VaShawn Mitchell and Zacardi Cortez To Make Guest Appearances At Sanctified 11/14


Gospel recording artists VaShawn Mitchell and Zacardi Cortez will each make a special guest appearance at select performances of the Washington-area premiere of the award-winning new gospel musical comedy Sanctified, playing the historic Lincoln Theatre now through November 14.

VaShawn Mitchell, currently on the Gospel charts with the #3 song "Nobody Greater" from his album Triumphant, will perform tonight through October 31. Zacardi Cortez will perform November 4 through November 7. Cortez is featured on the recent #1 Gospel song "I Believe" with James Fortune & FIYA and Shawn McLemore.

Tickets for Sanctified are priced $37.00 to $47.00 (plus applicable service and facility charges). Tickets are available at the Lincoln Theatre Box Office, online at, and via phone at (202) 397-SEAT (7328). Discounts are available for groups of 20 or more by calling (202) 635-0785. For more information, call (202) 328-6000 or visit or

The cast of Sanctified features BET's Sunday Best finalist John McClure, Jr. as Pastor Harold P. Jones, featured soloist Mary Millben as Sister Pauletta Denise Jones, and Helen Hayes Award winner Bernardine Mitchell as Sarah, with Almonica Caldwell (Clara), Jessica Frances Dukes (Thelma), Ellis Foster (Bobby), Ashley Jeudy (Monique), Joshua Nelson (Mister), William T. Newman, Jr. (Sir), Frederick Strother (Deacon), and Kasaun T. Wilson (Jamal).

Sanctified, written by Javon Johnson, with original music by Rollo A. Dilworth, and directed by Derrick Sanders, is the winner of six 2009 Black Theater Alliance Awards including the August Wilson Award for Best Writing of a Play (Musical / Adaptation), Best Production (Musical or Revue), Best Direction (Musical or Revue), and Best Musical Director. The musical comedy shines a light on the African-American church and the congregations that sustain it. When the East Piney Grove Baptist Church falls on hard times, their last chance may be the upcoming 30th annual gospel revival. Desperate, the ambitious new pastor calls on his diva-esque cousin to help update the choir's staid repertoire (and lend her extraordinary voice), but the church elders are not moved.

Playwright Javon Johnson explains: "This is a warm, joyous, hymn-filled show that bears witness to the trials and triumphs of the African-American church. The project set out to explore the traditional world of gospel music and how it has been twisted, turned, and constantly revolutionized by the hip-hop and the R&B sound."

Considered by many to be a protégé of the late August Wilson, Johnson has written such plays as Breathe, Recipes for Love, Whatever She Wants, Cheaters, Hambone, and Cryin' Shame, among others. He has also performed on stage, including locally in Joe Turner's Come and Gone at Baltimore's CenterStage, as well as on screen and television (Friends and Lovers, Barbershop 2, Prison Break, and more).

The Lincoln Theatre, built in 1922 and located at 1215 U Street NW, once hosted the likes of Washington natives Duke Ellington and Pearl Bailey, as well as nationally acclaimed artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Nat King Cole, and Louis Armstrong. The legacy continues as the U Street corridor experiences a renaissance, and the Lincoln Theatre provides a cornerstone for culture and entertainment.

Sanctified is produced by Proteus Spann and Pro2Play Productions. It features musical direction by Raymond D. Reeder, scenic design by Tony Cisek, costume design by Reggie Ray, lighting design by William H. Grant III, and sound design by Elisheba Ittoop.


John McClure, Jr. (Pastor Harold P. Jones) is a worshipper without compromise. John has been singing since the age of three with a ballad style that exudes excellence, sincerity, and most importantly, a heart and love for God. Having ministered in song with such musical greats as Donald Lawrence, Jonathan Nelson, and Karen Clark Sheard, John landed a spot as a top five finalist on BET's Sunday Best Season Two. Now, his acting gift is making room for him. John debuted in Marcia Samuels' play Tell Hell I Ain't Comin' (May, 2010), and now adds the award-winning play Sanctified to his credits (Oct., 2010).

Mary Millben (Sister Pauletta Denise Jones) A former White House intern and White House presidential appointee, Mary has been a featured soloist at the White House, the Kennedy Center, and stages across the globe. In addition, Mary has been a featured soloist for events hosting President George W. Bush, Queen Nor, Mr. Bill Cosby, and Dr. Maya Angelou, to name a few. This past summer, Mary was a cast member in Arena Stage's Sophisticated Ladies. Last year, Mary was a guest soloist for the 2009 Congressional Black Caucus Ceremonial Swearing-In and backup singer for the XLIII Super Bowl halftime show with Bruce Springsteen. Regional credits include: Sophisticated Ladies (Arena Stage), Chasing George Washington (Kennedy Center; Natl. Tour), Crowns (Arena Stage), and Pirates of Penzance (Washington Savoyards). A native Oklahoman, Mary received her training at the University of Oklahoma (BFA and minor in political science).

Bernardine Mitchell (Sarah) is an Atlanta native who has performed nationally in a wide range of roles including Mahalia Jackson in Mahalia, Bessie Smith in Bessie's Blues, Mrs. Potts in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Velma and Mother Shaw in Crowns, Alice in Big River, and the Matron in Chicago. Internationally, she has portrayed Antigone in The Gospel at Colonus since 1995, including performances in Vienna and Athens, as well as Rose in Prelude to the Death in Venice at the 2007 Kilkenny Arts Festival in Ireland. Awards include the Drama Logue Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Bessie Smith in Bessie's Blues, the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actress for Lady from the Road in Blues in the Night, the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Lead Actress for Mahalia, and the Suzi Bass Award for Best Actress for Mahalia. Bernardine has been featured in concert with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, with the Harlem Gospel Singers on their 1997-98 tour of Europe, the Institutional Radio Choir of Brooklyn 1996 tour of Brazil, on ABC-TV's Today Show, and in the CBS TV movies The Guyana Tragedy and A Resting Place, starring Morgan Freeman. Bernardine majored in Voice and Musical Theatre at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Oberlin, Ohio, and has been a proud member of the Actors' Equity Association (AEA) since 1979.

Almonica Caldwell (Clara) traveled with the St. Peter's Concert Choir as lead singer for ten years, under the direction of professor Jack Nelson. She also toured with the hit play A Good Man Is Hard To Find (Hazel), written by Davie Payton, and with It's A Family Affair (Mrs. Emma), written and composed by Eric Brison. Almonica most recently appeared in The Gospel According to Fishman, directed by Eric Schaeffer.

Jessica Frances Dukes (Thelma) is so happy to be joining the Sanctified family on the Lincoln Theatre stage! Regional Credits: Woolly Mammoth Theatre (In The Next Room, or The Vibrator Play, Full Circle, Eclipsed, Fever Dream, Antebellum, and Starving); Studio Theatre (Passing Strange, Caroline, or Change); Round House Theatre (Permanent Collection); Ford's Theater in association with African Continuum Theater (Jitney); Indiana Rep Theater (The Piano Lesson); Geva Theater, NY (The Piano Lesson); Theatre J (In Darfur); The Kennedy Center (Unleashed: The Secret Lives of White House Pets, Izzy Iccarus Fell off the World); Tribute Productions in association with African Continuum Theater (Spunk-Helen Hayes Nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress); Horizon Theater, GA (The Bluest Eye); Theater Alliance (The Bluest Eye, Insurrection: Holding History); Washington Stage Guild (Fanny's First Play); and African Continuum Theater (The Story). Jessica is a company member at Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company and earned her M.F.A. from Catholic University of America. She also teaches Fundamentals of Acting at Montgomery College.

Ellis Foster (Bobby) was last seen in the production of Sanctified (Congo Square) for which he received the Black Theater Alliance Award (Best Actor in a Musical). Mr. Foster has also appeared in regional theater in The Piano Lesson (American Theatre); Good Black (E.T.A. Theatre -Jeff Award, Supporting Actor); Cry the Beloved Country, A Christmas Carol, Let Me Live (Jeff Award, Supporting Actor), Unjustifiable Acts, I Am a Man, and Spunk (Jeff Award, Actor in a Revue), all at Goodman Theatre; and I Am a Man (Arena Stage). His film and television work includes You're Going to Prison, Quake, Bahama Hustle, Hoodlum, Poker House, and Early Edition. Mr. Foster attended Wayne State University.

Ashley Jeudy (Monique) is a native of Fort Salonga, N.Y. She graduated from Kings Park High School in 2007 and enrolled at Howard University as a Musical Theater student; she will be graduating in May. There she established herself as a great student and followed her passion for the arts. During her career as a performer, she has appeared as Aida (Aida); Lorraine (All Shook Up); Magenta (The Rocky Horror Picture Show); Sour Kangaroo (Seussical); April (Company); and, most recently, Joanne in Rent, as well as many more. With God's good graces, she will be appearing in much more to come. She would like to thank her parents for their never ending support, her family, friends, and sisters of D.I.V.A. Inc.

Joshua Nelson (Mister) is currently a senior at Howard University, majoring in Theater Arts with a concentration in Acting. He was raised in Uptown Philadelphia where he attended the magnet Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts. He took an early interest in acting at the age of seven and hasn't stopped since. In 2005, Joshua was featured as a co-host to Bill Cosby in the annual "Year of the Child" celebration. He also was a main host on NBC 06 News Youth Perspective, leading him to also receive Philadelphia's 2006 Most Dedicated Student to the Arts, awarding him tickets to the annual 2006 Tony Awards. In the past year, he was seen in Howard University's productions as Zooman in Zooman and the Sign and Bobby in The Sirens. Also, he recently appeared at the Kennedy Center's Page to Stage Festival, in two new contemporary musicals, playing Scooter in U.G.L.Y. and Ryan in Frat. Joshua is not only dedicated to his craft, but to mentoring and teaching teenagers in the inner city community serving to be a vehicle of hope and opportunity through artistic expression.

William T. Newman, Jr. (Sir) is a lifelong resident of the Washington, D.C., area. He is a graduate of the Ohio University Professional Actor's Studio, where he received his Bachelors of Fine Arts. For two years, he appeared on the NBC daytime soap operas Another World and Somerset in New York. Among his numerous roles, he has appeared as Jack Jefferson in The Great White Hope at the Ohio Valley Summer Theatre, Theo in Ceremonies in Dark Old Men at Washington Theatre Club, Pindarus in Julius Caesar at Arena Stage, and Sam Nash in Plaza Suite at the Maryland Repertory Theatre Company.

Frederick Strother (Deacon) is a Washington, D.C., native, and a proud member of Actors' Equity Association. He was last seen in Studio Theatre's successful production of August Wilson's Radio Golf, for which he received his second Helen Hayes Award nomination. He was Colin Powell in Stuff Happens at Olney Theatre Center. Some of Mr. Strother's favorite roles include Troy Maxon in Fences, Mr. M in My Children! My Africa!, and Morgan in The Drawer Boy at Baltimore's Everyman Theatre; the Conductor in 20th Century at Signature Theatre; Lucian P. Smith in The Boys Next Door at Round House Theatre; and Jim Becker in Jitney at Ford's Theatre. Film credits include Invincible, A Dirty Shame, 12 Monkeys, Beloved, and The New "N" Word. Television credits include Law and Order SVU and The Wire.

Kasaun T. Wilson (Jamal) is excited to be making his performance debut at the Lincoln Theatre with Sanctified. Originally from Jersey City, New Jersey, this actor/comedian has been a featured actor on Howard University's stage in 12:27 PM and on The Life Center stage in Fame, and was recently heralded for his stand-up comedy by being named "DC's Funniest College Student" by the DC Improv. He credits everything he does to God and his strong support system. He would like to thank his relatives and you as an audience member for supporting quality theater. "Enjoy the show!"

Sanctified Performance Schedule

October 21 - November 14

Thursdays through Saturdays at 8p
Sundays at 2p and 7p

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