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Fishy Woo Woo program

Fishy Woo Woo

By Monteze Freeland
Directed by Lovell McFadden
At Madison Arts Center, 3401 Milwaukee Street
May 31st – June 15th 2024
World premiere!

Shawn’s best friends will do anything to protect his heart from being broken again. When they accompany Shawn to collect the last of his things from the apartment he once shared with his ex, they discover secrets, lies, and an uninvited guest and make it their mission to keep Shawn oblivious. Fishy Woo Woo is a comedy highlighting friendship, chosen family and a little revenge when the facts stop adding up.

ShawnJason Shavers
CorderoMils James
KadenRoyce Jones
CharCheryl Bates-White
DeniseBrenda Marks


Present-day Atlanta, Georgia, in Jonathan’s Bitch-Ass Apartment.

Playwright’s Note

I imagine you’re sitting in the theater listening to the bomb-ass playlist on the speakers wondering what in the world is a Fishy Woo Woo!? Is it a verb, noun, adjective, or as one person asked, a new spot on the South Side? We’ll get to that a bit later.

First, a little backstory. In 2019, Jared Pascoe, a local talent agent, produced an evening of LGBTQ-themed one-acts and invited me to perform and present any material I had in the works. Fishy Woo Woo rose to the top, as I was eager to write a play about friendship, breakups, and revenge. We presented a scene from the play featuring the brilliant talents of Tru Verret-Fleming, LaTrea Rembert, Malic Maat, and Ameris Carter. The laughter, “mm-hmm’s” and groans told me this play may resonate with others in more ways than I expected. Fast forward to 2023, when Mark Clayton Southers asked if I had a play to be presented in the 2023/2024 PPTCO season. Fishy Woo Woo floated to the top of my mind once again. I dug out the script and reunited with these colorful characters. They were so young and fresh but now the playwright had about five additional years of real life, I mean real life s-h-i-t, to infuse into the world of Shawn, Cordero, and Charlét. Now, I’m pushing 40 and have baggage the size of Aretha’s purse, so it’s time to heal as I do best, in a dark theater in front of an audience.

I looked deep into both my love- and life-journey and finally changed one of the characters to a woman to reflect my real-life gang. Brittany, Lovell, and Teze have been inseparable for the past 25 years since meeting at theatre camp in Baltimore. We’ve gotten into a mess of trouble, triumphs, and relationships through the years, and this play is a culmination of the lessons learned, the tears cried, and the strength of having your good Judy by your side through it all. Our friendship is my most prized possession. Their support, love, and endless shade keep me uplifted and humbled af.

So, what is Fishy Woo Woo? Fine, I made it up. But, in this play, it is the name of this life-bonded friend group. It also represents that feeling deep inside when you know something isn’t right, so you do your good stalking to find the truth and once you do, it’s time for payback. This story is presented through an aging Black queer lens that, in my opinion, isn’t explored enough in modern art. This tale will probably cause you to remember some person who took you to hell and back but guess what? You survived it.

Survival is a word Black queer people know far too well. We survive through a myriad of tactics, masking, humor, and grit. I have made it my responsibility to illustrate that survival through my artistic practices and mediums. Not that we’re monolithic, but many of us can relate to the feeling of being denied whether by family or society, and when we find that group of people who accepts us fully, love us unconditionally, and push us to be our best selves, well I couldn’t make up a phrase to describe that feeling.

Thank you to Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company for continuing to expand their representation of all walks of life on their many stages. My very first time directing in a PPTCO space was ten years ago for the Pride Festival One Acts. It is not lost on me that Fishy Woo Woo marks my first play presented by the company and fittingly during Pride month when we take a little time to celebrate the freedom of being who you are!

The Original Fishy Woo Woos: Teze, Brittany, Lovell

May the Farce Be With You

By Michelle Belan

What makes a comedy a farce? Playwrights have been using humor to entertain us for centuries, but farces are a very specific kind of comedy. Here are nine features of farces you might notice, including some modern twists that Monteze Freeland’s Fishy Woo Woo serves up beautifully. Enjoy!

  1. Absurd plot: Though grounded in reality, the characters find themselves in ridiculous situations that escalate as the play goes along.
  2. Physical humor: Slapstick, pratfalls, and assorted shenanigans ratchet up the laughter.
  3. Exaggerate everything: The personalities of the characters and situations they find themselves in are over-the-top.
  4. Mistaken identities: The more confusion the better as each character gets more and more enmeshed in chaos.
  5. Role-reversal or identity swaps, which inevitably leads to trouble!
  6. Crazy coincidences and unlikely events to drive the plot forward.
  7. Fast pace, rapid-fire events that escalate to a frenzied finish!
  8. Social commentary, satirizing people, institutions, or ideas.
  9. Diversity is a hallmark of modern farce: while a farce might have always used satire to provide social commentary, by employing diverse characters and themes, it may present a snapshot of life that while absurd, is still grounded in a modern reality that speaks a truth the playwright wishes to share with the audience.

About the Cast

Cheryl Bates-White (Char) worked full time as an actor with Saltworks Theater Company for 3 years, traveling all over Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia. Cheryl has the distinction of winning a Donna Award for Best Actress in the New Works Festival, the same award her mother won 20 years earlier. Some of her favorite roles Martha in American Menu with New Horizons, Mary in Ma Noah with Pittsburgh Playwrights, and Mrs. Miller in Doubt with Stage 62. She is grateful to have another opportunity to be on stage performing this awesome show with this amazing cast and crew.

Mils “M. J.” James (Cordero) is an actor, singer, dancer, choreographer, director and teaching artist. A product of Point Park College and Pittsburgh High School for Creative and Performing Arts. He is founding artistic director of Reflections Theatre CO-OP in NYC and has performed all over the world in such productions as Chicken and Biscuits, Blues Is The Roots, Memphis, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Once on This Island, and Do Lord Remember Me, and danced for the Jacobs Campbell Dance company and Forces of Nature in New York. He has also worked alongside Sherman Hemsley, Reggie Kelly, Eileen J. Morris, Renn Woods, Walter Rutledge, Vivian Reed, and Tony award winners Hinton Battle and Billy Porter to name a few. I’m overjoyed to be back in Pittsburgh with my PPTCO FAMILY. Mark Southers, thank you for creating such a special place for stories to be told. Monteze Freeland, thank you for disrupting my life in such a profound way. Ashley, thank you for holding us all the way up❤️. Lovell McFadden your LOVE is a one in a million. Thank you for your vision and your guidance. I dedicate this performance to the 3 humans I share the stage with. I’m nothing without you ❤️❤️❤️❤️F.W.W.

Royce Jones (Kaden) Born and raised in New Kensington, PA, Royce Jones is a multitalented artist, activist and journalist. He graduated from Valley High School before earning his bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism at Point Park University. Prior to pursuing a career in acting, Royce honed his storytelling skills as a seasoned and accomplished reporter for several years. His dedication and advocacy for the community, especially the BPOC and LGBTQ+ communities through his journalism work, helped earn him both a Golden Quill Award and Vann Award as well as an Emmy nomination. Royce has also made a name for himself in the underground and mainstream music scene in Pittsburgh as a DJ and nightlife promoter. Whether on stage, screen, or behind the DJ booth, Royce believes in the healing power of music and storytelling, and hopes everyone who experiences a performance of his leaves feeling refreshed, enlightened and inspired.

Brenda Marks (Denise) has had the privilege of performing within the greater Pittsburgh area for several decades, from the early groundbreaking work of Kuntu Repertory Theatre (founded, led, and directed by the late Dr. Vernell Lillie), to Homewood/Brushton Renaissance Players. She has worked with Starlight Productions, Mountain Playhouse and in recent years with New Horizon and the trailblazing Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre. She would like to thank the many directors who have given her the chance to work, and looks forward to opportunities to work in productions alongside the talented artists that work here.

Jason Shavers (Shawn) is incredibly grateful to be making his Pittsburgh Playwrights debut! Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Jason was last seen onstage in Pittsburgh CLO’s A Musical Christmas Carol. Other favorite past credits include Kinky Boots (Lola), You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown (Snoopy), Choir Boy (Headmaster Marrow), The Rocky Horror Show (Frank-N-Furter), and Dreamgirls (Marty). Jason has also appeared onscreen in the films Not Cool (JayJay) and Fathers & Daughters, as well in commercials for PNC Bank and the Pennsylvania Lottery. Up next: The Color Purple with Pittsburgh CLO later this month. “Many thanks to this amazing cast and crew for the fun while getting fishy and as always, much love to my family and friends for your love and support!” IG: @jayeant

Creative Team & Staff

PlaywrightMonteze Freeland
DirectorLovell McFadden
Stage ManagerAshley Southers
Asst. Stage ManagerSarah “Gracie” Jackson
Scenic DesignerMark C. Southers
Lighting DesignerJason Kmetic
Costume DesignerCheryl El Walker
Makeup & HairCheryl El Walker
Sound DesignerHoward Patterson
Technical DirectorMark Clayton Southers
Scenic PaintingErnest Bey, Lovell McFadden
Master ElectricianPiper Clement
Stage ConstructionMarcus Carl Southers, Charlie Gray, Momar Millions,
Sam Lothard, Mel Colbert & Mark C. Southers
PropsSarah “Gracie” Jackson, Austin Sills
Lighting TechnicianAshley Southers
Sound TechnicianMarcus Carl Southers
CrewSarah “Gracie” Jackson, Charlie Gray

About the Creative Team

Monteze Freeland (Playwright) has worked with PPTCO for many years as an actor, director, and producer. This marks his first play presented by the company. Beloved acting credits include Aida, Dreamgirls, Wild With Happy, Paradise Blue, Little Shop of Horrors, The Piano Lesson, and King Lear. Select directing credits include Miss Julie, Clarissa, and John; I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings; Savior Samuel; Clyde’s; The Garbologists; Santaland Diaries; Fat Ham; and The Coffin Maker. Monteze serves as the Co-Artistic Director of City Theatre Company and was named the 2017 Pittsburgh Post Gazette’s Performer of the Year in addition to City Paper’s 2021 Person of the Year. Deep thanks to Mark Clayton Southers and the entire Pittsburgh Playwrights team. For Brittany and Lovell, the real Fishy Woo Woos.

Lovell McFadden (Director) is truly honored to be directing this new work with the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company. Lovell is a graduate of Point Park University’s Conservatory of Performing Arts and currently resides in New York City. Special thanks to my real life Fishy Woo Woos Monteze and Brittany for always being there for me through the thick and thin. ;)

Cheryl El-Walker (Costumes, Makeup & Hair) is an award-winning costume designer and makeup artist who is also a veteran stage actor from Pittsburgh. She is the resident costume/makeup artist for the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company. Her creative work in various venues has earned her several Onyx awards from the African American Council of the Arts (AACTA): Best Make-up Artist (2007); Best Costume for a Musical for Christmas Is Coming Uptown (2008); Best Leading Actress for Freeman (New Horizon Theatre, 2008); Best Costume Design for a Play (Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012) and the PPTCO 2012 Legacy Award. In 2013, Cheryl debuted another one of her skills and received PPTCO’s Theater Festival in Black and White Award for Best Director. Most recently, Cheryl provided costume/makeup for Joe Turner’s Come and Gone. Cheryl is an alumna of Point Park University and is pleased to announce that she has done costume, makeup and special effects for all ten August Wilson plays.

Jason Kmetic (Lighting Designer) has been working in theater for 20 years. He has worked for Disney, and other production companies in California. Jason has recently returned to Pittsburgh to go back to his passion of theater! Some of Jason’s credits include: The Long Road Today/ El Largo Camino Del Hoy (Lighting Technician/First Assistant Stage Manager), Apsis Requiem (Lighting Designer/Stage Manager), Gypsy (Lighting Designer), Jack and Rochelle: A Holocaust Love Story (Lighting Designer), Of Mice and Men (Assistant Stage Manager), 15 Min of Fame (Assistant Director/Stage Manager), 1984 (Assistant Stage Manager), Animal Farm (Assistant Stage Manager/Master Electrician), The Mousetrap (Assistant Stage Manager/Master Electrician), The Boxcar Children (Stage Manager), The Miracle Worker (Stage Manager), Fifth Feeling: A Performance Ritual (Lighting Designer/Stage Manager), Westfield Mall Holiday Show 2014 (Lighting Designer/Stage Manager), and most recently Prime Stage Theatre’s High School Drama Awards (Production Stage Manager).

Howard Patterson (Sound Designer) is a Sound Design Teacher at the University of Pittsburgh who specializes in audio engineering and theatre sound design. Recent works include Abduction at the University of Pittsburgh; along with The Devil Is A Lie at Quantum Theater; American Fast, Paradise Blue, The Rivers Don’t Know, and Claws Out at City Theater; Men on Boats, Everybody, The Children’s Hour, and Good Grief at the Pittsburgh Playhouse. Howard draws inspiration from real life events, movies and television. Not to mention, he’s probably the only audio engineer in the area simultaneously training to become a pro wrestler.

Ashley Southers (Stage Manager) has always had a passion to pursue the arts. She loves working alongside her family at Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater Company. She considers herself a jack of all trades as well as a D-I-A-P (Do-It-All-Person). She graduated from Point Park University in 2018, with a Bachelor’s Degree in English/Creative Writing. In her free time, she loves writing, watching movies, and hanging out with family, friends, and her dogs Cocoa and Bentley. She would like to thank her father Mark Southers for being an inspiration for her upbringing. She always enjoys challenging herself, and expanding her creativity through the arts.

Mark Clayton Southers (Producing Artistic Director, Technical Director) and his family reside in Pittsburgh’s historic Hill District. He is an award-winning playwright, stage director, scenic designer, photographer and theatrical producer. He is the founder and producing artistic director of the Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company where he has produced well over 175 full-length and one-act plays, including August Wilson’s complete 10 play Pittsburgh Century Cycle. Favorite directing credits include Paul Robeson for the Griot Ensemble Theatre Company, Pill Hill for New Horizon Theatre, Dutchman for Bricolage Theater Company, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and The Piano Lesson for American Stage Theatre, Gem of the Ocean for Human Race Theatre, Angry Black Man Poetry for Theatre Śląski, Passing Strange for Short North Theatre, Papa Doc for Trilogy Opera Company, Sty of The Blind Pig for The Banyan Theatre Company, A Soldier’s Play for Phoenix Black Theatre Troupe, and Dorothy Six, Seven Guitars, VALU-MART, The Battle of Homestead and Jitney for The Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company. He’s also the resident August Wilson Cycle director at Pittsburgh’s CAPA. For more info please visit

PPTCO Staff and Board

See our staff and board members here.

Special Thanks

Momar Milliones
Lovell McFadden
Eric Donaldson
James Howard
Marcus Carl Southers
Charlie Gray
Melverse Colbert
Ashley Renee Southers
Sam Lothard
Steven Doerfler
KDC Printing
Maurice Redwood
Jackie Shirriel
Zach Biden
Matthew Southers
Brother Ash
Delores Southers
Neicy Readie Southers
Andre Joseph Clayton Southers
Michelle Belan

Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company thanks the following for supporting our season of plays and special projects:

We also thank our donors! Click for a complete list, and learn how to become a PPTCO donor.

Printed program design and editing by Michelle Belan.
Online program design and editing by Steven Doerfler.