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McCarter Theatre presents "Blues For An Alabama Sky"

originally published: 04/10/2023

McCarter Theatre presents "Blues For An Alabama Sky"

(PRINCETON, NJ) -- McCarter Theatre is delighted to welcome audiences to Pearl Cleage's love letter to friendship and the Harlem Renaissance, Blues For An Alabama Sky, on stage in the Berlind Theatre May 6-28. The play marks the McCarter directorial debut of Associate Artistic Director Nicole A. Watson.

“I could not be more thrilled that Nicole A. Watson is making her long-awaited debut at McCarter, said Artistic Director, Sarah Rasmussen.  “She is an essential part of our team here as BOLD Associate Artistic Director, and of course a wonderful director whose work I have loved on stages across the country.”

Ms. Watson’s production of Blues for an Alabama Sky received both critical and audience acclaim when it ran at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis earlier in 2023, where it was celebrated as “BRILLIANT and “one to SAVOR” by the Star-Herald.

The Twin Cities Pioneer Press raved: “Pearl Cleage’s play, Blues for an Alabama Sky, is a gratifying celebration of friendship, as well as a heart-filled tale about pursuing dreams, seeking security, and the bargains we make with ourselves to get through difficult times.”  The Pioneer Press continued, “under the direction of Nicole A. Watson, it’s an impeccably well-executed piece of theater, each of its five characters painted in vivid colors and arrestingly believable.”

In a Depression-era Harlem apartment building, a close-knit group of friends has become a chosen family. New roommates Angel and Guy — a recently fired blues singer and a promising costume designer with Paris in his sights — live across the hall from Delia, a social worker who sparks a relationship with the hardworking doctor Sam. Their lives are upturned when Southern newcomer Leland arrives and falls hard for Angel, who is torn between a stable life in New York City and an exhilarating overseas adventure with Guy. Angel chooses her path, but the decision leads to devastating consequences that shift the trajectory of everyone’s futures and long-held dreams.



 
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The Creative Team for Blues for an Alabama Sky includes: Lawrence E. Moten III, Scenic Designer; Sarita P. Fellows, Costume Designer; Sherrice Mojgani, Lighting Designer; Paul James Prendergast, Sound Designer; Tommy Kurzman, Hair & Makeup Designer; Faye Price, Dramaturg; Teniece Divya Johnson, Fight/Intimacy Director; Kelly Wolter, Dialect and Vocal Coach; Pat McCorkle, CSA, Casting Director; and Matthew Luppino, Production Stage Manager.

Tickets start at $25 and are now on sale at McCarter.org or can be purchased by calling the Patron Services Office at 609-258-2787.    Groups of 10 or more can save 20% off of tickets (zone restrictions apply.)

Pearl Cleage (Playwright) is an Atlanta-based writer whose plays include Angry, Raucous and Shamelessly Gorgeous, Flyin’ West, Blues for an Alabama Sky and Bourbon at the Border, which were commissioned by Alliance Theatre where Cleage is Distinguished Artist in Residence. She is also the author of A Song for Coretta, written in 2007 while the Cosby Professor in Women’s Studies at Spelman College, and The Nacirema Society…, which was commissioned by Alabama Shakespeare Festival and premiered in 2010. Cleage’s Blues for an Alabama Sky recently received an award-winning production at London’s National Theatre, directed by Lynette Linton. Her plays have been performed at Arena Stage, Hartford Stage, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Huntington Theatre Company, Long Wharf Theatre, Just Us Theatre Company, True Colors Theatre, Bushfire Theatre, Intiman Theatre, The Black Rep and 7 Stages.

She is also an accomplished performance artist, often working with her husband, writer Zaron W. Burnett, Jr., in their Live at Club Zebra! performance installation. They have performed at the National Black Arts Festival, National Black Theatre Festival and colleges across the country. They also collaborated with performance artists Idris Ackamoor and Rhodessa Jones on the script for The Love Project, which premiered at the National Black Theatre Festival in 2008. Cleage is an accomplished novelist, with her New York Times bestseller What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day being chosen for Oprah’s Book Club. Cleage has been awarded grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Fulton County Arts Council, Georgia Council for the Arts, Atlanta Bureau of Cultural Affairs and The CocaCola Foundation. Among her many awards is a 2008 NAACP Image Award for Fiction and a 2022 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Dramatists Guild.

Nicole A. Watson (Director) is the BOLD Associate Artistic Director at the McCarter Theatre Center. Prior to this appointment, she served as the AAD at Round House Theatre. On behalf of both theaters, she produced the Adrienne Kennedy Festival, directing a digital version of Kennedy’s She Brought Her Heart Back in a Box. A history teacher, turned freelance director, Nicole’s directing career includes premiering new plays by writers of color in addition to restoring missing voices onto the stage. Credits include Pearl Cleage’s Blues for an Alabama Sky (Guthrie Theater), the world premieres of Charly Evon Simpson’s it’s not a trip it’s a journey, (Round House), Keith Josef Adkins’ The West End (Cincinnati Playhouse), and Jacqueline Goldfinger’s adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s A Wind in the Door (The Kennedy Center). At McCarter she is the curator of the Toni Morrison Commissions, the co-curator with Paula Vogel on Bard at the Gate where she directed a digital production of Dipika Guha’s Passing and has been the lead teacher for the Kennedy Center Directing Intensive of the past 3 years. She has worked with Signature Theater, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Baltimore Center Stage, Portland Center Stage, Asolo Rep, The Contemporary American Theater Festival, New Dramatists, Playmakers Repertory Theatre, The Lark, The Fire This Time Festival, New Black Fest, The Playwrights Center, Working Theater, The 52nd Street Project, Theater Latte Da, and the Washington National Opera. She is a New Georges Affiliated Artist, an alum of the Drama League, the Lincoln Center Directors Lab and the Women’s Project Directors Lab, and a member of the SDC.

About the Cast:

Crystal Dickinson (Angel)- Broadway: the Tony Award Winning Play, Clybourne Park, and Tony Nominated Play, You Can't Take It With You; Recent Off -Broadway credits include: Lessons In Survival:1971 at The Vineyard Theater, Cullud Wattah at The Public Theater, Wine in the Wilderness at Two River Theater, and most recently, The Trees at Playwrights Horizons. She has also performed at Lincoln Center, Signature Theater, Playwrights Horizons and The Atlantic; Film & TV credits: recurring roles on, The CHI and, For Life.



 
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Maya Jackson (Delia) is delighted to be making her in-person McCarter Theatre debut!  She was last seen with the McCarter in the Adrienne Kennedy Play Festival, a virtual co-production with Round House Theatre Company.  Broadway credits include: Skin of our Teeth at Lincoln Center and the recent revival of Death of a Salesman. Selected regional credits include: Teenage DickFull Circle (Woolly Mammoth); Kid Prince and Pablo (The Kennedy Center); The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Actors Theatre of Louisville); Jar the Floor (Arkansas Rep); and All’s Well That End’s Well, Twelfth Night (Shakespeare Theatre). TV: “Suspicion.” Education: MFA, UMKC; BA, University of Maryland. In addition to her work on stage, Maya also works as a long time Camp Director for Plato Learning and as a photographer (with work that can be found in Playbill.com and Broadwayworld.com.

Kevin R. Free (Guy) is a multidisciplinary artist whose work as an actor, writer, director, and producer has been showcased and developed in many places, including The Moth Radio Hour; The New York Neo-Futurists; and The Fire This Time Festival, where he served as Producing Artistic Director for 5 years, winning an Obie for his work in 2015. He is now the Artistic Director of Mile Square Theatre in Hoboken, NJ, where he has directed Pipeline, The Burdens and Berta, Berta. He is also the co-writer and co-producer of the award-winning web series Gemma & The Bear! and the upcoming Beckys Through History (MyCarl.org). 

As an actor, along with performing in over 100 professional productions, he became the first African-American to play the role of Bellomy in The Fantasticks Off-Broadway. An accomplished voice actor, as well, Kevin is the voice of Kevin from Desert Bluffs on the popular podcast Welcome to Night Vale.  He is also an audiobook narrator, having contributed to over 450 projects in the past 20 years, including The Last Slave Ship by Ben Raines and all the books in the Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells. He was just named a fellow of the historic Apollo Theater’s New Works Lab.

Stephen Conrad Moore (Sam) has appeared on numerous theatrical stages in New York City and across the US (such as The Vineyard, American Theatre Company, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Shakespeare Theatre in DC, Yale Rep, and The Guthrie -where he recently played Sam in Blues For An Alabama Sky) and has originated leading roles in plays by Thomas Bradshaw, Ellen McLaughlin, and Colman Domingo, amongst others.   He has appeared on television shows like EmpireThe PathThe Good Fight, and the series finale of Better Call Saul (to name a few). He recently completed 5 seasons of The Bold Type (Freeform), where he was a series regular playing Oliver Grayson, the fashion editor of Scarlet Magazine. He studied theatre at the University of Missouri – Kansas City (Double BA in English and Theatre) and The Yale School of Drama (Master in Fine Arts in Acting) and currently lives in New York City.

Brandon St. Clair (Leland) is excited to celebrate his second year of living up North with such a talented cast. Hailing from Atlanta, Georgia and recently graduating with his MFA from UNC-Chapel Hill/Playmakers Rep, he’s thrilled to return to the stage again this summer. A few of his credits include Law & Order, Power: Book III and Everything’s Trash.

Darian Dauchan (U/S) is an award winning actor, writer, poet, and musician who has appeared on both Broadway (Twentieth Century starring Alec Baldwin and Anne Heche) and Off Broadway theater (Classical Theatre of Harlem's Cherry Orchard starring Wendell Pierce). TV and Film credits include Law & Order, Nickelodeon's Bet the House as Darian the "SoundFX" Guy, and the Lionsgate feature film Things Never Said. Darian is most known for The Brobot Johnson Project, an Afrofuturism, Sci Fi Hip Hop transmedia piece which won for Outstanding Comedy Series at the LA Web Festival and BEST soundtrack at the Escape Velocity Festival sponsored by the Museum of Science Fiction. The show The Brobot Johnson Experience is a critically acclaimed Ben Brantley New York Times Critics' Pick.

Most recently Darian was nominated for a Drama League award for his piece Brobot PSA in the AFO Solo Short series, a contributing voice-over actor for the short doc Lynching Postcards directed by Christine Turner, produced by Fireflight Films and MTV Studios which won the 2022 Image Award for Outstanding Short Form Special, and is a New Music USA grantee. Newly released music Doin' it Live and Ohm can be found on Spotify and other streaming platforms.

An independent not-for-profit performing arts center located between New York City and Philadelphia – and on the campus of Princeton University – McCarter Theatre is a multi-disciplinary creative and intellectual hub offering theater, music, dance, spoken word, and educational programs for all ages that inspires conversations, connections and collaborations in our communities. We lead with our values of justice and joy, and we seek beauty in belonging. Celebrated for developing new work and winner of the 1994 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre, world premieres include Christopher Durang's Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike (Tony, Best Play), Tarell Alvin McCraney's The Brother/Sister Plays, Emily Mann's Having Our Say. Renowned artists who have appeared at McCarter include: Alvin Ailey, Yo-Yo Ma, Audra McDonald, David Sedaris, The Moth, Terence Blanchard, Roseanne Cash, the rock band Lake Street Dive, Shawn Colvin, more. McCarter connects with the community year-round via various community reading event opportunities, digital programming, on-site classes and in-school residencies. McCarter and Princeton University share a long history of unique partnerships and creative collaborations.



 
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