Full Cast And Creative Team Announced For JUNK At Arena Stage

Full Cast And Creative Team Announced For JUNK At Arena Stage

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater announces the full company for Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and author Ayad Akhtar's (Arena's Disgraced) timely tale Junk. Inspired by the real junk bond giants of the 1980s, Akhtar explores how the riveting, hostile takeover of a family-owned manufacturing company paved the way to expose the rise of greed, power, race and wealth that led to reshaping the rules of Wall Street and the world. Directed by Jackie Maxwell, Junk runs April 5 - May 5, 2019 in the Fichandler Stage.

Arena Stage is excited to welcome back Akhtar, who was a resident playwright as part of the American Voices New Play Institute in the 2016/17 season.

"Ayad Akhtar's masterful use of language creates rich, complex characters wrestling with the vast issues of our day-identity, greed, religion, race and politics," shares Artistic Director Molly Smith. "His work is immediate, muscular, bitingly funny, thought-provoking and absolutely vital to the American theater. Tackling the cultural and political tension in international and American financial systems in Junk, he is giving us a new perspective and expanded questions on our personal motivations."

"I am so thrilled that Junk will be playing at Arena, in the nation's capital-where we have all witnessed the result of money's increasing predominance in our national, political life," explains Akhtar. "I do believe the central story of our time is not identity, but money. And it seems to me the central thread of that American tale takes us right through the events of the mid-'80s, and the rise of debt as a tool for empowerment, both individual and corporate."

Also returning to Arena Stage, Thomas Keegan (Arena's Watch on the Rhine, The Kennedy Center's George WASHINGTON) portrays Robert Merkin, a trailblazing investment banker attempting to rewrite a new America, while four-time Helen Hayes Award-winner, Edward Gero (Arena's The Originalist and The Pajama Game) takes on the role of Thomas Everson, Jr., a third-generation owner of a family steel company based in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. Jonathan David Martin (Broadway's War Horse, Arena's The Heiress) also returns to Arena as Israel Peterman, along with Lise Bruneau (Arena's The Heiress and Watch on the Rhine) as Maximilien Cizik.

Making their Arena Stage debuts are Perry Young (U.S. Tour of In the Heights) as Raúl Rivera, Kashayna Johnson (Kennedy Center's She A Gem, Theater Alliance's For Colored Girls) as Jacqueline Blount, David Andrew Macdonald (Broadway's Rocky and Mamma Mia!) as Leo Tresler, Nicholas Baroudi (CBS's Person of Interest) as Giuseppe Addesso and Elan Zafir (Folger's King John and Way of the World, Ford's Ragtime) as Boris Pronsky.

Rounding out the cast are Elliott Bales (Arena's Kleptocracy and The Great Society) as Union Rep/Corrigan Wiley, JaBen Early (Arena's The Great Society and All the Way) as Kevin Walsh/Curt, Amanda Forstrom (Off-Broadway's Julius Caesar) as Charlene Stewart/Lawyer, Shanara Gabrielle (Imagination Stage's Charlotte's Web) as Amy Merkin, Michael Glenn (Arena's Sovereignty) as Mark O'Hare, Dylan Jackson (Kennedy Center's Dead Man Walking) as Devon Atkins, Michael Russotto (Arena's The Shoplifters and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner) as Murray Lefkowitz and Nancy Sun (Studio's The Hard Problem) as Judy Chen.

"I think the Fichandler, Arena's famous four-sided space, is the perfect location for this play, allowing it to move at the same volcanic speed as its driven characters think," adds Maxwell. "With a newly trimmed and sharply focused version from Ayad, we plan to sweep the audience up from the first moment, not letting them go until the last second of this tempestuous story is done!"

In addition to Maxwell, the creative team includes Set Designer Misha Kachman, Costume Designer Judith Bowden, Lighting Designer Jason Lyons, Sound Designer Darron L West, Fight Director Lewis Shaw, Dialect and Vocal Coach Lisa Nathans, Casting Directors Victor Vazquez and Geoff Josselson, Stage Manager Christi B. Spann, Assistant Stage Manager Rachael Danielle Albert and Production Assistant Dayne Sundman.

Ayad Akhtar (Playwright) is the author of Junk (Lincoln Center, Broadway; 2018 Kennedy Prize for American Drama), Disgraced (Lincoln Center, Broadway; Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Tony nomination), The Who & The What (Lincoln Center) and The Invisible Hand (Obie Award, Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award, Olivier and Evening Standard nominations). As a novelist, he is the author of American Dervish (Little, Brown & Co.), published in over 20 languages. In addition, he is the recipient of an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the 2017 Steinberg Playwriting Award, as well as fellowships from the American Academy in Rome, MacDowell, The Sundance Institute, and Yaddo, where he serves as a board director. He is a board trustee at PEN/America and New York Theatre Workshop.

Jackie Maxwell (Director) previously directed Arena Stage's Watch on The Rhine and Good People. Most recently, Jackie directed the Canadian premiere of The Humans for the Citadel Theatre/Canadian Stage and Innocence Lost for Soulpepper Theatre. In 2016, she finished a 15-year tenure as artistic director of The Shaw Festival. Some favorite productions directed there include Uncle Vanya, Sweeney Todd, The Divine (world premiere), Come Back Little Sheba, Major Barbara, Ragtime and Saint Joan. Jackie has worked extensively throughout Canada and in the U.S. and was artistic director of Toronto's Factory Theatre for eight years. She has received many awards including two Dora Mavor Moore Awards for Directing, two honorary degrees and the Order of Ontario. Upcoming projects include a new adaptation of Paradise Lost for the Stratford Festival.

Cast Biographies (in alphabetical order)
Elliott Bales (Union Rep/Corrigan Wiley) returns to Arena Stage, having appeared previously in Kleptocracy and The Great Society. Elliott works as a theater and film actor based out of Arlington, VA. Theater credits include Kings (Studio Theater), A Midsummer Night's Dream (Folger Theatre), Occupied Territories and The Wonderful World of Dissocia (Theater Alliance), Harvey (1st Stage), Not Enuf Lifetimes (The Welders), Romeo and Juliet (Unexpected Stage) and White Christmas (Little Theater on the Square). Elliott's film credits include Wireless, The Sultan and the Saint and The Coming Storm, and TV credits include Legends and Lies: Patriots, The Sultan and the Saint and House of Horrors: Kidnapped. He is a graduate of Abilene Christian University and the National War College. Elliott retired from the U.S. Army after 26 years of service.

Nicholas Baroudi (Giuseppe Addesso) is making his Arena Stage debut. His most recent stage work was Off-Broadway at Playwrights Horizons. Notable regional roles include Chris Keller in All My Sons; Daniel Kaffee in A Few Good Men; Ken Harrison in Whose Life Is It, Anyway?; George Gibbs in Our Town; and John Honeyman in A Walk In The Woods. Television credits include marked appearances in CBS's Person of Interest, ABC's Time After Time and Showtime's Billions. In 2018 he wrote, produced and appeared in the film Sins of the Son. Nicholas can next be seen in the film Love Thy Keepers, followed by Showtime's limited series The Loudest Voice in the Room and the FX limited series Fosse/Verdon.

Lise Bruneau (Maximilien Cizik) is pleased to return to Arena Stage after appearing in The Heiress, Watch on the Rhine, Mother Courage and Karen Zacarias' Legacy of Light. Recent credits include Broadway's The Cherry Orchard (Roundabout) and Sweat for A.C.T. San Francisco. D.C. appearances include Hamlet and Othello (Shakespeare Theatre Company), Broken Glass and Brighton Beach Memoirs (Theater J, Helen Hayes nomination) and This (Round House). For Denver Center, she was Hesione in Heartbreak House (Henry Award). As a director, she's helmed productions for MetroStage, Clarence Brown Theatre, the Riot Grrrls and Taffety Punk. Regionally, she has appeared at Cleveland Playhouse, The Globe, Seattle Repertory, The Wilma, Berkeley Repertory and many Shakespeare festivals. Lise trained at RADA and is proud to be a Taffety Punk.

JaBen Early (Kevin Walsh/Curt) is a native Washingtonian, previously seen in The Great Society, All the Way and Ruined at Arena Stage. D.C. credits include Father Comes Home from the Wars (Round House Theatre), Unexplored Interior (Mosaic Theater Company), The Convert (Woolly Mammoth), Julius Caesar (Folger Theatre), F***ing A (Studio Theatre), Native Sun (American Century Theater), Titus Andronicus (Molotov Theatre), Me and The Devil Blues (Flying V) and The Cloak Room (Capital Fringe Festival). Regional credits include Guess Who's Coming to Dinner? (Guthrie Theatre), We Are Proud to Present... (Philly Interactive Theatre), Ruined (Marin Theatre Company) and The Death of Bessie Smith (Liberty Free Theatre). JaBen trained at Morehouse College, Sarah Lawrence University and the BADA program at Magdalen College, University of Oxford. He would like to thank his parents and extended family for their endless support.

Amanda Forstrom (Charlene Stewart/Lawyer) is making her Arena Stage debut. Off-Broadway credits include Julius Caesar and Color Between the Lines (The Irondale Ensemble). D.C-area credits include Timon of Athens, Sense and Sensibility, Julius Caesar and Twelfth Night (Folger Theatre); Tartuffe (The Shakespeare Theatre Company); Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley (Round House Theatre); and work with Constellation Theatre, Keegan Theatre, 1st Stage, Taffety Punk Theatre Company, Arts On The Horizon and Rorschach Theatre. Regional credits include The Lion In Winter (Cape May Stage) and Hamlet and Cymbeline (The Virginia Shakespeare Festival). Film/TV credits include News Around America (host), Newswatch and Union. www.amandaforstrom.net Instagram: @amanda_forstrom

Shanara Gabrielle (Amy Merkin) is very happy to be joining Arena Stage for the first time. Her theater highlights include Romeo and Juliet at Shakespeare Theatre Company; She Loves Me at The Guthrie Theater; A Christmas Carol at Actor's Theatre of Louisville; Clybourne Park, Comedy of Errors and Macbeth at Repertory Theatre of St. Louis; and Blithe Spirit at Great Lakes Theater. Film and television credits include Chicago Fire, The Enemy Within, House of Cards, Conan, Conviction, Guiding Light, indie films and many commercials. Shanara received her BFA from Webster Conservatory, and is a proud recipient of the Princess Grace Foundation Grace LeVine Award and a union member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA. Shanara loves to connect, so find her at www.shanaragabrielle.com.Twitter: @shanarag Instagram: @shanaragabrielle

Edward Gero (Thomas Everson, Jr.)'s Arena Stage credits include Antonin Scalia in The Originalist, Benjamin Hubbard in The Little Foxes and Mark Rothko in Red. He is a four-time Helen Hayes Award winner and 16-time nominee. New York credits include The Originalist (59E59). Regional credits include The Originalist (Asolo Repertory, Pasadena Playhouse and Court Theatre, Joseph Jefferson Award nomination), Red and Gloucester in King Lear (Goodman), Nixon's Nixon and Night Alive (Round House), Sweeney Todd (Signature Theatre), Scrooge in A Christmas Carol (Ford's Theatre) and American Buffalo, Shining City and Skylight (Studio Theatre). In 32 seasons with Shakespeare Theatre Company, his over 70 roles include Helen Hayes turns in Henry IV, Richard II and Macbeth. Film/TV credits include House of Cards, TURN: Washington's Spies, Die Hard 2, Striking Distance and narrations for Discovery Channel and PBS. He is a Ten Chimneys 2015 Lunt-Fontanne Fellow and associate professor of theater at George Mason University.

Michael Glenn (Mark O'Hare) is delighted to return to Arena Stage, having previously appeared in Sovereignty, Baskerville and Good People. Washington-based for two decades, Michael has performed on nearly every area stage. Some favorite past credits include Gem of the Ocean and Small Mouth Sounds at Round House Theatre, Nell Gwynn and Sense & Sensibility (Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Ensemble) at the Folger Theatre, Hothouse and Cat's Cradle with Longacre Lea, School for Lies with the Shakespeare Theatre Company, Clybourne Park at Woolly Mammoth, Brighton Beach Memoirs at Theater J, Robin Hood at Imagination Stage, Lieutenant of Inishmore at Signature Theatre and Marjorie Prime at Olney Theatre Center. Michael's voice also appears on hundreds of western, science fiction, fantasy and pulp audio books with Graphic Audio.

Dylan Jackson (Devon Atkins) is amped to be making his Arena Stage debut. D.C. credits include Dead Man Walking (Kennedy Center/WNO) and Suicide, Incorporated (No Rules Theatre Company). Regionally, he has been seen in Our Town (Arden Theatre Company) and This Is Our Youth (Simpatico Theatre Project). Dylan is a graduate of University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Many thanks to my family, Victor, and the boys from Westsyde. Instagram: @dilljax

Kashayna Johnson (Jacqueline Blount), Helen Hayes nominee, is thrilled to be making her official Arena Stage debut in this production of Junk. She was recently seen in the world premiere of Josh Wilder's She A Gem at the John F. Kennedy Center. Other credits include For Colored Girls (Theater Alliance), Milk Like Sugar (Mosaic Theater), Romeo and Juliet (Prince George's Shakespeare Theater Festival), Stick Fly (Port City Playhouse), How We Got On (Forum Theatre) and Dark House (Capital Fringe Festival). Short film credits include Liberty's Hollow and 5 Afternoons. Instagram: @Shayla_vie

Thomas Keegan (Robert Merkin) is delighted to return to Arena, where he last appeared in Watch on the Rhine. Thomas most recently performed in Shakespeare Theatre Company's Free for All production of Romeo & Juliet and Olney Theatre Center's production Ayad Akhtar's The Invisible Hand. His additional area credits include Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company's world premieres of Zombie: The American and Women Laughing Along with Salad; The Glass Menagerie, Death of Salesman and Jefferson's Garden at Ford's Theatre; The Body of an American at Theatre J; Fool for Love and Angels in America at Round House Theatre; and Othello and The Taming of the Shrew at The Folger Shakespeare Theatre. Thomas's film and TV credits include VEEP (HBO), Madam Secretary and Elementary (CBS); TURN: Washington's Spies (AMC), and Harriet (Focus Features), due out this year. Twitter & Instagram: @TheThomasKeegan

David Andrew Macdonald (Leo Tresler) last appeared at Arena Stage in 1985 in John Guare's Women and Water. Since then, he appeared on Broadway in Two Shakespearean Actors, Coram Boy, Mamma Mia!, Rocky and Skylight, and Off-Broadway in A Night and Her Stars and The Green Heart. Additional credits include Tom Stoppard's The Hard Problem at Studio Theatre in 2017, and the National Tour of Stephen Daldry's An Inspector Calls, for which he received a Jeff Award nomination in Chicago. David has worked on classical and contemporary plays across the U.S. and Canada. His film credits include Movement and Location and Tommy Battles the Silver Sea Dragon, for which he was awarded Best Actor at the Toronto International SH&F Film Festival. Television credits include much NY-based primetime television, and a number of the now-dead soap operas, including 10 years as Edmund Winslow on Guiding Light. David is a graduate of the Juilliard School.

Jonathan David Martin (Israel Peterman) Arena Stage credits include The Heiress. Other credits include War Horse at Lincoln Center Theater (original Broadway cast); Off-Broadway productions at the National Black Theatre, 59E59 Theaters and Bushwick Starr; regionally at Theater Alliance, Two River Theater, Portland Center Stage, Shakespeare Santa Monica, Seattle Children's Theatre, Empty Space Theatre, NMA Physical Theatre Ensemble and Washington Ensemble Theater, where he was a founding co-artistic director. He is also the co-artistic director of NYC-based Smoke & Mirrors Collaborative whose original works include Olityelwe (59E59 Theaters, UK and South Africa tours), Point of Departure, Head in the Sand, The Alien Nation, #HashtagProject and Tangible Hope Project, a documentary series highlighting community change-makers across America. TV credits include Unforgettable and Believe. Annenberg Fellow for the Arts. MFA: NYU Graduate Acting.

Michael Russotto (Murray Lefkowitz) is delighted to return to Arena Stage, where he last appeared in The Shoplifters and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner. Other Arena credits include Legacy of Light and On the Jump. Most recently Michael played holdout Juror # 3 in the Ford's Theatre production of Twelve Angry Men and Alex in Heisenberg at Signature Theatre. He is a company member at Woolly Mammoth Theatre, where he has been in many, many productions including A Bright New Boise (Helen Hayes nom.), She Stoops to Comedy (Helen Hayes nom.) and The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity. Other favorite roles include Charley in The Whale at Rep Stage (Helen Hayes nom.), Lieutenant Caro Between Riverside and Crazy at Cleveland Play House. Michael also narrates books for the Library of Congress.

Nancy Sun (Judy Chen) is grateful to be making her Arena Stage debut. She first appeared on the D.C. stage in The Hard Problem at Studio Theatre. Off-Broadway, Nancy has performed in Red Flamboyant (Firebone Theatre), Completeness (Normal Ave) and An Infinite Ache (Access Theater). She has performed regionally in Marginal Loss (Humana Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville). Nancy's film credits include Going in Style, What Children Do and Bruce!!! Her TV credits include Homeland, Younger, Shades of Blue and The Slap. Nancy is a graduate of University of Pennsylvania and the Maggie Flanigan Studio. She is currently developing her first feature-length screenplay. Instagram: @thenancysun. www.thenancysun.com

Perry Young (Raúl Rivera) is so excited to be making his Arena Stage debut! Previous work includes Usnavi - In The Heights (National Tour); Slim - Once Upon A Rhyme (TheatreWorks); Bernardo - West Side Story; and Lethal Weapon (TV Series). Perry won the Broadway World Award for Best Lead Actor in a Musical for In The Heights and was also recently part of the ABC Discovers Diversity Showcase in New York City. He has also worked extensively with Rafael Casal (Blindspotting) and Daveed Diggs (Hamilton) on the #Bars Hip-Hop Workshop produced by The Public Theatre. A California native, Perry now splits his time between Los Angeles and New York City. Thanks to my family, for everything. Instagram: @perryyoungthang

Elan Zafir (Boris Pronsky) is happy to be performing in Junk at Arena Stage. Regional credits include Folger's King John and Way of the World; Ford's Twelve Angry Men and Ragtime (Helen Hayes Award, Ensemble); Shakespeare Theatre Company's Romeo & Juliet (also Free For All), Othello and Salomé (Helen Hayes Award, Ensemble); Mosaic's Paper Dolls and Vagrant Trilogy; Signature's Tender Napalm; The Welders' Happiness and Other Reasons to Die; Adventure Theatre's JUMANJI; Rep Stage's Venus in Fur; and Capital Fringe's The Unaccompanied Minor and Ben & Lucille. International credits include The Unaccompanied Minor at Edinburgh Fringe. TV and film credits include The Making of the Mob, King of Crimes and House of Cards.

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