RENAISSANCE IN THE BELLY OF A KILLER WHALE Adds An Extra Performance At The Wilma Theater

By: Mar. 01, 2020

RENAISSANCE IN THE BELLY OF A KILLER WHALE Adds An Extra Performance At The Wilma Theater

Three women joyfully tell the story of their hometown of Harlem in Renaissance in the Belly of the Killer Whale, on stage at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia now through March 7. Due to popular demand, the company has added an additional performance on Saturday, March 7 at 2pm.

Blending spoken-word poetry, theatre, song, dance, and comedy, Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale is co-written by and starring Jaylene Clark Owens, Hollis Heath, and Janelle Heatley. It is directed by Owens and also co-written by Chyann Sapp.

"Although Killer Whale is a personal love letter to Harlem, so many people who are not from Harlem have said they can relate to it because it reminds them of their neighborhood, their sense of community, their childhood memories," said Owens, a member of the Wilma HotHouse acting company and this year's winner of the F. Otto Haas Barrymore Award for an Emerging Philadelphia Theatre Artist.

The show originated after Owens posted on Facebook about the burgeoning gentrification of Harlem in 2010. "Harlem is looking more and more like the belly of a killer whale," she wrote. A former teacher encouraged her to expand the post into a spoken word play.

Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale has since received dozens of presentations, most recently a successful limited engagement at Theater Horizon. "I love how these three women bring their humor, energy, and sarcasm into a very serious subject that every city, particularly Philadelphia, is grappling with," Wilma Theater Artistic Director Blanka Zizka.

In addition to the public performances, the Wilma will host four student matinees of Renaissance in the Belly of a Killer Whale, reaching hundreds of students at Philadelphia public high schools. Many of these students will go on to create their own original works in response to the show through Wilmagination, the Wilma's school residency program.

"I moved to Philadelphia for the first time in 2010. I remember dropping off my headshot and resume at The Wilma," Owens said. "I was fresh out of college and I knew I wanted to work at this theater one day. Ten years later, it feels like a wonderful full circle moment to see Killer Whale at the Wilma. I can't wait to share this show, and this cast, with Philly!"


Jaylene Clark Owens (Co-writer/Director/Performer) is a Philly resident from Harlem, NY. She is an AUDELCO and Barrymore Award winning actress, as well as a highly acclaimed poet. Owens is a member of The Wilma Theater's resident acting company, HotHouse. Theatre credits include: Passage (The Wilma Theater); Revolutionists (Theatre Horizon); WHITE (Theatre Horizon); An Octoroon (The Wilma Theater). As a spoken word poet, Jaylene has competed in the Apollo Theater Amateur Night competition, in which she won 1st place for her spoken word poem, "SoHa." Her debut book of poetry, AfroPoetic, is now available on Amazon. She is an alum of the prestigious theatre-in-verse #BARS Workshop at The Public Theater, led by Rafael Casal and Daveed Diggs.

Hollis Heath (Co-writer/Performer) is an AUDELCO award-winning theater artist, youth strategist and writer from New York City. She earned her Master's in Educational Theatre from The City College of New York and was featured as a "Great Grad" upon graduation. In her final commencement address as First Lady, Michelle Obama commended Hollis for her work as a theater artist and champion for girls. In addition, she's received awards from the YMCA, Harlem Arts Alliance, and NYC Office of Equity and Access.

Janelle Heatley (Co-writer/Performer) is an AUDELCO award-winning actress, spoken word artist, DJ, and high school theater and spoken word teacher. She holds a Masters in Educational Theater at City College. Heatley has produced over 100 theater productions for New Heritage Theater Company and was one of the assistant producers for Harlem Week 2006 and 2007. Heatley works with youth in the NY tri-state area to help develop their craft as young artists.

Chyann Sapp (Cowriter) is a civic leader with professional experience in both the public and private sectors spanning from government to residential real estate. She currently works at a tech-based nonprofit and previously served as the first Youth Voter Coordinator of the City of New York. Her legislation and curriculum have been highlighted nationally and implemented by Governor Andrew Cuomo, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and the NYC Department of Education.

Full price tickets from $35-52, with discounts available for Seniors, Young Friends, Students, and Theater Industry Professionals. Tickets are available at the Wilma's Box Office by visiting, calling 215-546-7824, or coming to the theater.

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