Shakespeare Theatre Company Announces Casting For THE AMEN CORNER By James Baldwin
Shakespeare Theatre Company is delighted to announce the full cast of The Amen Corner, James Baldwin's classic parable of passion and perseverance, which will grace the stage at Sidney Harman Hall (610 F St. NW) from February 11-March 15, 2020.
James Baldwin investigates the role of the church in the formation of Black identity and community in The Amen Corner. Building upon the themes of his semi-autobiographical novel Go Tell It on the Mountain, this play explores the dynamics of a dysfunctional family and their struggles with faith and fulfillment in his characteristic beautiful prose. "The lines have wings and humor" (The New York Daily News).
Margaret Alexander (Mia Ellis), a zealous church pastor of a storefront church in Harlem, must confront the past she left behind when her estranged husband Luke (CHIKÉ JOHNSON) returns. Trying to find his own identity outside of the confines of the church, their son David (Antonio Michael Woodard) bonds with his ailing father over their shared love of jazz music. Margaret's misguided but fervent beliefs cause further disunity both within their fragile family union and in her congregation as her past comes to light. Baldwin's enduring themes speak to "truth, vividness and rich humanity" (The New York Post).
"The characters in this world are vivid and real," explains Director Whitney White, current recipient of the Susan Stroman Directing award and an Artistic Associate at the Roundabout. "They are humble and saintly in one moment, hungry for power and change, and willing to upend the current order despite the costs. I truly love all sides of these people, and their ability to bounce back and forth, to turn on one of their own and also to give and take in a comic sense, developing a subject in a way that is just hilarious and multi-colored." White recently directed the moving What to Send Up When It Goes Down at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company and will make her directorial debut at STC with The Amen Corner.
"When I saw a revival of The Amen Corner at the Royal National Theatre in London in summer 2013," Artistic Director Simon Godwin states, "I was moved by the depth of feeling in Baldwin's characters, the domestic and spiritual tragedies we see so often in Shakespeare's works and the play's classical structure. Then I learned this play has a D.C. legacy, having first premiered at Howard University in the 1950s. I knew then this would be a perfect work to include in my first season, a true American classic."
"This play is many things," says White. "It's a tragedy of the Black American family and the broken home; a love story; a play about the call of art-music in this case; a play about the safety and power of the church as well as the hypocrisy of the church; a play about the very special condition of the Black American woman; a play about womanhood and female sensuality, a woman's life as a never-ending fight with men; and, a play about the ever-presence of the street."
Returning to STC are E. FAYE BUTLER (Free For All production of Romeo and Juliet), recipient of seven Joseph Jefferson and two Helen Hayes Awards, Jade Jones (Macbeth), Helen Hayes-nominated Deidra LaWan Starnes (Free For All production of Much Ado About Nothing) who appeared Off-Broadway in for colored girls... (dir. Ntozake Shange), and Helen Hayes Award winner NOVA Y. PAYTON (Kiss Me, Kate), who toured in Smokey Joe's Café.
A company member at Trinity Repertory Company, Mia Ellis (Margaret) has starred in Marisol and Ragtime as well as James Baldwin's Blues for Mister Charlie at Trinity. Antonio Michael Woodard (David) was a Cloris Leachman Award Nominee for his performance in the Pyramid Theatre Company's production of The Amen Corner, and he has appeared Off-Broadway in Classic Stage Company's Macbeth. CHIKÉ JOHNSON (Luke) most recently appeared as Disciple Ufot in New York Theatre Workshop's Production of Runboyrun, and he has an extensive television and film background (Captive State, Empire, Suits). They are all making their STC debuts, as is Broadway actress HARRIETT D. FOY (Amazing Grace, Once on This Island) who earned her BFA from Howard University,
The cast also features Marty Austin Lamar, a faculty member in the Theatre Department at Howard University who performed in Ms. Ever's Boys off-Broadway and recently in Constellation Theatre's Little Shop of Horrors, PHIL MCGLASTON, who starred in The Little Foxes on Broadway; JASMINE M. RUSH, who earned her MFA at the Academy for Classical Acting, and appeared in As Much As I Can Off-Broadway; frequent PlayMakers Repertory Company performer TRISTAN ANDRÉ PARKS (Ragtime, Life of Galileo), and LAURYN SIMONE, a student at Howard University (BFA Musical Theatre) who appeared in Mosaic Theatre's Fabulation.
Rounding out the ensemble as members of the Choir are FRANCESE (Joe Turner's Come and Gone at Morgan's Little Theatre), NIA-AIYANA MEEKS, who is earning her BFA in Musical Theatre from Howard University (Spell #7 at Howard University), ROBERT E. PERSON (Black Nativity at the Anacostia Playhouse), and THEODORE SAPP (A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder at Virginia Repertory Theatre).
Tickets are priced from $35-120. To order tickets, please visit our website http://www.shakespearetheatre.org/events/the-amen-corner-19-20/ or call 202.547.1122.
Working with local cultural institutions, community partners, artists and activists, Shakespeare Theatre Company is announcing a series of special events and programming throughout the run of The Amen Corner. For more information about Amen, Baldwin!: A Living Celebration or to register for an event, please visit: http://www.shakespearetheatre.org/amen-baldwin