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Philadelphia Artists' Collective and My Black Best Friend to Present WINE IN THE WILDERNESS at Poth Brewery

Philadelphia Artists' Collective and My Black Best Friend to Present WINE IN THE WILDERNESS at Poth Brewery

The show will run for a limited engagement from September 22 through October 9, 2022. 

Philadelphia Artists' Collective (PAC) will launch their 12th season with a production of Wine in the Wilderness by Alice Childress, performed at Poth Brewery (3145 W. Jefferson St, Philadelphia). Presented in collaboration with TheBlackBestFriend as part of the Philadelphia Fringe Festival, the show will run for a limited engagement from September 22 through October 9, 2022. Opening night for press is Saturday, September 24 at 8:00pm.

Wine in the Wilderness examines race, gender, and class against the backdrop of the 1964 race riots in Harlem. The plot unfolds in the apartment of a painter creating a triptych to illustrate the phases of Black Womanhood. When friends introduce him to a potential model for the final painting, assumptions unravel and the true power of Black women is both acknowledged and celebrated.

Wine in the Wilderness is directed by AZ Espinoza, a transmasculine feminist who makes magic through theatre. Directing credits include the world premiere of R. Eric Thomas's Backing Track at the Arden Theatre (associate director) and the Philadelphia premiere of Angelina Weld Grimke's 1915 anti-lynching play Rachel at Quintessence Theatre Company. Their play All My Mothers Dream in Spanish will have its world premiere at Azuka Theatre in 2023, and their play Homeridae has been developed nationally and was an Honorable Mention finalist for the Terrance McNally Award. They are the co-creator and founder of theBlackBestFriend, a producing collective that uplifts Black multiplicities. They have been a theater educator at the Wilma Theater, Temple University, Haverford College, and the University of the Arts, and they are a student of liberation everywhere, and for everyone.

"Wine in the Wilderness was the first 'classic' play I read that spoke directly to the Black community with no translations, code switches, or cultural exposition for a non-Black audience," said Director AZ Espinoza. "The story felt refreshing, liberating, and exciting. It's important for audiences to know that the conversations we are having today about how to build a better future for our communities have been happening for generations."

Espinoza hopes the production demonstrates "that there are as many ways to be a Black person in search of liberation as there are Black people on this planet. We are stronger in our multiplicities and the first step in building community is the simplest and yet most complex of all - listening to each other."

Under Espinoza's direction, the production will feature Akeem Davis (he/him), Ciera Gardner (they/them), Brian Anthony Wilson (he/him), Natajia Sconiers (she/her) and Keith Livingston (he/him). Jihan Thomas (she/her), the Artist-in-Residence for the production, will create the triptych of paintings at the center of the plot, bringing her perspective as a Black artist and mother to Childress' play.

For this show, the crew will include: Stage Manager: Autumn Blaylock (she/her), Lighting Designer: Bless Rudisill (he/him), Costume Designer: Aly Gonzales (she/her), Technical, Director: Jim Mobley (he/him), Sound Designer: Adiah Hicks (she/her), Props Designer: Sara Outing (she/her), and Artist-in-Residence: Jihan Thomas (she/her).

Tickets for Wine in the Wilderness are currently on sale by visiting fringearts.com. Tickets for the final week of the run, after Fringe concludes, will be available via philartistscollective.org. General admission is $30 and student/artist tickets are $10. More information on The Philadelphia Artists' Collective can be found at https://www.philartistscollective.org. More information on TheBlackBestFriend can be found at www.bbfphilly.com.

Playwright Bio:

Alice Childress (1916-1994) grew up in Harlem, New York City, where she acted with the American Negro Theatre in the 1940s. She won acclaim as an actress in many productions, including in "Anna Lucasta", which became the longest-running all-black play in Broadway history. While working with ANT, she wrote, directed, and starred in her first play, "Florence" (produced 1949), about a black woman who -- after meeting an insensitive white actress in a railway station -- comes to respect her daughter's attempts to pursue an acting career. Her plays are characterized by their frank examination of racial and social issues, including "Trouble in Mind" (1955), "Wedding Band" (1966), "String" (1969), and "Wine in the Wilderness" (1969). Childress also wrote plays that feature music, including "Just a Little Simple" (1950), based on Langston Hughes's "Simple Speaks His Mind." as well as "The African Garden" (1971), "Gullah" (1984), and "Moms" (1987) about the life of comedienne Jackie "Moms" Mabley.

She was also a novelist, with one of her most famous works, "A Hero Ain't Nothin' but a Sandwich" (1973), written for adolescents about the life of a teenage drug addict. Her work often met with controversy, with networks refusing to televise productions of her plays and schools and libraries banning her novels.

During her life, Childress was a member of professional organizations and groups, including PEN, the Harlem Writers Guild, and the Dramatists Guild. She also lectured at colleges and universities, among them the Radcliffe Institute for Independent study in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Fisk University. Childress received the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame award in 1977, the first Paul Robeson award for Outstanding Contributions to the Performing Arts in 1980, and the Audelco Pioneer award in 1986.

Cast Bios:

Akeem Davis, from Miami, Fl, is a graduate of Florida State University. Regional credits include: Arden Theatre Company: A Streetcar Named Desire, Gem of the Ocean, A Doll's House (Barrymore Award for Outstanding Supporting Performance in a Play); Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company: The Arsonists; Folger Theatre: King John, District Merchants (Hayes Nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play). People's Light: All My Sons; Theatre Horizon: Lobby Hero, In The Blood; InterAct Theatre: The Dangerous House of Pretty M'bane, Marcus/Emma; Theatre Exile: Buzzer; Philadelphia Shakespeare Company: Henry V, Romeo and Juliet; Simpatico Theatre Project: The Brothers Size. Recipient of the 2015 F. Otto Haas Award for Emerging Philadelphia Theatre Artist, Akeem is a proud man of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

Ciera Garner (they/them) is a local actor, mover, and creator here in the Philadelphia area. They graduated from the University of the Arts '16 while also attending the Headlong Performance Institute '15. Credits include Richard III (Theatre in the X), Peter and the Starcatcher (Theatre Horizon), The Gap (Azuka Theatre), Coriolanus (Shakespeare in Clark Park), Liberty to Go to See (National Trust of Cliveden), No Child... (Theatre in the X).

Keith Livingston: PAC Debut! NYC: Target Margin Theater, New Brooklyn Theatre. Regional: Utah Shakespeare Festival, Boise Contemporary Theater, Walnut Street Theatre, Bristol Riverside Theatre, Lantern Theater Company, Theatre Exile, Elm Shakespeare Company, Toms River Shakespeare Festival. He holds two B.A.'s from the University of New Haven and is a proud alum of the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center's National Music Theatre Institute. Endless thanks to Mom.

Natajia (Tay) Sconiers (she/her): is a local performing artist from Cherry Hill, New Jersey, Associate Artistic Director of PAC and member of Theatre Contra. A former Arden Apprentice and acting apprentice at Delaware Shakespeare. Her favorite credits include A Midsummer Night's Dream (Delaware Shakespeare); Delaware Young Playwrights Festival (Delaware Theatre Company); Fourteen (National Constitution Center); The Sea Voyage (Philadelphia Artists' Collective); Dream-Rushes (Theatre Contra) and Much Ado About Nothing (Delaware Shakespeare). Special thanks to this beautiful team of BIPOC artists, the PAC fam, and of course love to mom and Sav!

Jihan A. Thomas (she/her) is a Black, visual artist, artivist, mother and community and museum arts educator located in North Philadelphia. She incorporates her art and creativity in all aspects of her life. Jihan is passionate abut challenging the spectrum of her artistry through mediums such as painting, drawing, public art, and ceramics. Jihan has created art and cultural programming for local institutions such the African American Museum in Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Museum of Art and The Barnes Foundation.

Brian Anthony Wilson: PAC debut! Recent Theatre: Taming Of The Shrew (SCP), The Reclamation of Madison Hemings (World Premiere @ IRT), King Lear (opposite Andre DeShields) @ St. Louis Shakespeare Festival, Jitney @ The Nashville Shakespeare Festival, Looking Over The President's Shoulder (1 man Show) @ Act II Playhouse, Gem Of The Ocean @ Arden (* Barrymore Award for 'Outstanding Supporting Performance In A Play') & Thurgood (1 man Show) @ Olney Theatre Center in MD. Film/TV selected credits : St. Michael Of The City, Manodrome, Glass, Oceans 8, Creed, Limitless,The Postman / Poker Face, Interview With A Vampire, Manifest, Servant, Mare Of Easttown, FBI: Most Wanted, Dispatches From Elsewhere (Recurring), Wu-Tang: An American Saga (Recurring), Siren, Bloodline, Gotham, The Sopranos & The Wire (Recurring).

About the Philadelphia Artists' Collective (PAC)

The Philadelphia Artists' Collective (PAC) is a site-specific classical theatre company. Founded in 2008, PAC is a cohort of artists dedicated to creating unique theatrical events that examine our humanity through rare classical plays and multidisciplinary collaboration. By staging rarely produced texts, PAC expands the classical canon to be more inclusive of world cultures. PAC tells stories with an engaging and visceral clarity, inspiring audiences to lean in and more deeply consider the fundamental elements of humanity. A vital part of the PAC's mission is The Artist-In-Residence Program, which bridges the gap between performance and visual art, encouraging dialogue among artists and enriching encounters with audiences. PAC has staged productions in a variety of site-specific locations throughout Philadelphia, including the Woodlands Mansion & Cemetery, the USS Olympia, and the historic Physick House. In 2015, PAC won the June and Steve Wolfson Award for Evolving Theatre Company.

About theBlackBestFriend

theBlackBestFriend is a creative hub for Black joy, resilience, and community. Born out of the necessity of rescuing Black characters from flat narratives, theBlackBestFriend claims the whole space to tell the full story. theBlackBestFriend prioritizes radical accessibility to Black stories for members of the global majority. theBlackBestFriend is AZ Espinoza, Brie Knight, and you (if you know, you know).


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