric.
Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation Awards $10,000 Denham Fellowship to Colette Robert

Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation has selected Colette Robert as this season’s SDCF Denham Fellow for her upcoming production of The Harriet Holland Social Club Presents the 84th Annual Star-Burst Cotillion in the Grand Ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel, which she also authored. 
UCSB Department of Theater/Dance's LAUNCH PAD Presents: A Preview Production of A MEDUSA THREAD

The Department of Theater/Dance’s LAUNCH PAD new play development program at UCSB, presents a preview production of brand new play, A Medusa Thread, written by Candrice Jones and directed by Shirley Jo Finney. Artist in residence through UCSB’s LAUNCH PAD Program (Risa Brainin, Artistic Director), Candrice Jones brings her unique and deeply personal perspective to UCSB.
UCSB THEATER/DANCE Announces 2021-2022 Season

The Department of Theater and Dance at UC Santa Barbara has announced another exciting year of performances, this time back in-person. This season includes everything from unique takes on old classics to new and original works in both theater and dance.
YI Love Jewish Presents LESSONS By Award-Winning Playwright Wendy Graf

YI Love Jewish will host and present a play reading of Lessons by playwright Wendy Graf! The event will be 7 pm Monday, August 30 at The Betsy Hotel in South Beach.
BIPOC Reading Series Festival Announces April Dates

NNPN has announced the dates of The BIPOC Reading Series Festival, a collaboration with UC Santa Barbara's LAUNCH PAD, AMPLIFY, and New & Reimagined Work. A beauty shop in purgatory, a small Michigan high school & the U.S.-Mexico border are just some of the places UC Santa Barbara’s upcoming BIPOC Reading Series Festival will transport audiences.
UCSB Theater/Dance Presents Digital Fall Events

The Department of Theater and Dance presents a rich and exciting season of innovative performances. Despite the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, the department is committed to providing their community with quality education, theater, and equal access to all of the shows. With over ten productions in the pipeline, there is something for everyone, and for the first time, every single one can be watched for free, right from your couch. 
BWW Review: THE BALLAD OF EMMETT TILL at Fountain Theatre

Part history, part mystery and part ghost story, Bayezaa??s lyrical integration of past, present, fact and legend turns Emmetta??s story into a soaring work of music, poetic language and riveting theatricality, transformed into an online format that breaks the notion of what a virtual performance can be. With the actors seen as cut-outs inserted into backdrops to fit each scene, characters move about each other in cars, on a living room couch, or while riding on a Ferris Wheel as if they really are in the scene together at the same time.
Original Cast of the Fountain Theatre's THE BALLAD OF EMMETT TILL Reunites for Online Reading

The original director and cast of the Fountain Theatre's 2010, multiple award-winning production of The Ballad of Emmett Till by Ifa Bayeza will reunite for a live-streamed reading of the play on Friday, Aug. 28, which marks the 65th anniversary of Till's murder.
The Ensemble Theatre Kicks Off Video On Demand Presentation of THE GREEN BOOK

The Ensemble Theatre kicks off its video-on-demand presentation of The Green Book by Calvin Alexander Ramsey in partnership with the Harris County Public Library (HCPL), available to rent through Vimeo June 14-28, 2020, and will feature a one-day livestream meet and greet with the playwright.
Virtual Premiere of UNEMPLOYED ELEPHANTS- A LOVE STORY Set for Hollywood Fringe

A chance meeting in an airport lounge leads to a Burmese odyssey and a search for a missing monk... and maybe love. John Lacey directs the 'virtual premiere' of Unemployed Elephants-A Love Story, a romantic comedy by Wendy Graf (No Word in Guyanese for Me, Exit Wounds).
Fountain Theatre Speaks Out Against Racism With Live-Streamed Reading Of CITIZEN: AN AMERICAN LYRIC

In response to current events and in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter, The Fountain Theatre will present a one-time, live online reading of Stephen Sachs' critically acclaimed, award-winning stage adaptation of Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric. This compelling portrait of racism in America will stream live on Sunday, June 7 at 5 p.m. PT on Facebook, Twitter, the Fountain's Youtube channel, and Zoom (zoom ID #959 8241 0639).
The Ensemble Theatre to Present Regional Premiere of THE GREEN BOOK

The Ensemble Theatre presents the regional premiere of The Green Book, written by award-winning author Calvin Alexander Ramsey and directed by award-winning director Shirley Jo Finney with Opening Night and Media Reception Thursday, November 14, 2019, 6:30 p.m. 3535 Main Street, Houston, Texas 77002.

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