Connect with us

A Must See

In Conversation: With Regina Taylor, Award-Winning Playwright And Actress

Broadway Black

Published

on

Regina Taylor is an award-winning playwright and actress, with a career spanning all mediums (film, TV, and stage). Perhaps best known for her work on the television series “I’ll Fly Away” (a role for which she won a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a TV Series, Drama), Regina also appeared in the four season run of CBS’ “The Unit.” Her film career is varied and includes projects like “Lean On Me,” Spike Lee’s “Clockers,” “Losing Isaiah,” and “The Negotiator.” An accomplished playwright, Regina is currently a member of Signature Theatre’s Residency Five (a unique program that guarantees each playwright three world-premiere productions of new plays over the course of a five-year residency) with the likes of Katori Hall, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, Will Eno, and Martha Clarke, among others. (“Amazing writers, amazing voices!” she told us.) Taylor’s critically acclaimed play “Crowns”  continues to be one of the most performed musicals in the country.

Through Residency Five and Signature Theatre, Regina’s first offering will be a play titled, “stop. reset.” 

Stop.Reset

I had the pleasure of speaking with Regina about “stop. reset.” and her residency at Signature Theatre. She shared that in her play, we follow ‘Alex Ames,’ the owner of Chicago’s oldest African-American book publishing company, on a day in which he is conducting interviews with all of his employees in an effort to see where he can “cut the fat.” In this constantly advancing technology-based generation, ‘Alex’ is forced to take stock of the publishing company he runs, as e-books seem to threaten to knock him out of the game. In an effort to keep his business afloat, he decides to interview his workers to see which of them are obsolete as he figures out how to adapt to the changing landscape. ‘Alex’ meets tech-savvy 19 year-old ‘J,’ a janitor at his company. ‘J’ is the youngest employee, by far, and from there the wheels begin to turn.

Regina informed me that identity is the central theme to “stop. reset.” and that she is honored to have had the opportunity to create this piece especially for Signature Theatre, in an attempt at drawing audiences with a story that “lives both on stage and online.” Over at StopReset.com the dialogue surrounding the play continues.When asked how her Blackness influenced her work, she made it clear that it wasn’t the sole influencing descriptor, and that it, coupled with her being female among other things influences her work because she “writes with (her) whole self.” She also talked about the group of actors cast to give life to her words, and beamed about how they reflect “the community I walk in,” what with them being African-American, Asian-American, white, Latino, etc.

I asked Regina how involved she was with the casting process and whether she liked it or not. She replied that as the writer and director the piece she is very hands on with the casting process, and enjoys it. The cast of “stop. reset.” includes Carl Lumbly (‘Jitney,’ TV’s’ ‘Alias’ and ‘Cagney and Lacey’), LaTanya Richardson Jackson (‘Joe Turner’s Come and Gone,’ ‘The Fighting Temptations’), Teagle Bougere (‘Wings,’ ‘A Raisin in the Sun’), and Ismael Cruz-Cordova (‘Sesame Street’).

“stop. reset.” is set to begin previews at The Romulus Linney Courtyard Theatre (at Signature Theatre) on August 20th, open officially on September 8th, and run (for now) until September 29th! This is a must see show! Make some time to head to the theatre and see this piece.

Advertisement
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. stellafoster

    August 15, 2013 at 8:49 AM

    Great post – cant wait to see show!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

A Must See

We Were There: Sojourners & Her Portmanteau

Jerrica White

Published

on

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Playwright, educator, opera singer, and Queen, Mfoniso Udofia has two plays running at New York Theatre Workshop. *pause* TWO PLAYS. In the SAME season!?!? *ends congratulatory gasp* Sojourners and Her Portmanteau are performed in repertory, as two chapters of Udofia’s sweeping, nine-part saga, The Ufot Cycle.  Admittedly, before researching each show, I didn’t know the definition of either word; and in the spirit of keeping it consistent with the honesty, I didn’t like either play. I loved them.

Sojourners

Minimalism seems to be the name of the game these days.  I sat down to a completely black stage, sans a multimedia display lodged on the ceiling at a 45-degree angle.  Clutching my all white program and bobbing my head to the ‘70s pop rock pre-show music, I prepared my heart for the story of Sojourners, well at least that was the plan.  The stage begins to rotate and we meet Abasiama (Chinasa Ogbuagu) and Ukpong (Hubert Point-Du Jour), Nigerian expatriates sojourning in Houston, Texas with the plan to start a family, earn their degrees, and go back to Nigeria until life happens.

Charming and handsome, Ukpong becomes defined by his leather jacket, shoulder work and shimmy which match the fascination and yearning for freedom that illuminates his eyes every time he talks of peace, protest, and Prince–all shaping his view of 1970s America, and consequently, the American Dream.  But does leather compensate for grit? Is a movement or vibe really a panacea for disappointment, aimlessness, and a need to find yourself?  Abasiama enters the play pregnant, purposed, and outfitted in pieces of Nigerian garb, grounded in duty showing a stark contrast to Ukpong who floats in desire.  What’s lost in your household is found elsewhere, and this is when we start to see, and root for, Abasiama’s transformation from timid to tenacious.

Enter Moxie (Lakisha May), a colorful prostitute turned protector and friend.  There is a mutual respect despite great differences between her and Abasiama, with their love for one another creating moments that make you believe in the beauty of humanity.  Enter Disciple (Chinaza Uche), another warm and determined hearted immigrant who has come to the United States to study, rounding out the timely additions of love, support, and security when Abasiama needed them the most.

Through and through this is Abasiama’s story and she glows.  Her kindness, her sisterhood, her strength, her worthiness, and the realization of her American Dream, guide her decisions—which is the catalyst behind the entire Ufot Cycle.

Her Portmanteau

Her “portmanteau”, or red suitcase, makes a return as 30 years have passed.  Abasiama now has two daughters, one raised in America and the other who has come from Nigeria to reconnect with her family.

This is a good moment to mention that each story is informed by the other, but can certainly stand alone on substance, content, and the amazing direction of Ed Sylvanus Iskandar.  The staging is exciting and deliberate, while minimal, putting the full focus on the tension and growth to be expected of a family reunited after a substantial amount of time and distance.

Chinasa Ogbuagu returns to the stage, this time as the American-born daughter, Adiagha Ufot, Adepero Oduye as Iniabasi Ekpeyoung (Ukpong and Abasiama’s daughter), and Jenny Jules as the mother, Abasiama Ufot.

Seated on a couch in Adiagha’s small New York Apartment, no amount of preparation readies your mind and spirit to form the words to make up for 30 years of life, connection, and memories missed.  We’re taken on a ride of resentment, hurt, love, and forgiveness, as the portmanteau is literally unpacked.  We watch the teeter-tottering between offense and defense as one sister tries to assimilate into American culture, and the other attempts, albeit stubbornly, to fall in formation in honoring a family she shares blood with, but little time or tangible history.

It’s powerful to see a story of history and continuing a legacy despite lost time, faulty promises, and difficult choices explored with an all-woman cast as far too often the idea of legacy is framed in patriarchy.  Jules admirably takes Abasiama through the fire to heal, to feel, and to fix her family.  The narrative allows us to empathize and understand the struggle that comes with upholding family values versus cultivating a space to achieve personal dreams and happiness.

Her Portmanteau (and Sojourners) is written in a way that finds your soul, gently massaging it with humor, while leaving it with very real questions.  I’ve never felt a greater need to binge read nine stories and simultaneously study the story of my own family tree. I left changed. I left wrapped in the strength of my mom and my mom’s- mom’s sacrifice.  I left pensive and with seeds of future forgiveness planted.  I left changed.

For capturing our hearts with wit and with truth.  For putting Black women at the center of a poignant narrative.  For unapologetically telling a story you haven’t seen told and telling it in the way you want it to be told.

We thank you Mfoniso.  We thank you.

Have you seen the #duetplays? Sound off in the comments below![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Continue Reading

A Must See

Our Story in 2 Plays for 1 Price: Mfoniso Udofia’s Sojourners & Her Portmanteau

Jerrica White

Published

on

Last winter, we reported on Sojourners by playwright Mfoniso Udofia, a new play about a Nigerian family who has come to America with the goal of earning a college education, starting a family, and returning to Nigeria. But not without the twists and turns that come along with every plan that seems straightforward.

Image result for Sojourners and Her Portmanteau

Thanks to New York Theatre Workshop, we get to relive this moment and continue the dialogue, decades later, with Her Portmanteau. Performed in repertory, these two chapters of Udofia’s sweeping, nine-part saga, The Ufot Cycle, chronicle the triumphs and losses of the tenacious matriarch of a Nigerian family.

Ed Sylvanus Iskandar directs the two-part story in association with The Playwrights Realm, who premiered Sojourners last winter in a limited engagement world premiere production. Her Portmanteau also received the 2016 Edgerton Foundation New Play Award grant.

The cast includes Jenny JulesLakisha Michelle MayAdepero OduyeChinasa OgbuaguHubert Point-Du Jour, and Chinaza Uche.

As if that wasn’t enough to get excited about, we have an exclusive deal for our Broadway Black readers!

Our Story in 2 Plays for 1 Price!

Yes. That’s two shows for one price! The discount code BWYBLACK will take 50% off tickets to ANY performance(s) if purchased by May 15th! 

Go ahead and grab your tickets. We have ours!

Sojourners and Her Portmanteau plays at NYTW until June 4th.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement

Facebook

Advertisement

Twitter: @BroadwayBlack

Advertisement

Hot Topics