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2016-17 SEASON
Suzan-Lori Parks
DIRECTED BY Lileana Blain-Cruz
Synopsis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
Playwright Letter . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5
Suzan-Lori Parks: Selected Production History. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Interview with Suzan-Lori Parks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Further Discussions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Cast & Creative Team . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18
Playwright Bio . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
Cast Bios. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
Creative Team Bios . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 23
Supplemental Programming . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
About Signature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28
He is electrocuted in the town square, falls from a building,
and drowns in a river, among other deaths. Each time, he
comes back home to his wife, Black Woman With Fried
Drumstick. But on this day, something is different. Black Man
With Watermelon is dying for the last time, and Black Woman
With Fried Drumstick must help him find his final resting
place. Helped by a collection of figures from history and
popular culture, Black Woman With Fried Drumstick helps
Black Man With Watermelon die for the last time, and
finds that his final resting place is living in a play called
The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World
AKA the Negro Book of the Dead.
The story isn’t going to unfold for you like A B C D, especially in
2016. Stories no longer unfold A B C D. Don’t go in there expecting to be served a meal from your mommy’s spoon. We don’t do
that in this show. The story might go A X X Y Y M Q B B B B B B
C R - The end. Like that. Go in there expecting to see the stories
come at you from all sides. It is confusing, like the world is.
They talk a lot about history in the play, and his tree, and how
Black Man With Watermelon is hanging from a tree. And Black
Woman With Fried Drumstick wants the man to eat some dinner.
She is trying to see if the world really makes sense anymore so
she starts breaking eggs, and eggs are still breaking…so the world
must still be here. Then she realizes Black Man With Watermelon
is, in fact, dead so she wants him to eat feathers. And he doesn’t
want to eat feathers because he’s feeling alive for the first time in
the play. And he’s ready to live, which of course the light is bright
and it’s gonna go out.
Another big part of the play, which is very important, is that it’s
like a funeral mass. You know how when someone passes away
we have a memorial service? This play is very much a memorial
service for Black Man With Watermelon, who is the last black man
in the whole entire world. And the characters come together to
celebrate him and to help him find a resting place. In theatre,
writing a play structured like this is basically writing a request.
It’s asking, “At certain points in the future, I would like a group of
11 actors of color to come together and sing.” This play is actually
an opportunity for 11 actors of color to come together and
get hired to sing and enjoy each other’s company and present
themselves to the world.
Afterwards, ask yourself some questions. Now, how does that
track in your life? Could you feel the language? Did the language
make an impression on you? Are there any things that you can
remember the characters saying? Are there any things going on
stage that reminded you of current events? Are there any things
on stage that the characters are going through that remind you
of your life? It would be interesting for you all to get together in
small groups afterwards - try to tell the story to yourself while
you’re watching the play. What’s the story? What happens
and what happens and what happens and what happens?
This play – it is confusing, it’s not linear, it’s not like a tight two
minute song on the radio. It requires a little more of your attention, but it holds keys to who we are and where we’ve been and
where we’re going.
-Suzan-Lori Parks
• 1999 In the Blood premieres at The
Public Theater.
• 1984 The Sinner’s Place, Parks’ senior
thesis play, is written at Mount Holyoke
• 2000 Awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for Playwriting.
• 1989 Imperceptible Mutabilities in
the Third Kingdom premieres at BACA
Downtown in Brooklyn.
• 1990 Wins an Obie Award for Best
New American Play for Imperceptible
Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom. The
Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole
Entire World premieres at BACA Downtown. Pickling, a radio play, is produced
by New American Radio in New York.
• 1992 Devotees in the Garden of Love
is commissioned by the Humana Festival at the Actors Theatre of Louisville in
• 1994 The America Play premieres at
Yale Repertory Theatre as a co-production with The Public Theater/New York
Shakespeare Festival.
• 2001 Awarded a MacArthur Foundation ‘Genius Grant’. Topdog/Underdog
premieres at The Public Theater.
• 2002 Becomes first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for
Drama for Topdog/Underdog, which also
opens on Broadway at the Ambassador
• 2003 Parks’ novel, Getting Mother’s
Body is published by Random House.
• 2006-07 365 Days/365 Plays has its
unprecedented rolling world premiere at
theatres across the country.
• 2012 The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess
opens on Broadway.
• 2014 Father Comes Home from the
Wars (Parts 1, 2 & 3) premieres at The
Public Theater.
• 1996 Venus premieres at Yale Repertory. Its subsequent performance at The
Public Theater wins an Obie Award.
Signature is thrilled to begin the 2016-17 Season
by welcoming Suzan-Lori Parks. Known for
her form-bending plays that reconfigure ideas
about language and time, Parks also holds the
distinction of being the first African American
woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize for Drama,
for her 2002 work Topdog/Underdog. The
theatre of Parks comes from a myriad of inspirations: from history books and William Faulkner
to Jazz and television, Parks’ plays use familiar
roots to break new ground.
Read me by repetition. Saints and singing and a mission and
an addition.
Saints and singing and the petitions. The petition for a repetition.
Saints and singing and their signing.
Saints and singing and winning and
Do not repeat yourself.
“Jazz is the only music in
which the same note can
be played night after night
but differently each time.
It’s the hidden things, the
subconscious that lies in
the body and lets you know:
you feel this, you play this.”
The holey little holes
In my skin,
Millions of little
Secret graves,
Filled with dead
That won’t stay
The hairy little hairs
On my head,
Millions of little
Secret trees,
Filled with dead
That won’t stay
When I die,
I won’t stay
And Noah drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered in his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his
father, and told his two brethren without. – GENESIS 9:21-22
A black play recognizes the importance
of the evidence of things unseen.
A black play is too much.
A black play can take you there.
A black play is simple.
A black play is complicated.
A black play is ALL THAT.
A black play is a piece of work.
A black play is worth the price of admission.
A black play is free.
Peace and power to the people.
Language is a physical act
Language is a physical act –
something that involves yr whole bod.
Write with yr whole bod.
Read with yr whole bod.
Wake up.
I say you’re either part of the problem or
part of the power — what do you want to be?
Art is a force for cultural change.
‘Repetition and Revision’ is a concept integral to the Jazz esthetic in which the composer or performer will write or play a
musical phrase once and again and again; etc.—with each revisit
the phrase is slightly revised. ‘Rep & Rev’ as I call it is a central
element in my work; through its use I’m working to create a
dramatic text that departs from the traditional linear narrative
style to look and sound more like a musical score…How does
this ‘Rep & Rev’—a literal incorporation of the past—impact on
the creation of a theatrical experience?
When I wrote this play I was listening to a lot of Ornette Coleman, The Shape of Jazz to Come, which is a brilliant, brilliant
album - and it very much has some jazz motifs in it. So the
play does as well. It dovetails very much with current language
today. This street language, urban language, creative language
that we use. But it’s also dovetailing with some of the difficult
current events that are going on in our country today.
One day I was taking a nap. I woke up and stared at the wall: still
sort of dreaming. Written up there between the window and the
wall were the words, “This is the death of the last negro man in
the whole entire world.” Written up there in black vapor. I said
to myself, “You should write that down,” so I went over to my
desk and wrote it down. Those words and my reaction to them
became a play.
Go in there expecting to see the stories
come at you from all sides. It is confusing,
like the world is.
Think of poet’s theatre, slam poetry, hip hop, like a poetry
slam…this isn’t your mother’s theatre, or your father’s, but it
might be your daddy’s!
black man bursts into flames. The black
man bursts into blames. Whose fault is it?
DRUMSTICK: Your days work aint like
any others day work: you bring your
tree branch home.
AND CORNBREAD: You should write it
down because if you dont write it down
then they will come along and tell the
future that we did not exist.
In the future when they came along
I meeting them. On thuh coast.
5: HAM: …And from that seed comed All Us.
I left my mark on all I made.
My son erase his mothers mark.
7: PRUNES & PRISMS: Say ‘prunes and
prisms’ 40 times each day and youll
cure your big lips.
He is dead he crosses
thuh river. He
jumps in thuh
puddle have
his clothing: ON.
On thuh other
side thuh mountin
yo he dripply
wet with soppin.
Do drop be
I say ‘yes.’
9: BEFORE COLUMBUS: Them thinking thuh
worl was flat kept it roun. Them thinkin thuh
sun revolved uhroun thuh earth kin kept
them satellite-like.
Sir name Tom-us and Bigger be my christian
name. Rise up out of uh made-up story in
grown Bigger and Bigger. Too big for my
own name.
11: VOICE ON THUH TEE V: Good evening.
I’m Broad Caster. Headlining tonight:
the news: is Gamble Major, the absolutely
last living Negro man in the whole
entire known world-is dead.
Collages by Costume Designer Montana Blanco.
Suzan-Lori Parks is not afraid of instability. Since the early 1990s, Parks has incited
a revolution in the American theatre with plays that remix history, truth, fantasy,
and fables; the worlds that she creates are built on controlled chaos. The first African
American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Parks’ writing spans multiple
genres, and while her oeuvre includes screenplays, novels, musicals, essays,
and performance art, the most unifying aspect of her work is that each endeavor
defies easy categorization. With a fluid sense of both time and narrative, Parks’
writings create a new history of their own.
With Parks as Signature’s newest Residency One playwright, audiences will get the
chance to immerse themselves in her writing over the course of the next year, starting
with her early play, The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World AKA
the Negro Book of the Dead, an all-too-relevant work that evokes questions of family,
legacy, violence, and peace. A few weeks before rehearsals began, Parks sat down
with Literary Manager Jenna Clark Embrey to discuss how she became a writer,
revisiting older work, and how the past becomes the future.
Let’s start at the beginning. Where did you grow up?
I grew up all over. My father was a career army officer, which some people call an army brat – whatever that means. I don’t know
who coined that phrase, but we’re probably the least bratty people – kids who have parents in the service. And not because their
parent is some kind of a gung-ho army person, it’s not that at all, we just know the importance of very simple things. Like when
your dad would come home from work, while he’s out pretending that he’s in a war. We did travel around the country a lot. Every
year we lived in a different place. We lived in Germany for quite a while. When I was a kid I went to German school, so I used to
be completely fluent in German, which is handy because my fiancé is German. And I love the language. I consider myself a Texan,
because my mom’s a West Texan, and we spent a lot of time hanging out in far west Texas. So, when I think of home I think of far
west Texas. But I was born in Fort Knox, which is where they keep the gold – right down the road from Lincoln’s birthplace... draw
conclusions for the dramaturgs in the audience and the scholars [laughs]. Yeah, right down the street from Lincoln’s birthplace and
a place called Mammoth Cave. It’s very
interesting to be born near such interesting things. We were moving around
every year. So I’m from all over – or what
would Johnny Cash say? [sings] “I’m
from everywhere, man, I’m from everywhere.”
How did you become a writer?
I suppose I became a writer because
I loved writing. I have absolutely no idea.
Meaning, there are no writers in my family, like “my mother was a writer.” No, no.
My mother was a professor, my dad was
an army officer and then a professor, but
they weren’t creative writers. So none of
that history in my own immediate family,
or even in my slightly extended family. Although, there are lots of teachers
and doctors and lawyers. But no writers,
no painters, no musicians. I have absolutely no idea how I became a writer.
But I found myself one day underneath
a piano because my parents had purchased this baby grand piano after my
dad came back from Vietnam, because
he wanted the children to play music. My
sister and brother played outside a lot,
and I spent most of the time under the
piano hanging out, writing. I mean I loved
to play, but I also loved to sit under the
piano and write. My mom would come
by, “What are you doing?” and I would
say, “I’m writing my novel.” Then for Val-
entine’s Day one year, my parents gave
me a copy of James Baldwin’s The Fire
Next Time. I looked on the dust jacket
and there was James Baldwin’s face,
and he has these eyes, you know. And I
thought, “Wow that’s cool.” I didn’t read
the book of course, I was in fourth grade
[laughs]. I was reading like A Wrinkle in
Time and Harriet the Spy. But then ten
years later, I was in James Baldwin’s very
first creative writing class. There I was,
I went to Mount Holyoke College and I
loved creative writing. I think what it was,
and I think what it is, is the writing pulls
me into it. So there’s something about
the act of writing, like the act of songmaking that is it’s a funnel. And it
pulls my energy. So I don’t say, “I’m going
to be a writer because I have something
to say.” I never had anything like that. I
still don’t. I’m just like, “Wow, I just gahh,
oh yo, I gotta write this!” Because there’s
a funnel of energy, a cone of energy
that’s like pulling me toward it. It’s always
over here, which is why I have this tattoo which says “Ishvara-pranidhana va,”
or one could say “go with the flow,” or
“submit your will to the will of god,” and
that’s the fastest way to enlightenment
What led you to writing for the theatre?
I wasn’t a playwright when I started
with Mr. Baldwin, I was a short story
writer, novelist, wrote songs. And then
he suggested writing for the theatre,
because when I read my short stories
aloud in his class I was very animated.
Like I would do what the stupid theatre
people did, like “Laaa Laaaa Leyy! And
Read Alouddd! And tell the characters
and then paint the scene! And do all this
stuff!” And these were short stories. So
Mr. Baldwin said, “Ms. Parks, have you
ever thought about writing for the theatre?” And gave me that look… I started
writing for the theatre that day, that very
day. So, he was very encouraging. I’ve
had other people encourage me along
the way, but he was the one I always felt
like…that from Mr. Baldwin I got a golden
kiss on the forehead. He wrote me an
evaluation that said, “Suzan-Lori Parks
is…” I forget what he wrote, but it’s a
quote that still kind of makes me embarrassed. But it was very positive and very
affirming. He thought I might amount to
something as an artist. There’s a quote
that Abraham Lincoln said, “Someone
thought well of me when I was a young
man, and I didn’t have the heart to let
him down.” And that’s what I felt. James
Baldwin thought something of me when
I was a young person, and I didn’t have
the heart to let him down, and I still don’t
have the heart to let him down. So, here
I am [laughs]!
What are you looking forward to in
your residency here at Signature?
Seeing how the landscape has changed
since I initially created and had these
plays produced. That’s interesting. I mean
it was such a surprise with The Death
of the Last Black Man, seeing how it’s
become more rich. I’m looking forward to
seeing how the landscape has changed.
It kind of feels like the culture’s caught
up to the work which is really an amazing feeling. It’s like the work was a tree
in the field and the culture has grown up
around it, literally the up and coming artists that I’m working with on this project
– there are some awesome established
actors in our cast in Last Black Man,
there are also some up and coming folks
and they have literally come up around
this play. So that’s exciting to see how
the landscape has grown and also to do
new things.
How did Founding Artistic Director Jim
Houghton approach you about joining
Residency One, and doing a season of
your plays?
He rolled them all out at once. I think
that was the way to do it. The whole idea
of having a Residency One at Signature,
to me, was like “No thanks,” because I go
forward very well. I like to work, which to
me means go forward and do things that
are slightly beyond what I did last time
around. It’s not by design but it’s kind of
where my energy is. So when Jim came
up to me and says, “How would you like
a Residency One?” …that’s not something
that I was really interested in doing. Then
what happened? We were just sitting
in the Waverly Diner and I could hear
very loudly the voice in my head telling
me the 500 really brilliant reasons why I
didn’t need to do this. I’m sort of hearing
my own reasons very clearly and I’m just
listening to Jim say, “it might be good for
you, it might be good for people…” You
know, all the reasons why. And suddenly
I stopped talking. I wasn’t talking talking,
I was talking in my head. I stopped talking and I started listening. I just looked
at him and I could hear very clearly, “This
will be good for you.” Just like when
James Baldwin said, “Have you ever tried
writing for the theatre?” One of those
voices. And it cut through – his generous
offer, request, suggestion – cut through
all the chatter in my head and I said, “I
suppose we’ll just step forward on faith.”
I said, “What would you like to see?”
He smiled and said, “Oh, I might not be
here,” and I, of course, said, “Of course
you will.” And he isn’t and he is. Right?
[Editor’s Note: Jim Houghton passed
away on August 2, 2016, three days prior
to this interview.] But I wanted him to
choose, and again I wanted to stop talking and listen to what he wanted. Be-
cause I thought, “I can’t give him more
days on the planet or whatever, but I can
give him this. I can give my work, what
he might enjoy.” So he said Last Black
Man and I was like... [gesture of bewilderment]. And so far it’s the smartest thing
that I’m doing this year.
The Death of the Last Black Man in the
Whole Entire World is the first play in
your residency. How would you describe what the play is “about”?
It’s about a man and his wife, and the
man is dying. So it’s about them, but
think of jazz music first of all, think of like
free jazz – it moves like that. It’s not like
a tidy, well-made play that we’re accustomed to seeing in traditional theatre.
Think of poet’s theatre, slam poetry, hiphop, like a poetry slam. This man is dead
and his wife is basically trying to find his
final resting place. There’s a reoccurring
question in the play: “Where’s he gonna
go now that he done dieded?” And what
they find at the end is that his final resting place is a play called The Death of
the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire
World. It’s like a funeral mass in a way.
What was the process of writing this
play like, and then revisiting it now
in 2016?
I started writing this play in 1990. When I
wrote this play I was listening to a lot of
Ornette Coleman, The Shape of Jazz to
Come, which is a brilliant, brilliant album
– and it very much has some jazz motifs
in it. So the play does as well. It dovetails
very much with current language today.
This street language, urban language,
creative language that we use. But it’s
also dovetailing with some of the current
events, the difficult current events that
are going on in our country today. They
weren’t so apparent and on the surface
back in 1990. It was always there, but
now it’s kind of on everybody’s Twitter
feed. Revisiting this play now felt like,
“Wow this is going to be cool, there’s
more to this than I remember. There’s
a lot to this.” It felt very current, it felt
like I’d written it a couple of years ago.
Because there’s this part in the play, this
thing where the man is talking about
how he can’t breathe. There’s a rope
around his neck and he’s dying yet another death, and he says, “I can’t breathe,
I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” And I’m
just like, “oh, that sounds familiar...” The
play was at [Brooklyn Arts Center Association Downtown] initially. Then we
did another production at Yale. At BACA
Downtown we had actors, we had brilliant actors, but the learning curve was
very steep. These folks were brilliant,
classically trained, downtown working actors – brilliant, brilliant, cool. The
language of the play was very hip-hop,
rhythmic, poetry slam language. Not on
a lot of stages. Not asking actors to do
this kind of stuff, so the learning curve
was steep. Now, we just did auditions
last month and got 11 amazing actors.
Every actor who came into the room to
audition was down with it! They were
like, “Ohh!” We were sitting there going,
“They totally get this!” Like no problem.
Everybody came in with a familiarity
and ease with it. It was in their body, it
was in their hands, it was in their minds.
They knew how to break it down. And
I thought, “Oh wow, it’s like the world
caught up in a way.” And through suggesting that we do The Death of the Last
Black Man in the Whole Entire World, I
think Jim wanted me to see that. That’s
an incredible gift, to see that the world
caught up – not caught up to you, but
caught up to this thing you heard. You
heard this and now we all can hear this.
It’s very exciting.
• If you could retell the action of the play in three sentences or less, what would the story be?
• What figures did you recognize in the play? Who or what did they remind you of?
• This play was first written in 1989. What has changed in the world since then?
How do you think seeing the play now, in 2016, is different than it was when it first premiered?
• Some of the figures in the play have their roots in problematic images.
How does this play use troubled history to make something new?
• Does the play remind you of anything currently in the news?
If the figures in the play could comment on current events, what might they say?
Production Stage Manager Terri K. Kohler
Artistic Director Paige Evans
Casting Telsey + Company, Karyn Casl, CSA
Executive Director Erika Mallin Press Boneau/ Bryan-Brown Founder James Houghton THE DEATH OF THE LAST BLACK MAN
Associate Artistic Director Beth Whitaker
Written by Suzan-Lori Parks
General Manager Gilbert Medina
Directed by Lileana Blain-Cruz
Director of Development Jeralynn Miller
Featuring William DeMeritt Nike Kadri
Director of Marketing & Audience Services David Hatkoff
Patrena Murray Reynaldo Piniella Julian Rozzell
Director of Finance Jeffrey Bledsoe
Roslyn Ruff Mirirai Sithole David Ryan Smith
Director of Production and Facilities Paul Ziemer
Daniel J. Watts Jamar Williams Amelia Workman
Scenic Design Riccardo Hernandez
Costume Design Montana Blanco
Lighting Design Yi Zhao
Sound Design Palmer Hefferan
Projection Design Hannah Wasileski
Wig Design Cookie Jordan
Aerial Effects Paul Rubin
Choreographer Raja Feather Kelly
For the Public Theater: Father Comes Home From The Wars - Parts 1, 2 & 3
(Pulitzer Prize Finalist), Watch Me Work, The Book of Grace, 365 Days/365
Plays (in conjunction with over 700 theatres worldwide) Topdog/Underdog,
Fucking A, In the Blood (Pulitzer Prize Finalist), Venus, The America Play.
On Broadway: The Gershwin’s Porgy & Bess, Topdog/Underdog. Other Off
Broadway includes: Unchain My Heart: The Ray Charles Musical, The Death
of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom. Film includes: Girl 6 (directed by Spike Lee),
Their Eyes Were Watching God (produced by Oprah Winfrey), Anemone
Me (produced by Christine Vachon & Todd Haynes). Suzan-Lori is the first
African American woman to receive the Pulitzer Prize in Drama, and is a
MacArthur Genius Award recipient. Other awards include: Tony Award for
Best Revival of a Musical (Porgy & Bess); The Gish Prize for Excellence in
the Arts; Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama, Horton Foote Prize; OBIE
Award for Playwriting: Best New American Play. Suzan-Lori teaches at New
York University and serves at The Public Theater as its Master Writer Chair.
She also currently performs Watch Me Work, a free, live-streamed, weekly
writing workshop, open to artists of all disciplines. Her first novel, Getting
Mother’s Body (Random House, 2003), includes songs and is set in the west
Texas of her youth. She is currently developing a series for Amazon, and a
musical adaptation of the film The Harder They Come. For more information
WILLIAM DEMERITT (Voice on Thuh Tee V) Theatre: Sense
& Sensibility (Dallas Theatre Center), Romeo & Juliet (Yale Rep),
Liz Swados’ Violence Project (LaMaMa ETC), Edward II (Red
Bull), Mom, How Did You Meet the Beatles? (The Public). Television: “Person of Interest,” “Law&Order:SVU,” “One Life to Live,”
“The Outs” (Vimeo original). Film: HBO’s Emmy winning, The
Normal Heart, The Lennon Report. Founding member OldSoundRoom performance ensemble. Creator/writer with Elia
Monte-Brown of the one-man show, Origin Story. Audiobooks:
Underground Airlines, The Wild Ones series. Faculty: Circle in the
Square. Training: BADA, BFA Marymount Manhattan, MFA Yale
(clockwise from the top) Julian Rozzell, Jamar Williams, David Ryan Smith, Mirirai Sithole, Patrena Murray,
Reynaldo Piniella, Daniel J. Watts, Roslyn Ruff, Lileana Blain-Cruz, Suzan-Lori Parks, Nike Kadri, William DeMeritt,
Amelia Workman. Photo by Gregory Costanzo.
NIKE KADRI (Yes and Greens Black-Eyed Peas Cornbread)
PATRENA MURRAY (Ham) Most recently seen as Fourth/
Off-Broadway: Iphigenia in Aulis at Classic Stage Company. Regional: Cardboard Piano at Actors Theatre of Louisville; Twelfth
Night at Chicago Shakespeare; A Christmas Carol at McCarter
Theatre; A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Guthrie Theater; A
Christmas Story: The Musical at Ordway Center; Mary T. & Lizzy
K. at Park Square Theatre; and The Secret Lives of Coats at Red
Eye Theater. Directing/Playwright: The Missing Peace. Proud
graduate of The University of Minnesota/Guthrie Theater B.F.A.
Actor Training Program. Thank you to my agents! The utmost
praise to God and the deepest love to my parents and brothers
who embolden me daily!
Odyssey Dog in Suzan-Lori Parks’ Father Comes Home From The
Wars (parts 1, 2, & 3) at the Mark Taper Forum and the American
Repertory Theater. Some of her favorite roles have been Ermina
in Crumbs From The Table Of Joy, Pantalone in The Green Bird,
Exeter in Henry V, and Paulina in The Winter’s Tale. She earned her
BFA from SUNY Purchase. Patrena has been a company member
of the Irondale Ensemble Project for 20 years. She is grateful for
this opportunity and hopes you have a blast watching the show.
REYNALDO PINIELLA (And Bigger and Bigger and Bigger)
ROSLYN RUFF (Black Woman with Fried Drumstick)
Reynaldo Piniella was previously seen in Romeo & Juliet
(Actors Theatre of Louisville), I & You (Repertory Theatre
of St. Louis), The Tempest (Classical Theatre of Harlem),
The Erlkings (Theatre Row), Honky (Urban Stages), Tamer of
Horses (Passage Theatre), Worldwide Plays Festival (59E59),
The Toilet (New Federal Theatre), Fete (Abingdon Theatre), Facing Our Truth (National Black Theatre), The Great
Recession, Future Anxiety (Flea Theater), Two Gentlemen of
Verona (NY Fringe Fest), The Etymology of Bird (CityParks
Summerstage), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Masterworks).
TV credits include “The Carrie Diaries”, “Law & Order: SVU”,
“Louie”, “NYC 22”, “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”,
“Us & Them”, “Flesh & Bone” and “Greenleaf”. Film credits
include Broken City, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close,
and “Masterclass with Kevin Spacey”.
Follow him on Twitter @ReynaldoRey.
Broadway: All The Way, Romeo & Juliet, Fences. Off-Broadway:
select credits include Familiar (Playwrights Horizons), Scenes
from a Marriage (NYTW), The Piano Lesson (Signature Theatre –
2013 Lucille Lortel Award, Drama League nomination), Macbeth
(TFANA), Seven Guitars (Signature – 2007 Obie Award), The
Cherry Orchard (Classical Theatre of Harlem). Regional credits
include work at Two River Theater, Berkeley Rep, Long Wharf,
The Kennedy Center, Indiana Rep, Old Globe, Alliance Theatre,
McCarter Theatre, ART, Yale Rep. Film: The Help, Salt, Life During
Wartime, Rachel Getting Married. TV: “Madame Secretary,” “The
Family,” “Doubt,” “Elementary,” “American Odyssey,” “Masters of
Sex,” “The Big C.”
JULIAN ROZZELL (Old Man River Jordan): Stew and Heidi
Rodenwald’s The Total Bent (The Public), Suzan-Lori Parks’ Father Comes Home From The Wars directed by Jo Bonney (The
Public/ART/Mark Taper Forum). The Vast Machine (Axis Theate), Baal directed by Alec Duffy. Regional: The Piano Lesson
(The Arden Theater), No Exit with Imago Theater Company TV:
recurring role on “Boardwalk Empire” as Harlan opposite Steve
Buscemi, “Law and Order,” “The Breaks,” “Person Of Interest,”
Marvel’s “Luke Cage.”
MIRIRAI SITHOLE (Prunes and Prisms) Mother Courage
and her Children at Classic Stage Company, The Hundred We
Are, C.O.A.L. - Confessions of a Liar, Autumn’s Harvest (Lincoln
Center Education). Regional: Remix 38 (Humana Festival) Our
Town and Christmas Carol (Actors Theatre of Louisville). TV:
“The Affair,” “Master of None.” “Broad City.” She received her
BFA in theatre from Adelphi University and is an alumna of the
Acting Apprentice program at Actors Theatre of Louisville.
DAVID RYAN SMITH (Before Columbus) Broadway: One Man
JAMAR WILLIAMS (Lots of Grease and Lots of Pork)
Two Guvnors, Passing Strange. Off Broadway/NY Theater: The
Glory of the World (BAM); Romeo and Juliet, The Comedy of Errors, Cymbeline and Pericles (Public Theater/NYSF); The Steadfast
(Slant Theater Project); Marat/Sade (Classical Theater of Harlem); The Rover (NY Classical Theater); Waterwell’s #9. (59E59)
Regional Theater: Actors Theatre of Louisville, Barrington Stage,
American Conservatory Theater, Dallas Theater Center, Crossroads
Theater, California Shakespeare Theater, Magic Theater, Cincinnati Shakespeare, Triad Stage, among others. Film: The Amazing
Spider-Man 2, Bee Season. Education: BFA, University of Evansville; MFA, American Conservatory Theater.
Off-Broadway: Invisible Thread (Dir. Diane Paulus), Broken
Window Theory (Dir. Michele Shay). Regional: Cardboard Piano
(Humana Festival), Witness Uganda (A.R.T), Hairspray, The Piano
Lesson, (Santa Rosa Rep). Workshops/Readings: Directors Lab
2016 (Lincoln Center), Kill Floor (LCT3), Choir Boys (MTC). Tours:
Theatre Works USA. Special thanks to God, my mom and sisters,
M.A., Nicolosi & Co. I dedicate my work to the eternal memory of
my Dad; Thank You for guiding me. Graduate of The University
of North Carolina School of the Arts.
DANIEL J. WATTS (Black Man with Watermelon) TV/FILM:
Recurring roles as Freddy on NBC’s “Blindspot” & “Hannibal”
on HBO’s Vinyl; “The Night Of” (HBO); “The Good Wife” (CBS);
“Blue Bloods” (CBS); “Boardwalk Empire” (HBO); “Odd Mom Out”
(Bravo); “Person of Interest” (CBS); “Broad City” (Comedy Central); “Smash” (NBC). Breakup at a Wedding; Among Brothers; &
Freedom. BROADWAY: Hamilton; Motown; After Midnight; Ghost;
In The Heights; Memphis; The Little Mermaid; The Color Purple.
OFF-BROADWAY: Whorl Inside A Loop (2nd Stage). An accomplished spoken word artist, in 2012 Watts launched WattsWords
Productions. Fusing spoken word with live music, song, dance and
multimedia, he encourages audiences to focus on social similarities opposed to differences. BFA Graduate Elon University Music
Theatre Program. 2011 Young Alumnus Award Recipient.
For original work visit @dwattswords
AMELIA WORKMAN (Queen-Then-Pharaoh Hatshepsut)
Company member of The New Museum’s pop up repertory
company X-ID; Leslye Headland’s The Layover (Second Stage);
Laura Jacqumin’s Residence (Humana Festival); Phillip Ridley’s
Tender Napalm (59E59); By The Way Meet Vera Stark (Goodman Theatre); Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 (Ars
Nova). Original company and international touring company of
Young Jean Lee’s The Shipment. Frequent developer of new
works at Playwrights Horizons, Yale Rep and New Dramatists.
Recipient of Charles Bowden Award from New Dramatists 2016.
Graduate of Fordham University.
(Director) Recent projects include Branden
Jacobs-Jenkins War (LCT3, Yale Rep), Alice
Birch’s Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. (Soho
Rep), Lucas Hnath’s Red Speedo (New York
Theater Workshop), Much Ado About Nothing (Oregon Shakespeare Festival); Christina Anderson’s Hollow Roots (Under the
Radar Festival at The Public Theater); a new
translation of The Bakkhai (Fisher Center of
Performing Arts at Bard College); A Guide
to Kinship and Maybe Magic, a collaboration
with Jacobs-Jenkins and choreographer Isabel Lewis (Dance New Amsterdam). Upcoming projects include a devised production of
SALOME on Governor’s Island, Henry IV Part
1 at OSF, and The Bluest Eye at the Guthrie.
(Scenic Designer) Broadway: The Gin Game;
The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess; The People in the Picture (Studio 54); Caroline, or
Change; Topdog/Underdog; Elaine Stritch
at Liberty; Noise/Funk; Parade (Tony, Drama
Desk noms.); The Tempest; Bells Are Ringing.
Recent: Il Postino (L.A. Opera, PBS “Great
Performances”), Philip Glass’ Appomattox
(SFO), Lost Highway (London’s ENO/Young
Vic), King Lear (TFANA), The Library (The
Public Theater, directed by Steven Soderbergh), Ayad Akhtar’s The Invisible Hand
(2015 Henry Hewes Design Award, NYTW),
La Mouette (Cour D’Honneur, Avignon Festival), Châtelet Paris, Opera de Nice France,
Oslo National Theater, The Dead (Abbey Theatre Dublin), Teatro Real Madrid. Yale School
of Drama.
(Costume Designer) Off-Broadway: Red
Speedo, Nat Turner in Jerusalem (NYTW);
Hamlet, Teenage Dick, Pretty Hunger (Public
Theater); War (Lincoln Center Theater/LCT3);
O, Earth (Foundry Theatre). Upcoming: The
Bluest Eye (Guthrie Theater), Orange Julius
(Rattlestick Theater), Madiba (Kennedy
Center), Ghost Light (Lincoln Center Theatre/
LCT3). Education: Oberlin College & Conservatory of Music, Brown University, Yale
School of Drama.
(Lighting Designer) is a Beijing-born, Parisraised and Brooklyn-based lighting designer
for theater, opera, music and dance. Yi is
pleased to make his Signature Theatre debut.
Recent & upcoming: Revolt. She Said. Revolt
Again., FUTURITY (Soho Rep.), Red Speedo
(New York Theatre Workshop), When The
Rain Stops Falling (Wilma Theater), Ouroboros Trilogy (Cutler Majestic in Boston), Henry
IV Part 1, The Winter’s Tale (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), Romeo & Juliet, The Christians (Dallas Theater Center), War, Assassins
(Yale Repertory Theatre), The Bluest Eye
(Guthrie Theatre). Recipient, 2016 Vilcek Prize
for Creative Promise in Theatre.
(Sound Designer) Select credits include
Off-Broadway: Friend Art (Second Stage Uptown); Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. (Soho
Rep); A Delicate Ship (Playwrights Realm);
I Am The Wind (59E59); The Film Society
(Keen Company). Regional: Romance Novels
for Dummies (Williamstown); Tiger Style! (Alliance); Women Laughing Alone With Salad,
Cherokee, and Guards at the Taj (Woolly
Mammoth); Moment, Sorry, Regular Singing, Bad Jews and Edgar & Annabel (Studio
Theatre); Twelfth Night (Center Stage); Pride
in the Falls of Autrey Mill (Signature Theatre DC). National Tour: Remarkably Normal
(Advocates for Youth). MFA: Yale School of
Drama. Love to Mom, Dad, and Ryan.
(Projection Designer) Hannah is a visual
artist and projection designer whose work
spans theater, opera, music and installation.
Recent designs include: Revolt. She Said.
Revolt Again. (Soho Rep.), A Proust Sonata
(Wortham Center), Angel’s Bone (Prototype
Festival), The Wreckers (Bard SummerScape
Opera). Albany Symphony’s American Music
Festival (EMPAC), architectural projection design for La Celestina (Metropolitan Museum),
The World is Round (BAM; Obie Award),
Livin’ La Vida Imelda (Ma-Yi Theatre Company), Dear Elizabeth (Yale Rep & Berkeley
Rep), Strange Tales of Liaozhai and My Life
in a Nutshell (HERE Arts Center). Her video
installations have been exhibited in London,
Brighton, Glasgow, and Prague.
(Wigs) Cookie Jordan is an Emmy
nominated make up designer for her
make up design of the Wiz live on NBC.
Broadway: Eclipsed, Side Show, After
Midnight, Fela, A View From the Bridge,
Mother ..#** With the Hat, South Pacific.
Off-Broadway: Marie and Rosetta, Troilus
and Cressida (Shakespeare in the Park), The
Total Bent, King Lear, Familiar, Eclipsed, Hir,
Cloud Nine, Skeleton Crew, Gloria, Liquid
Plain, Hurt Village, An Octoroon, Angels
in America. Tours: Fela, (National tour)
Fela, (European Tour) Dirty Dancing, Flash
Dance (National tour). Television: Makeup
designer NBC The Wiz Live.
(Choreographer) It’s his second season at
The Signature Theatre! Credits: The Sandbox, Drowning, and Funnyhouse of a Negro
(Signature) Directed by Lila Neugebauer.
He is the artistic director of dance theater
ensemble THE FEATH3R THEORY and a
company member of Reggie Wilson/ Fist and
Heel Performance Group. Featured as one of
Dance Magazine’s ‘On The Rise’ Choreographers; 2016 New York Foundation for the Arts
Fellow for choreography; received the 2016
Solange MacArthur Award for New Choreog-
(Aerial Effects). His career of choreographing flying sequences spans four decades and
he is a member of The Academy of Magical
Arts at The Magic Castle. Broadway: Wicked;
Curtains with David Hyde Pierce; Frozen; The
Pirate Queen; Cathy Rigby in Peter Pan; Kiss
Me, Kate; Doctor Zhivago; The Green Bird;
Dance of the Vampires; Fiddler on the Roof;
and Saturday Night Fever. International/touring productions: Disney’s The Little Mermaid
(Holland, Moscow, Tokyo and the U.S.), Tori
Amos’ The Light Princess (National Theatre,
London), Evolution touring China, Aladdin,
West Coast premiere of Carrie, 9 to 5, Spamalot, Dora the Explorer LIVE, The SpongeBob
Musical, Seussical the Musical and ScoobyDoo. Twitter @theflyguy
(Production Stage Manager) Signature: Cheri
New York: Indecent (Vineyard Theatre), RED
SPEEDO, Scenes From a Marriage, Belleville,
The Black Eyed (New York Theatre Workshop), Mother Courage, Doctor Faustus, The
Caucasian Chalk Circle, The School for Lies,
The Forest (CSC), Futurity (Soho Rep/Ars
Nova), Washeteria, We are Proud...., Orange,
Hat & Grace (Soho Rep), Pretty Filthy, In the
Footprint, Paris Commune, The Great Immensity (Civilians), The Designated Mourner,
In Darfur, (Public Theater), Garden of Earthly
Delights , Angel Reapers (Conceived by
Martha Clarke) (Signature),. Select Regional:
Wild Swans (ART/ Young Vic), Oedipus,
A Midsummer Night’s Dream, La Dispute,
The Sound of a Voice (ART). Usual Suspect
(NYTW), Associate Artist, The Civilians
(Assistant Stage Manager) Off-Broadway/
NYC: Chéri (Signature); Here Lies Love (Public; consultant for National Theatre, London
production); Antlia Pneumatica, Detroit,
Maple and Vine, The Shaggs…, Kin, After the
Revolution (Playwrights Horizons); Pretty
Filthy (Civilians); HERE; Atlantic; Target Margin; Rattlestick; Cherry Lane; Clubbed Thumb;
DreamWorks. Regional: Gotta Dance (preBroadway tryout, Chicago); Orpheus Descending (Provincetown Tennessee Williams
Theatre Festival); two seasons at Barrington
Stage. Opera: world premieres of The Last
Hotel (Royal Opera House, Edinburgh International Festival, Dublin Theatre Festival,
St. Ann’s Warehouse), The Ouroboros
Trilogy: Gilgamesh, Naga, Madame White
Snake (Beth Morrison Projects), Thumbprint,
Sumeida’s Song (PROTOTYPE). Ryan is a
proud member of AEA.
(Assistant Director) Candis Jones is a theatre
director and devised artist. She is the founder
of Theater Yin Yin, an interdisciplinary theater
collaborative. Recent credits include TEMBO!
(DAT Tanzania, Zanzibar International Film
Festival), The Tale of Chef Kale (United Solo
Festival), Daughters of the Bayou (Weeksville
Heritage Center, Theater Yin Yin), Vinyl Love
Affair (Theater Yin Yin), Itagua Meji (National
Black Theatre). She is the recipient of the NY
Women’s Foundation Directing Apprenticeship Lilly Award, a current Drama League Fellow, and an associate of the Stage Directors
and Choreographers Union. BFA: NYU Tisch
Learn about a work’s inspiration, ask questions of its creators, and deepen your understanding
of the artistic process and the role of a theatre artist at the Center and beyond.
Our free supplemental programming includes:
Learn about the process of putting on a production, what
it’s like to play the characters, what goes on behind the
scenes, and much more in this post-show Q&A session
with the cast and creative team. Talkbacks brought to
you by American Express.
Hear the full story on how artists transform an idea into
a play through a moderated discussion with members of
the Artistic Team.
Delve into the context of a Signature playwright’s work
by discussing a related book or play and explore theatre’s
connection to other art forms through a guided discussion with Signature’s literary staff.
Get an inside look at the mechanics behind the magic in
this pre-show discussion with one of the show’s designers. Learn how design shapes the audience experience
and transforms a production.
Explore cultural themes in the play and gain insight into
the intellectual context for the work in this moderated
discussion, featuring a panel of scholars, experts and artists.
Dig deep into the relationship of multiple artists to understand how their creative dynamic has changed over time
in this pre-show conversation between longtime artistic
(Post-show on the Diamond Stage)
Tuesday, November 1st
Thursday, November 17th
Tuesday, November 22nd
Tuesday, November 29th
Wednesday, November 16th
Costume Designer Montana Blanco
Thursday, November 10th
Playwright Suzan-Lori Parks and Director Lileana Blain-Cruz
Signature Theatre exists to honor and celebrate the playwright.
Founded in 1991 by James Houghton, Signature makes an extended commitment to a playwright’s body of work, and during
this journey the writer is engaged in every aspect of the creative process. By championing in-depth explorations of a playwright’s body of work, Signature delivers an intimate and immersive journey into the playwright’s singular vision. Signature
serves its mission through its permanent home at The Pershing
Square Signature Center, a three-theatre facility on West 42nd
Street designed by Frank Gehry Architects to host Signature’s
three distinct playwrights’ residencies and foster a cultural community. At the Center, opened in January 2012, Signature continues its founding Playwright-in-Residence model as Residency
One, a first-of-its-kind, intensive exploration of a single writer’s
body of work. Residency Five, the only program of its kind, was
launched at the Center to support multiple playwrights as they
build bodies of work by guaranteeing each writer three productions over a five-year period. The Legacy Program, launched
during Signature’s 10th Anniversary, invites writers from both
residencies back for productions of premiere or earlier plays.
The Pershing Square Signature Center is a major contribution
to New York City’s cultural landscape and provides a venue for
cultural organizations that supports and encourages collaboration among artists throughout the space. In addition to its
three intimate theatres, the Center features a studio theatre, a
rehearsal studio and a public café, bar and bookstore. Through
the Signature Ticket Initiative: A Generation of Access, Signature has also made an unprecedented commitment to making
its productions accessible by underwriting the cost of the initial
run tickets, currently priced at $30, through 2031. Signature
has presented entire seasons of the work of Edward Albee, Lee
Blessing, Horton Foote, María Irene Fornés, Athol Fugard, John
Guare, A. R. Gurney, David Henry Hwang, Bill Irwin, Adrienne
Kennedy, Tony Kushner, Romulus Linney, Charles Mee, Arthur
Miller, Sam Shepard, Paula Vogel, Naomi Wallace, August Wilson, Lanford Wilson and a season celebrating the historic Negro
Ensemble Company. Signature’s current Residency One playwright is Suzan-Lori Parks; current Residency Five playwrights
are Annie Baker, Martha Clarke, Will Eno, Katori Hall, Quiara
Alegría Hudes, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Kenneth Lonergan and
Regina Taylor; and current Legacy Playwright is Athol Fugard.
Signature was the recipient of the 2014 Regional Theatre Tony
Award®, and its productions and resident writers have been
recognized with the Pulitzer Prize, Lucille Lortel Awards, Obie
Awards, Drama Desk Awards, AUDELCO Awards, among many
other distinctions. For more information, please visit