BY JAVIER BUSTILLOS
After winning the 2014 Oscar for her performance in 12 Years a Slave, the fabulous Lupita Nyong’o (pictured above) is back big time on the big screen playing the mother of a Ugandan chess prodigy in Queen of Katwe. Since Slave, Nyong’o had only worked in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and in the remake of The Jungle Book, where she was the voice of mother wolf Raksha. A graduate of the Yale School of Drama, she made her Broadway debut earlier this year in the critically acclaimed play Eclipsed, for which she received a Tony nomination. Born in Mexico City to Kenyan parents, Lupita (diminutive of Guadalupe) is fluent in Spanish.
The Paul Robeson Theatre opens its 2016-17 (49th) season on September 30th with August Wilson’s Jitney. Set in the early 1970s (the eighth work in Wilson’s American Century Cycle), the play follows a group of men trying to make a living by driving unlicensed cabs, or jitneys. Directed by Willie Judson, the production will star Fisher, Andy Finley, Christina Foster, Johnny Rowe, Leon Copeland, Charles Everhart, Roosevelt Tidwell, and Al Garrison.
Incidentally, Jitney is the only one of two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Wilson’s plays that has never been on Broadway, until now. Manhattan Theatre Club will present the play beginning December 28th to be directed by Buffalo’s Ruben Santiago-Hudson. Jitney was produced in New York, off-Broadway in 2000 starring Stephen McKinley Henderson as Turnbo. Henderson stars in the movie adaptation of Wilson’s Fences which is scheduled to open December 25th. The movie is already generating quite a bit of Oscar buzz. Henderson received a Tony nomination for his performance in the 2010 Broadway revival.
Theatre of Youth (TOY) will kick off its 45th season on October 1st with Fancy Nancy: The Musical, adapted from the series of books by Jane O’Connor. Directed and choreographed by Michael Walline, the production will star Sarah Blewett, Dominique Kempf, Matt Gilbert, Sara Marioles Mitch, Jenny McCabe, and Hannah Sharp. TOY is dedicating its season (The Founders Season) to Rosalind Cramer and the late Toni Smith Wilson, who founded the company in 1972.
Now, for something a bit different this coming holiday season, Road Less Traveled will present a world premiere adaptation by John Hurley of Charles Dickens’s The Chimes: A Goblin Story. Directed by Hurley, the production opens December 2nd and it will star Andrea Andolina, Gerry Maher, Lisa Vitrano and Nick Lama. The Chimes was published one year after A Christmas Carol, and takes place on New Year’s Eve. Hurley is the Associate Artistic Director of Road Less Traveled.
Betsy Carmichael’s Bingo Palace enjoyed a successful run at the 7th Annual Chicago Fringe Festival, where it was voted Most Anticipated Show. Betsy will return this holiday season to O’Connell & Company with her new show, The Betsy Carmichael Christmas Special, opening November 16th, starring Jerry Mosey, Corey Bieber, Adam M Wall and Betsy Carmichael.
Matthew Crehan Higgins’s new play Christmas in July will premiere on October 14th at the Alleyway, presented by BUA. Directed by Lisa Ludwig, the production will star Higgins, Kevin Craig, Kurt Erb, Marc Sacco, and Michael Seitz. The play has the distinction of having been written specifically for those five actors in mind. In January 2017, BUA turns 25 and will present the regional premiere of the gay comedy Steve, directed by Jessica K. Rasp. Save the date: Sunday, January 29th, BUA’s Birthday Bash.
Gary Earl Ross’s Artie Award-winning play The Mark of Cain had a staged reading at the Castillo Theatre in New York City last August. His Artie-nominated play The Scavenger’s Daughter will have a full production at New Origins Theatre in Atlanta next March. Always keeping busy, his novel Nickel City Blues will be out at the end of January.
Also keeping busy, Buffalo’s A.R. Gurney will have two new one-acts premiere at The Flea Theater in New York. Billed as Two Class Acts, the plays include Squash and Ajax. The production opens in October.
The fabulous Michele Ragusa is currently starring as Domina in the musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum at the Geva Theatre in Rochester. The production runs through November 6th.
Playwright Edward Albee (pictured below) died on Curtain Up day at age 88. The first time I met him, I told him how my life had changed when I first read Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? when I was 14. He said “I’m so sorry”.