Part of the Three Rivers Arts Festival, June 3rd-12th
At the Trust Arts Education Center, 805 Liberty Avenue, 4th floor
Festival coordinator: R. M. Lawrence
PPTCO’s signature Theatre Festival in Black & White returns with a selection of short plays, each paired with a director from a different background. The festival originally paired white playwrights with Black directors, and vice versa, but has expanded to bring together playwrights and directors who may have different religions, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, or access/disability needs, for example. This year’s festival will also be an opportunity to showcase the talents who have been participating in our Ground Up Theatre training program, making the event a true building block of theatric development in Pittsburgh.
Co-presented with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust as part of the Three Rivers Arts Festival, and free to the public! Each of the two programs includes three one-act plays, and each program runs about 90 minutes. See the schedule here.
Order in the House
By Daphne Salter-Austin
Directed by Lissa Brennan
|Nicole Harper||Tracey D. Turner|
|Malik Harper||Damon Oliver|
|Raymond Turner||David Minniefield|
|Frostee Turner||Lynnelle Goins|
Setting: The home of Nicole Harper.
The Harper family finds itself trying to cope with the sudden loss of the patriarch of the family. The grief is even more complicated as they have to say goodbye in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic when they realize he failed to leave his house in order.
By August Wilson
Directed by Matthew Southers Jr.
|Mr. Collins||Mark Whitehead|
Sam, a mature gentleman janitor of a hotel, conjures a searing speech of lived experiences while on the job to an audience of none. Inspired by an advertisement for the “National Conference on Youth”, he expounds on the deception of youth and maturity and the bridge between mortality and bitterness.
The Political Evolution of Butterbean the YouTube Star
By Matt Henderson
Directed by Kim El
Setting: A kitten’s playroom, present day.
Butterbean is an adorable kitten whose owner loves making syrupy YouTube videos of him. But the more Butterbean’s political awareness grows, the more Butterbean leverages the power of YouTube to wake up his fellow citizens. A revolution may be at hand.
Inside My Hijab
By Tabaraka Benion
Directed by Amy Landis
|Mahasin Dawud||C. Adaeze Obiekezie|
|Chanie Benion/Ebony||Candace Michelle Walker|
|Henry Stallworth/Thomas||Calvin Brookins|
|Ruth/Dr. Mohammed||Christine Starkey|
A collection of Mahasin’s life stories and challenges of being a Black, Muslim woman in America. Her stories include memories of 9/11, embarrassing incidents at TSA, and misconceptions about her Islamic religion, told over the underscore of music and visuals in this story of resilience and truth.
Miles to Go: Tragedy in a Minor Key
By Charles E. Denk
Directed by R. M. Lawrence
|Older Musician||Les Howard|
|Younger Musician||Adam Seligson|
Setting: A small jazz space in Pittsburgh, present day.
Two musicians, one old, one rising, meet by chance in a Pittsburgh bar. The older, a contributor to the jazz scene of the 1950’s, delivers a colorful but dark warning to the younger musician. Whether tragedy will be the final chorus is unresolved.
Musings Upon the Mending Wall
By Kath Donnelly
Directed by Dan J. Kirk
Two neighbors have just come together to repair a shared fence. They end up questioning why they repeatedly engage in repairing the fence before determining what will be the next step in their relationship.
|Festival Coordinator||R. M. Lawrence|
|Production Stage Manager||Shanita Bivins|
|Sound Designer, Program A||Ben Cain|
|Sound Designers, Program B||Mark Whitehead, SJ Porter|
|Lighting Designer||Rocco Turano|
|Scenic Designer||Mark Clayton Southers|
|Scenic Construction||R. M. Lawrence, Momar Milliones, Mark Clayton Southers|
|Sound Technician||Matthew Southers Jr.|
|Lighting Tech||Shanita Bivins|
|Crew||Kaleb Dulopre, Marcus Carl Southers, Matthew Southers Jr, Andre Southers|
About The Cast
Brittany Boyd (Jennifer in The Political Evolution of Butterbean the YouTube Star) is an actress, writer, and the Owner of Brittany Leanna Productions. She received her undergraduate degree from Howard University, and completed Columbia University’s Summer Art program with a focus on film production. She is thrilled to be back on stage and a part of the Theatre Festival in Black & White!
Calvin Brookins (Henry Stallworth/Thomas in Inside My Hijab) was born and raised in Pittsburgh. Kinda a late bloomer, didn’t start acting until four years ago and acted 2 plays for CCAC. Recently returning to the stage for a few projects and looking forward to more!
Lynnelle Goins (Frostee Turner in Order in the House) is delighted to be performing with the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater Company! She made her acting debut five years ago in Steel Magnolias at the Little Lake Theater. Since then, she has performed with the South Hills Players (Devotional Blackmail), the South Park Theater (Love, Loss, and What I Wore), again at the Little Lake (The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) and several readings for Pittsburgh New Works. Lynnelle is retired from the Information Technology field and enjoyed several years of substitute teaching before retiring full-time. These days, she spends her time tending to her ninety-something mother and otherwise enjoys (in additional to acting) sewing, gardening, cooking, working out, and doing DIY projects around the house.
Les Howard (Older Musician in Miles to Go: Tragedy in a Minor Key) is an accomplished actor, beginning his acting career many years ago as a member of the former and prestigious D.C. Black Repertory Company, founded by actor Robert Hooks, in Washington, D.C. Les has had many fine performances, here in Pittsburgh, for such theaters as Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater Co., New Horizon Theater, Gargaro Productions and the former Kuntu Repertory Theater. Les may be best remembered as “Turnbo” in PPTCO’s highly successful production of August Wilson’s Jitney and as “The Great Father” in Pittsburgh Festival Opera’s critically acclaimed production of A Gathering of Sons, both directed by Mark Clayton Southers. Les also produced and hosted his own local public access television show entitled The Howard Entertainment Showcase.
Lena Michelle (Server in Miles to Go: Tragedy in a Minor Key) is excited to make her acting debut in the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre presentation of Miles to Go. Lena credits her drama experience from being a single mom and 30 years of selling high-end real estate to domestic and foreign markets. She thanks her family for their love and support.
David Minniefield (Raymond Turner in Order in the House) has been a working actor/director/teaching artist the past 20 years. Dabbing in commercials, music videos, film, working with just about every theatre in the city, This is his second bout with the Black and White festival and he is thrilled to be here.
Dellen Morton (Abe in Musings Upon the Mending Wall) has been in performing arts since high school. Since then he has performed at McKeesport Little Theater in several plays. Dellen would like to thank Mark, Dan, Jordan, and Ranney for being incredible and bringing out the best in him. He also thanks his family and friends.
C. Adaeze Obiekezie (Chanie Benion/Ebony in Inside My Hijab) is a Pittsburgh-raised, Nigeria-born actress. She received a B.S. in Psychology and Acting Minor from California University of Pennsylvania. Still green to Pittsburgh professional theatre, she hopes to continue to participate in meaningful storytelling like Inside My Hijab that impacts the greater community!
Damon Oliver Jr. (Malik Harper in Order in the House) is elated to be performing with the Three Rivers Arts Festival in Order In the House! This is Damon’s very first production with The Playwrights Theatre Festival in Black & White. They’ve had the pleasure of working with theater companies such as Saltworks Theatre Company, Viral Ventures, and Pittsburgh Musical Theatre. They were also a choreographer for Allegheny Traditional Academy’s production of Peter Pan Jr. Their most recent performance was Simon Zealotes in Jesus Christ Superstar (PMT). Other credits include: Hook and Peter Peter Pan Cocktail Experience (Viral Ventures), Zanna in Zanna, Don’t! (Small, But Mighty Theatre Co.), Actor educator (Saltworks).
“ranney” (Sam in The Janitor; director of Miles to Go: Tragedy in a Minor Key; festival coordinator) has five decades in the performing arts as a multi-disciplinarian. Acting credits include Marc (Art, Shakespeare & Company) Polonius/Gravedigger, Toledo, Troy Maxson (Hamlet; Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom; Fences. Cincinnati Shakespeare Company); Sterling, Hambone (Two Trains Running; Radio Golf. American Stage Company.); King Hedley, Chutes & Ladders (Seven Guitars; Water By the Spoonful. Nevada Conservatory Theatre); Boy Willie (The Piano Lesson. Center Theatre Co.); Adriana/Antipholis/others (The Bomb-itty of Errors. American Stage, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, The Helix in Dublin, Ireland, and Ambassadors Theatre in London’s West End). Known backstage as R. M. Lawrence, his directing credits include Joe Popp’s Maxwell: the Rock Musical (Jobsite Theatre, Tampa; Galapagos Art Space, New York); Avant-Bard (Acrosstown Repertory Theatre – Gainesville, Florida); The Birds (a musical adaptation of Aristophanes’ comedy – Polk State College); and Jack in the Beanstalk (“ranney”s musical adaptation of the Charles Ludlam script- Polk State College); and work for the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre’s Ray Werner Festival. As a comedian, he has headlined internationally and shared billing with Martin Lawrence, Chris Rock, and Paul Mooney. Nine one man shows include And the Horse You Rode In On (Projects Arts Centre, Dublin), Whatever (People’s Improv Theater, New York), Incendiary (The Straz Center, Tampa), and Cufflinks and Jolly Ranchers for Dummies (Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Scotland). www.itsranney.com
Jo Rodriguez (Bea in Musings Upon the Mending Wall), a Pittsburgh native, continues her career in entertainment as an actor and a stand-up comedian. After years of study as a Straight Theater major at Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12 and a diverse acting resume that highlights over twelve years of experience, Jo is excited to be on stage amongst all of our talented actors and is grateful for the opportunity to bring Musings Upon the Mending Wall to life.
Adam Seligson (Butterbean in The Political Evolution of Butterbean the YouTube Star; Younger Musician in Miles to Go: Tragedy in a Minor Key) is thrilled to be back and performing with Pittsburgh Playwrights. He most recently performed with Prime Stage Theatre in Arsenic and Old Lace, and the last show he did with Pittsburgh Playwrights was In The Heat Of The Night. He hopes you enjoy the festival!
Christine Starkey (Ruth/Dr. Mohammed in Inside My Hijab) is excited to be back on stage after a 2-year pandemic hiatus and for her first time with PPTCO’s signature festival. Actress of stage and screen, The Other Side (2014) and The Clearing (2021) are her feature film credits, and 12 Peers Theater, Bricolage Production Company, PICT Classic Theatre and Uncumber Theatrics are among the theater companies she’s worked with.
Tracey D. Turner (Nicole Harper in Order in the House), SAG/AFTRA, a Carnegie Mellon University alumnus, was named Actress of the Year in 1997 by In Pittsburgh Newsweekly for her portrayal of Prospero in the timespace production of William Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Other stage credits include Mrs. Prentice in Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner for the Winnipesaukee Playhouse in Meredith, New Hampshire. Minnie Kincaid in Lifting for Kuntu Repertory Theatre, Stella Marr in Racing Demon for Pittsburgh Irish and Classical Theatre, Gertrude in Hamlet and Alcandre in The Illusion for Pittsburgh Theater Laboratory, and Peggy Clark in Blue and Jo Billie Massey in Sassy Mamas for New Horizon Theater. She appeared in Fahrenheit 451, A Lesson Before Dying, and 1984 for Prime Stage Theatre, Ruined and Home for The Entertainment Consortium, and The Voyages of Sinbad and As You Like It for The Steel City Shakespeare Center. She was the Artistic Director of I Dream A World, Inc., a non-profit educational touring company, and was Artist in Residence and Assistant Coordinator of the Friendship Academy after school program. Ms. Turner was a teaching artist at Point Park University, where she appeared in productions of Hamlet, Anton in Show Business, and Halcyon Days. Ms. Turner’s film credits include Lionsgate’s The Last Witch Hunter with Vin Diesel, Wonder Boys, and Boys on the Side. She was host of The 5-Star Ethnic Show and Shopping Pittsburgh for Comcast Cable Channel FYI. She has appeared in numerous commercials, industrial and independent films, and billboard campaigns.
Candace Michelle Walker (Chanie Benion/Ebony in Inside My Hijab), a Pittsburgh-born actor and teaching artist, is portraying three characters of various ages and backgrounds in Inside My Hijab, by Tabaraka Benion. Walker is best known for her role as “Black Mary” in Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater Company’s production of Gem of the Ocean by August Wilson (2019).
About The Playwrights
Tabaraka Benion (playwright of Inside My Hijab) is a PA native, poet, social media content creator, foodie connoisseur, & founder of her blog The Hijabi Courier. Her theater experience includes working with PPTCO (2013), Kim El Kuumba Productions (2013), D.C. Black Theatre Festival (2014) & ICNA (2017 & 2018).
Charles E. Denk (playwright of Miles to Go: Tragedy in a Minor Key) is a playwright, photographer, guitarist, and singer. Born in big-shouldered Chicago, he now lives in Pittsburgh’s heady East End. His one-act theatrical productions in NYC and New Jersey explored the arts (Exhibit This!), romance (Lightning, Twice?), and politics (George W Bush, Commissioner of Baseball). 12 Peers Theatre in Pittsburgh has staged his Bone Wars (2018) and Murder Discorporated (2019) in their Mythburgh series. Look for future projects at ChuckDenkPlaywright.com.
Kath Donnelly (playwright of Musings Upon the Mending Wall) has worked as an actress, director, and playwright, and taught creative writing at Rogers/Pittsburgh CAPA for 19 years. Her play Upon a Sea of Dreams (Theatrefolk.com) has been performed throughout the US and Canada. Also a fiction writer, her story Two Degrees, which imagines the future effects of climate change on Pittsburgh, was recently published by GaiaLit (gaialit.weebly.com/issue-two).
Matt Henderson’s (playwright of The Political Evolution of Butterbean the YouTube Star) produced plays include Existence and the Single Girl, Strutting and Fretting, Candy Likes Your Status, A Long Walk on the Beach, The Roar of the Crowd, and The Most Epic Awesomest Superhero Movie Ever. His work has been published by Smith & Kraus and Original Works Publishing.
Daphne Salter-Austin (playwright of Order in the House) began writing plays at church for her teen Sunday School students to make biblical teachings more relevant to them. Daphne found her students became more engaged and eager to learn when the Arts were incorporated into the lessons. Daphne is the Director of the Drama Ministry at St. James A.M.E Church in Pittsburgh and has been employed 33 years as a Medical Social Worker at West Penn Hospital and is a licensed Massage Therapist. Because of her interest in healthcare, Daphne has used her playwriting to educate the community about issues such as domestic violence, teen dating violence, the trauma of gun violence, grief, overcoming the stigma of mental illness in the black community and the effects of diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer and prostate cancer that all culminate with a talk back discussion led by health care professionals. Daphne describes her work as Edu-drama with the goal to educate through the use of drama. Her play No Winners was the 2016 winner of the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Festival in Black & White.
August Wilson (April 27, 1945 – October 2, 2005; playwright of The Janitor) authored Gem of the Ocean, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars, Fences, Two Trains Running, Jitney, King Hedley II, and Radio Golf. These works, collectively The American Century Cycle, explore the heritage and experience of the descendants of Africans brought to North America, decade-by-decade, over the course of the twentieth century. His works garnered many awards including two Pulitzer Prizes, a Tony Award for Fences, Olivier Awards, and seven New York Drama Critics Circle Awards. Mr. Wilson’s early works included the one-act plays The Janitor, Recycle, The Coldest Day of the Year, Malcolm X, The Homecoming, and the musical satire Black Bart and the Sacred Hills. He is considered one of America’s finest playwrights.
About The Directors
Lissa Brennan (director of Order in the House) is a longtime collaborator with Pittsburgh Playwrights, and has previously been part of the Festival in Black & White as an actor, director, and playwright, sometimes all at one time. She couldn’t be happier with her creative team and is delighted to share their work with you.
Kim El (director of The Political Evolution of Butterbean the YouTube Star) is an award-winning Pittsburgh playwright and director. She has her Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Journalism from Duquesne University. Memberships include The Dramatist Guild, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority and The New Pittsburgh Courier’s 50 Women of Excellence. Kim has written 20 plays and is best known for the production of her one-woman show, Straightening Combs.
Dan J. Kirk (director of Musings Upon the Mending Wall) is pleased to rejoin the Black and White Festival. Directing credits include Carousel, Fahrenheit 451, Shadow Box, others. Dan’s novel, Between the Innings, was published in 2017 (Pocol Press), and his original play, Parlour Games, was produced in 2018 (Presto Players). He thanks his family for their constant lovelight.
Amy Landis (director of Inside My Hijab) has directed seven of Shakespeare’s plays and numerous one acts: Pittsburgh Public Theater Summer Intensives; one act plays of Tennessee Williams, Christopher Durang and John Patrick Shanley; CMU School of Music. Recent acting: Murder On The Orient Express, Sweat, Black Ballerina & Tartuffe (Pittsburgh Public Theater). Training: A.R.T. Institute at Harvard University.
R. M. Lawrence (director of Miles to Go: Tragedy in a Minor Key; festival coordinator; Sam in The Janitor) See actor bio under “ranney”.
Matthew Southers Jr. (director of The Janitor) is an eager kid from Pittsburgh PA who acquired a love for acting early on by helping out at his uncle’s theatre. This interest led to Matt auditioning and landing his first principal role on Netflix’s Mindhunter Season 2. He has since attended acting classes, been in three one-act plays, learned hip hop & ballroom dancing while also becoming a deejay.
About The Crew
Festival Coordinator | R. M. Lawrence (See actor bio under “ranney”.)
Scenic Designer & Producing Artistic Director | Mark Clayton Southers and his family of five reside in Pittsburgh’s historic Hill District. He is an award-winning playwright, photographer, scenic designer, theatrical producer and stage director. He is the founder and producing Artistic Director of the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company where he has produced well over 150 full-length and one-act plays, including August Wilson’s complete ten-play American Century Cycle. Mr. Southers is a published poet and playwright as well. His play Ma Noah was the recipient of the 2004 Theodore Ward prize at Columbia College, Chicago. His poem play Angry Black Man Poetry aka End Angered Species had a successful run at Teatr Śląski in Katowice, Poland in 2009. His play Miss Julie, Clarissa and John was featured at the 2017 National Black Theatre Festival and also had a three week run at the 2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland. He was the Artistic Director for the 2016 year-long August Wilson Festival at Short North Stage in Columbus Ohio. Mark is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, a board member of the August Wilson House and the former Artistic Director of the August Wilson Center in Pittsburgh PA. www.markclaytonsouthers.com
Production Stage Manager | Shanita Bivins has stage managed three August Wilson plays (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Seven Guitars and King Hedley II) and is happy to be back, working on this Pittsburgh premiere. Shanita is Pittsburgh born and raised, and grew up on the Northside. After spending the last few years on and behind the stage, she has learned so much and gained much-appreciated experience. Following this production, she will be continuing her passions of acting, producing, and stage managing.
Sound Designer, Program A | Ben Cain is an actor and sound designer. He is a huge fan and family member of PPTCO who is always honored to work with this company and Mark Southers. As an actor he can be seen on Bel-Air on Peacock, Long Slow Exhale on Spectrum/BET and coming in June to Lifetime in Buried in Barstow. Doing sound design is a passion that has grown over the years and he looks forward to doing more.
Sound Designer, Program B | Mark Whitehead is the founder of Saints & Poets Theater, for which he produced and directed the world premiere of Christiane D’s Saffronia, and the local premieres of Sam Shepard’s The Late Henry Moss and Donald Freed’s Secret Honor: The Last Testament of Richard M. Nixon. Other directing credits include 4-H Club, Insignificance, Comfort Zone, The Revenants, Cry Havoc, Taking Sides, and Fool for Love. Mark has served as Resident Sound Designer for The Unseam’d Shakespeare Company, The Jewish Theatre of Pittsburgh and currently PPTCO. Mark’s sound traveled to the 2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe in PPTCO’s production of Miss Julie, Clarissa and John. Mark was a founding producer of The Dark Night Cabaret performance series and has produced and directed music videos for several local bands. He recently portrayed Sturdyvant in PPTCO’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, as well as designing sound for the show.
Sound Designer, Program B | SJ Porter
Lighting Designer | Rocco Turano
PPTCO Staff and Board
See our staff and board members here.
Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company thanks the following for supporting our season of plays and special projects:
Allegheny Regional Asset District
The Heinz Endowments
Advancing Black Arts in Pittsburgh
The Opportunity Fund
Pennsylvania Council on the Arts
The Pittsburgh Foundation
Richard King Mellon Foundation
Eden Hall Foundation
We also thank our donors! Click for a complete list, and learn how to become a PPTCO donor.