Tony- and Obie Award-winning playwright and performer Sarah Jones is known for her humorous yet delicately humane treatment of a variety of multicultural characters. After deciding to drop out of college, Jones began birthing her astute characterizations of society’s often most marginalized citizens on spoken word platforms. After a slew of successful shows that included Surface Transit, Women Can’t Wait! and the immensely popular Bridge and Tunnel that was produced by Meryl Streep for Broadway, Jones will soon be unveiling a new thought-provoking piece. Described by the “New York Times” as “A Master of the Genre,” Jones combines intense research with natural talent to create her characters. According to her website,
For all of Sarah’s character development she conducts extensive research, including close studies of people from diverse backgrounds in the environments in which they live, work, and play. From the townships in South Africa to the beaches of Brazil; from schoolyards in the Bronx to barber shops in Los Angeles to the halls of government in Washington, DC, Sarah travels with an eye and ear toward creating characters and writing stories that transcend stereotypes. The product of a multicultural family and upbringing—her background ranges from African American on her father’s side to an Irish-German American grandmother and a Caribbean American grandfather on her mother’s side—Sarah is passionate about the humanity of all her characters and discovering the specific details that make each person unique. By carefully incorporating authentic aspects of the cultural style, accent, dialect, and physicality of real individuals, Sarah aims to construct and bring to life recognizable, multifaceted characters and narratives based on their experiences and beliefs.
http://www.ted.com In this hilariously lively performance, actress Sarah Jones channels an opinionated elderly Jewish woman, a fast-talking Dominican college student and more, giving TED2009 just a sample of her spectacular character range. TEDTalks is a daily video podcast of the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world’s leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes.
Sell/Buy/Date explores the topics of human trafficking and the sex industry. In her typical genius style, Jones conjures five characters in her one-woman show. The characters examine how people of the future may interpret modern attitudes towards gender, sexuality, and sex work. According to the event description,
Sell/Buy/Date is an exuberant new play inspired by the real-life experiences of people affected by the commercial sex industry. Through her masterful, multicultural characterizations, Jones explores an array of diverse perspectives on a fascinating and incendiary subject, all while preserving the full humanity and humor of voices seldom heard in the theater.
Sell/Buy/Date, written and performed by Jones, is directed by Carolyn Cantor. A first look production is being presented by special arrangement with Manhattan Theatre Club by New York Live Arts January 6-10 and 12-16 at 7:30 pm and January 9 & 16 at 2 pm. The tickets to the workshop start at $25 and can be purchased here.
@jonesarah brings first look of new work, Sell/Buy/Date, to #livearts. Don’t miss it! https://t.co/vPQ0o7z2tW
The show will have its world premiere at the Manhattan Theatre Club. Previews for the show will begin Tuesday, September 27, 2016 with opening night scheduled for Tuesday, October 18, 2016. For ticket information, click here.
We Were There: Sojourners & Her Portmanteau
[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.
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”, 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]
Our Story in 2 Plays for 1 Price: Mfoniso Udofia’s Sojourners & Her Portmanteau
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.
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.
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.