(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- George Street Playhouse presents Having Our Say, the Tony Award-nominated play by Emily Mann (A Streetcar Named Desire, Anna and the Tropics). Having Our Say is adapted from the book by Sarah (Sadie) L. Delany & A. Elizabeth (Bessie) Delany with Amy Hill Hearth and is directed by Laiona Michelle (Her Portmanteau). The production begins previews Tuesday, November 28, 2023, with opening night set for Friday, December 1 for a limited run through Sunday, December 17, 2023.
Having Our Say centers around the remarkable lives of African-American sisters, Sadie and Bessie Delany, both of whom surpass the age of 100. Their extraordinary journey unfolds as they share their personal experiences, which include growing up as the daughters of a former slave who became a respected professor, establishing successful careers, and integrating a New York suburb.
The original memoir inspired the 1995 Broadway play, and the Peabody Award-winning TV movie of the same title starring Diahann Carroll and Ruby Dee.
Having Our Say stars stage and screen veterans Rosalyn Coleman (The Piano Lesson with Samuel L. Jackson; To Kill A Mockingbird; The Mountaintop) as Bessie, and Inga Ballard (Ragtime, Hairspray, Romeo & Juliet) as Sadie.
“Directing Having Our Say is truly personal to me,” said director Laoina Michelle. “Being a Black woman, I often struggled with my identity and my worthiness in this country. For that reason, I am deeply drawn to this play. The early American history books were not written by my ancestors therefore I often questioned their accuracy. In Emily Mann's Having Our Say you get a first-hand account of a century of living told through two eyewitnesses, Sadie and Bessie Delany, who lived and experienced it.”
Having Our Say features scenic design by Shoko Kambara (GSP’s Her Portmanteau; Little Girl Blue; Midwives), costume design by Ari Fulton (A Wonderful World: A New Musical About The Lives and Loves of Louis Armstrong), lighting design by Jason Lynch (Chicago’s Goodman Theatre), sound design by Karin Graybash (GSP’s Little Girl Blue), projection design by Zavier A.L. Taylor (Keegan Theatre), wig design by Leah Loukas (The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window; Escape to Margaritaville), casting by McCorkle Casting - Pat McCorkle and Rebecca Weiss, CSA, and production stage management by Samantha Flint.
Having Our Say began its development at The McCarter Theatre Center, where Emily Mann served as Artistic Director and Resident Playwright from 1990–2020, and which was honored by the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre during her tenure. The play was first presented in 1995 before moving to Broadway’s Booth Theatre and playing for 317 performances. In its New York debut, the show was nominated for three Tony Awards, including Best Play, Best Direction, and Best Leading Actress in A Play (Mary Alice - original Bessie). Following its Broadway run, Having Our Say embarked on a U.S. tour (1996-1997), and has been performed by various major regional theatre companies such as Goodman Theatre, Mark Taper Forum, Philadelphia Theatre Company and Georgia Ensemble Theatre.
The production is sponsored by The Karma Foundation and supported by Philip Kirstein & Melinda Raso Kirstein.
The performance schedule for Having Our Say is as follows: Wednesday – Saturday at 8:00pm; Thursday, Saturday & Sunday at 2:00pm. Exceptions: there will be an added performance on Tuesday November 28 at 8:00pm; there will be no 2:00pm performance on Thursday, November 30.
Tickets to Having Our Say begin at $25 and are available at georgestreetplayhouse.org.
Emily Mann (Playwright) has previously brought two impactful and influential documentary dramas to Broadway: Execution of Justice and Having Our Say (Tony Award-nominated Best Play and Best Direction of a Play). Also on Broadway, Emily directed A Streetcar Named Desire and Anna in the Tropics. Plays written by Mann include Still Life; Annulla: An Autobiography; Greensboro (A Requiem); and Mrs. Packard. In 2020, her play Gloria: A Life was presented by Great Performances on PBS. From 1990-2020, Emily was the Artistic Director and Resident Playwright of McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, New Jersey, which was honored with the Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theater under her leadership. The new biography by Alexis Greene, Emily Mann: Rebel Artist of the American Theater, celebrates her many contributions and innovations, highlighting her groundbreaking work in “the theater of testimony”: constructing a play based on the verbatim speech surrounding real life events. Awards include a Tony, Drama Desk, 8 Obies, Peabody, Hull Warriner, NAACP, Guggenheim, two Tony nominations, Outer Critics Circle nominations; a Princeton University Honorary Doctorate of Arts, a Helen Merrill Distinguished Playwrights' Award, Margo Jones Award, TCG Visionary Leadership Award, Lilly Lifetime Achievement Award, and The Gordon Davidson Award. In 2019, Mann was inducted into the Theater Hall of Fame, and this fall, she will be inducted into The American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Laiona Michelle’s (Director) body of work at George Street Playhouse ranges from actress, singer, director, and Artistic Associate. Having starred in Little Girl Blue, American Hero, and Tiny Beautiful Things in addition to making her directing debut last season with Mfoniso’s Udofia’s play, Her Portmanteau, Laiona now resides in the role of Artistic Associate at George Street Playhouse. Laiona has made it her mission to identify and provide a platform for BIPOC and those underrepresented in the theatre community. Laiona Michelle made her Broadway debut in 2015 in the musical, Amazing Grace, which opened at the Nederlander Theatre. Cast in the principal role of Nanna, a woman stolen away from her family in Sierra Leone by slave traders. Laiona is the recipient of the Broadway Alliance Award and Lilly Award (2022); the Barrymore and Carbonell Awards (2004); and the NAACP Hollywood Award (2005). Laiona was also nominated for numerous awards, including the Lucille Lortel and Antonyo Awards (2022); and the Helen Hayes Award (2005). Some of her TV/Film credits include Lift, “All My Children,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “The Blacklist,” “Crashing,” Amazon’s “Sneaky Pete” and “Blue Bloods.” Laiona Michelle earned her MFA from Brandeis University in 2000.
George Street Playhouse recently announced the appointment of Edgar Herrera as Managing Director, effective June 1, 2023. Beginning with the 2019-20 Season, George Street Playhouse moved to the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center in downtown New Brunswick. Featuring two state-of-the-art theatres—The Arthur Laurents Theater with 253 seats and The Elizabeth Ross Johnson Theater which seats 465—and myriad amenities, the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center marks a new era in the esteemed history of George Street Playhouse. Founded by Eric Krebs, George Street Playhouse, originally located in an abandoned supermarket on the corner of George and Albany Streets, was the first professional theatre in New Brunswick.
In 1984, the Playhouse moved to a renovated YMCA on Livingston Avenue, and in 2017 took temporary residence in the former Agricultural Museum at Rutgers University during construction of its new home. The Playhouse has been well represented by numerous productions both on and off-Broadway. In 2018, George Street Playhouse was represented on Broadway with Gettin’ the Band Back Together which premiered on the Playhouse mainstage in 2013. American Son, produced by George Street Playhouse in 2017, opened on Broadway in 2018 starring Kerry Washington and Stephen Pasquale, and was seen on Netflix. Other productions include the Outer Critics’ Circle Best Musical Award-winner The Toxic Avenger. In 2015, It Shoulda Been You opened on Broadway and Joe DiPietro’s Clever Little Lies opened off-Broadway. Both shows received their premieres at the Playhouse. Other productions include the Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk and Drama League Award-nominated production of The Spitfire Grill; and the Broadway hit and Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning play Proof by David Auburn, which was developed at the Playhouse during the 1999 Next Stage Series of new plays.
Under the leadership of Artistic Director David Saint since 1997, George Street Playhouse produces groundbreaking new works, inspiring productions of the classics, and hit Broadway plays and musicals that speak to the heart and mind, with an unwavering commitment to producing new work. As New Brunswick’s first producing theatre, George Street Playhouse became the cornerstone of the revitalization of the City’s arts and cultural landscape. Entering its 50th season, the organization has a rich history of producing nationally renowned theatre. The Playhouse continues to fill a unique theatre and arts education role in the city, state and greater metropolitan region.
George Street Playhouse programming is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts. Grant funding has been provided by the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Commissioners through a grant award from the Middlesex County Cultural and Arts Trust Fund.