New American Voices Summer 2020 Virtual Reading Series
Rob Urbinati, Director of New Play Development
By Jelisa Jay Robinson
Directed by Ruben C. Gonzalez
Premiering August 24, 2020, 8:00 PM
Available through August 28
( * denotes member of Actors Equity Association)
Johnique Mitchell *
Sean Carvajal *
Joe Luis Cedillo
Technical Production and Video Editing by Jay Rogers
The inspiration for this play came during my second year of teaching at my alma mater North Forest High School. As the theatre teacher, I had the opportunity to see students get creative and help them think outside of the box. I came there with the intention to teach them, but I learned so much instead. When they would perform scenes, they would share their stories, dreams and hopes with such vigor and zeal. They were bold! They inspired me to write this play. My students taught me the power of speaking up for yourself, the power of self-confidence and being present.
Personally, this play speaks to the beauty and complexity of Black American, Afrolaitnx and Latinx students and the terrible injustices that our communities face. Because the time we are living in this story is very timely, but it's sad because I wrote this in 2016, and violence against Black bodies is still happening. Black people are still being killed disproportionately by the police.
I wanted this play to showcase the beauty, creativity and joy of Black, Latinx and Afrolatinx students while touching on the effects of police brutality. I wanted it to be about the life they lived and how he affected those around him. I hope this piece uplifts, but also speaks honestly to the experience of so many Black people in this world.
This play has had quite the journey. From a reading with Scriptworks (who contributed a development grant for the piece) to the Black and Latino Playwrights Celebration at Texas State University, this work has and continues to be explored and developed. I can't say enough about working with Ruben, Sean, Rachel, Preston, Ja'Michael, Ali, Nickclette, Yeniffer, Johnique and Joe. I am grateful for their thoughtful feedback and commitment to bringing this to life.
Jelisa Jay Robinson
Jelisa Jay Robinson is a Black American playwright from Houston, Texas. Her plays include The Stories of Us, Fae and Paciencia, Delivery, Circle and We Both Suck Our Teeth. Her work has been developed and/or presented at The Billie Holiday Theatre (50in50), Fade to Black (Houston), Teatrx (Houston), 14/48 Theatre Festival (Austin), Austin One Minute Play Festival (Austin), the Austin Latino New Play Festival, Teatro Vivo (Austin), Now Africa Festival (New York), The Black and Brown Theatre (Detroit), The Rec Room (Houston), the Echame Un Ojo Festival (commission), Fornes Playwriting Workshop (Chicago), The Black and Latino Playwrights Celebration (San Marcos), The Landing Theatre (Houston)and Vision Latino (Chicago). She is a finalist for the La Mansion Baldwin Writers Residency in France (2020), a Bay Area Playwrights Festival Semi-Finalist (2020), a finalist for the Seattle Public Theatre New Play Prize (2017), a writer in the Rec Room Writers Group, a Fulbright Alternate and an alumni of the Fornes Playwriting Workshop where she worked under the tutelage of Migdalia Cruz. Jelisa has held residencies with Vision Latino Theatre Company (Chicago), the National Playwrights Retreat (Colorado) and Texas State’s Black and Latino Playwrights Celebration.
Ruben C. Gonzalez is a critically acclaimed solo performer, actor, writer and director who hails from southeast Los Angeles. He is a 28 year veteran actor/director of the prestigious, El Teatro Campesino. He recieved his training at The London Academy for the Performing Arts, Circle in the Square Theatre School (NYC), El Teatro Campesino and holds an MFA in Dramatic Arts from the University of California, Davis. In spring 2019, his solo piece, LA ESQUINITA, USA was published in the anthology, ENCUENTRO: Latinx Performance for the New American Theatre (Northwestern University Press). Ruben has directed; LA VIRGEN DEL TEPEYAC at The Mission of San Juan Bautista, CONJUNTO BLUES by Nicolas Valdez, PILGRIMAGE by Joe Quintero, Monica Sanchez’s THE CHONICLES of ODISIA, ALISO in WORKERLAND, MI ABUELO FUE UN BRACERO and IYA by Luis Juarez and THE THROWDOWN by Theatre Troupe Headrush. In August, he will graduate with a Master’s in Psychology where he will dedicate part of his life to bringing mental health assistance to people from marginalized communities of color.
Award-winning actress Yeniffer Behrens-Mendoza has amassed a prolific career as an established actress for over two decades. Yeniffer has expanded her talent as a producer, director, content creator, mentor & philanthropist.Her passion to support dual-language education led her to produce a benefit to bring awareness and advocate for children to grow up bilingual. The "Multicultural Harmony Gala" ran for two years and she raised thousands of dollars for her community, she also served as a board member to the Beauty in Beauty out a foundation in Chicago for a few years, supporting women from all walks of life. Her mission is to create content and live events that make a difference in the world & unite us all. During these unprecedented times, Yeniffer created a daily Spiritual fun live show on youtube FB/IG: 11:11 Conversations with Yen & Mau Known as 'The best Spiritual Party Ever"! As well as Shortcut2hollywood.biz: An online coaching & mentorship school for aspiring actors to become working actors. She established True Form Films production company in 2006 and joined forces with her husband Mauricio Mendoza in 2010. Since then, they have produced numerous award-winning films such as After School, Desconocidos, Fighting Chance, The Shifting, Intolerance, It Can Only Be Used Once, Taco Shop, Sinverguenzas & Mi Amor, to name a few. Her latest acting credits are Ben Affleck's movie “The Way Back”, Netflix-Grace & Frankie, Hulu FX-Dave & ABC-How to Get away with Murder. She is currently in the post-production of the anthology feature Covid19 Sins & Virtues.
Sean Carvajal * Harlem born, Washington Heights bred. Actor/Activist. Selected Credits include: Broadway: King Lear. Off-Broadway: RICHARD II (Public Theater/WNYC); Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven, Tell Hector I Miss Him (Atlantic Theater); Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train (Signature Theater; Lucille Lortel Lead Actor, Obie, Drama Desk, Clarence Derwent Awards)’ Seven Spots on the Sun (Sol Project/Rattlestick); Queen Latina and Her Power Posse (Cherry Lane); Ghetto Babylon (59E59), Lissabon (La MaMa); Holy Land (HERE Arts Center). Regional: Water by The Spoonful (Mark Taper Forum), Seven Spots on the Sun (Cincinnati Playhouse), Between Riverside and Crazy (Studio Theater). TV: “Crashing” (HBO). Member of The Actors Center.
Joe Luis Cedillo is a Chicano Playwright-Director & Dramaturg who has been part of BLPC for a decade. He's been a member of Iowa's Playwrights' Workshop, directed numerous works site-specifically, and served his country as a Marine. Recent credits include being an actor and director for the EVERY 28 HOURS theater project, acting in Henry Ong's site-specific adaptation of the Chinese epic DREAM OF A RED CHAMBER, and being the Director-Dramaturg for Watts Village Theatre Company's performance-reading of Lynn Manning's OCHRE & ONYX in Boyle Heights's area libraries in Los Angeles. He'll next be directing a reading of his pilot for a new crime drama, SWEET PALMS, and a workshop production of 7 DAYS: A FANTASIA ON THE LIFE OF MILES DAVIS in Watts this Fall. He is Artistic Director for Company of Strangers. FB under his full name, Twitter @JoeLuisCedillo, Instagram @joeluiscedillo.
Ja’Michael De’Shawn is a New York-based actor, singer, and multidimensional storyteller from lil ole HEARNE, texas. He enjoys telling stories that create space for black folks and their friends to live blissful and unapologetic lives. WRITING: The Electric Lady, The Self-Portrait of the Soul as a Young Man, Exile Blues THEATRE: Self Portraits, The Breakup, The Afterparty, Kill Floor, Twenty Eight FILM: Dear Bruh (YouTube), If There Is Light (Hulu), You Die (Amazon)
Ali Gutierrez is a Theatre Performance and Production major with a Political Communication minor at Texas State University, she graduated high school from Shoemaker High School in Killeen, Texas. Her hobbies include activism, writing, and crying watching turtle videos on YouTube.
Nickclette Izuegbu is an actress, writer, producer, with wit and a hint of goober that you can curl up to. She began her career working and training at various theaters across the United States, including the Steppenwolf Theatre, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Zach Scott Theater, Vortex Repertory Theater Company, Houston Shakespeare Festival, and First Stage Theater. She has written, produced and starred in several digital series, including "the Bards" and the hit scripted comedy "Nneka the Uber Driver."
Johnique Mitchell * was born and raised in Dallas, Texas. She received her BFA in Acting from Texas State University, class of ‘15 and her MFA in Acting from Penn State University, class of ‘17. The variety of roles she’s played includes the Jack Daniel's toting Marie from Robert O'Hara's "Barbeque", the ambitious hopeless romantic Olivia from Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" and the powerhouse care-taker Athena from Mary Zimmerman's "Argonautika."She originated the role of Randy in Hansol Jung’s "Double Think" in the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, South Africa and Janeece in the second world premiere of Ruben Santiago Hudson’s "Your Blues Aint Sweet Like Mine." In 2018 she joined The Chautauqua Theater’s acting company in their production of Brandon Jacob Jenkins’ “An Octoroon”. In 2019 she joined the Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s acting company in their production of “Hairspray”, “As You Like It” and the west coast premiere of Christina Anderson’s “How to Catch Creation”.
Preston Perez is a rising junior at TXST in the BFA Musical Theatre program. He had the opportunity to read for Murdr at the TXST Black and Latino Playwrights Conference this past August and is thrilled to be on this script again. Regional Credits: A CHORUS LINE (Paul), IN THE HEIGHTS, CHICAGO, AN AMERICAN IN PARIS at Music Theatre Wichita, and WEST SIDE STORY (Luis) at Weston Playhouse. @prestonperezz
Rachel Webb is a recent graduate of Texas State University with a BFA in Musical Theatre. Her recent credits include “Sarah Brown“ in Guys and Dolls at Texas State and “The Dynamites” in Hairspray at Theatre Aspen. Rachel has helped develop plays in the Black And Latino Playwrights Celebration at Texas State; portraying the roles of “Lena” in Black Super Hero Magic Mama and “Doris” in hop thA A. Rachel is grateful for this opportunity to tell this beautiful story over the internet during these trying times.
We wish to express our gratitude to the Performers’ Unions:
ACTORS’ EQUITY ASSOCIATION
AMERICAN GUILD OF MUSICAL ARTISTS
AMERICAN GUILD OF VARIETY ARTISTS
through Theatre Authority, Inc. for their cooperation in permitting the Artists to appear on this program.
Queens Theatre at Home is proud to continue to serve our community through online programming.
It's not possible without our generous partners.
Howard Gilman Foundation
Jerome Robbins Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts - Cares
NYC Department of Cultural Affairs
New York State Council on the Arts
The Shubert Foundation
Taryn Sacramone, Executive Director
Connie Baker, Rentals and Events Manager
Victor Catano, Production Manager
Dominic D'Andrea, Director of Community Engagement
Richard Hinojosa, Director of Education
Alexis Lubin, Finance Manager
Willy Mosquera, Front of House Manager
Gregg Mozgala, Director of Inclusion
Bernadette Ott, Development Manager
Jay Rogers, General Manager
Rob Urbinati, Director of New Play Development
Sheila Xia-Ryan, Social Media Manager
Board of Directors
Gary Kesner, President
Tracy Capune, Vice President
Bruce Levine, Treasurer
Mark Misk, Secretary
Susan B. Lipsky
Frances A. Resheske, Board President Emeritus
Bill DeBlasio, New York City Mayor
Gonzalo Casals, Commissioner, NYC Department of Cultural Affairs
Sharon Lee, Interim Queens Borough President
Michael Dockett, Queens Borough Commissioner, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation