11th Alliance/Kendeda Competition Winner to Premiere in February

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The Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition continues to spotlight the best emerging playwrights with a full production for the competition winner and staged readings for four competition finalists.  THE C.A. Lyons Project, the 11th competition winner, will premiere on the Hertz Stage February 13 – March 8, 2015.  Opening night is February 18, 2015.

The C.A. Lyons Project is written by Tsehaye Geralyn Hébert, a recent graduate of the MFA program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and will be directed by former Associate Artistic Director of the Alliance Theatre, Kent Gash (Alliance: God of Carnage, Sophisticated Ladies, Jelly’s Last Jam).

The C.A. Lyons Project tells the story of dancer and choreographer C.A. Lyons.  He is the founder of one of the city’s most important African-American dance companies, and he is dying of AIDS.   When Lyons can no longer hide his sexuality or illness, his three lead dancers must find the strength and individual creative push to keep his company going without their charismatic leader and decide the best way to carry on his legacy.  Set in Chicago in the 1980s at the beginning of the AIDs crisis, The C.A. Lyons Project is a unique theatrical event where exciting dance and theatre mingle throughout.

The C.A. Lyons Project is the most multidisciplinary show to come through the competition and is so ambitious in its scope,” says Celise Kalke, the Alliance’s Director of New Projects. “It’s a great piece to kick off the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition’s next decade.”

C.A. Lyons will be played by Broadway actor James Brown III (Broadway: Rocky, Ghost, The Color Purple).  The three lead dancers of his company are Chaos Unit, a tattooed hip hop phenom played by Danielle Deadwyler (Alliance: Charlotte’s Web); Bethlehem Dunning, a ballerina raised by a deaf mother, played by Tiffany Denise Hobbs (Regional: The Miser) and Michelle A. Banks (Regional: Profile of a Deaf Peddler), respectively; and the rebellious Amandla Sister Afrika, an orphan raised by rich, suburban parents, played by Francesca Harper (Broadway: The Color Purple, All Shook Up), Donna Biscoe (Alliance: Doubt), and Keith Randolph Smith (Alliance: The Whipping Man, God of Carnage), respectively.

The Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition solicits plays from the leading MFA graduate programs in the United States and then conducts a rigorous selection process to find four finalists and one winning play.  The winner receives a full production as part of the Alliance Theatre regular season.  The winner and four finalists also receive development opportunities for their works including staged readings with industry professionals in Washington, D.C. and Atlanta.  A one-of-a-kind opportunity for emerging playwrights, the Competition transitions student playwrights to the world of professional theatre.

Aside from Alliance Artistic Director Susan V. Booth and Director of New Projects Celise Kalke, this year’s selecting judges included Jason Loewith, Artistic Director, Olney Theatre Center; Susan Feder, Program Officer, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation; and Kwame Kwei-Armah, Artistic Director, Center Stage.

The four 2014 finalists will be heard in staged readings February 16 – 19, 2015, during the New Play Festival celebrating new work.  All readings and events are free and open to the public.  Reservations for the readings are preferred and can be made by calling the Woodruff Arts Center Box Office – 404.733.5000.  The schedule for the festival:

  • DISCUSSION: ETHICS ON STAGE February 16, 7:00 pm

Emory Center for Ethics, 1531 Dickey Drive, on the Emory campus

    • An ethical discussion presenting material from the 11th winner The C.A. Lyons Project, with a chance to meet the winning playwright, Tsehaye Geralyn Hébert.  No reservation required.
  • FINALIST READING: POCKETFUL OF SANDby Emily Dendinger, University of Iowa, Director TBD February 17, 2:00 pm
    • 8 minutes.  That’s how long it takes for a soul to dry up before it can be preserved by the sea.  This play introduces us to an old man named Coco who harvests souls from bodies he pulls from the sea, and how he comes to teach his trade to a young orphan girl named Sunny. As the more sinister aspects of Coco’s work begin to emerge, however, Sunny must decide for herself whether or not the work they are doing outweighs the costs. A beautifully written piece of poetic theatre.
  • FINALIST READING: AN ALIEN IN INWOOD – by Kimberly Barrante, Dramatic Writing: Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, Directed by 2014 Atlanta Artist Fellow Suehyla El-Attar February 17, 7:30 pm
    • Fantastical and heartwarming, An Alien in Inwood considers complicated questions of contemporary American identity.  Walter, the Professor, has been around a New York City University for a long time, and has many people that support his efforts and dreams. Believing the world to be increasingly unsafe, Walter thinks he will save the planet when he is blinded by a light in Inwood Park and ORION, an alien, appears.  Graceful social commentary with a nod to the best of Science Fiction/Fantasy, this play asks what we allow to become our truths when we are protecting the people we love.
  • ALUMNUS READING: MAKING MYTHby Virginia Grise, 2010 Competition Finalist for blu, Directed by Karen Robinson February 18, 2:00 pm Based on the success of the 13/14 Alumni reading series, the Alliance has committed to invite one of the competition’s alumni back for a reading every year!
    • A conservative intellectual wound a little tight, a graduate student that likes a good fight, a beer drinking, polka dancing half-breed, and a cross dressing street-smart macha meet in a bar somewhere in South Texas. Between the liquor and the line dancing, what ensues is a raucous rapid-fire theoretical showdown. The play proves – Texas really is a whole ‘nother country, ya’ll.
  • FINALIST READING: EVANSTON: A RARE COMEDY by Michael Yates Crowley, The Juilliard School,  Directed by Veronika Duerr, 2015 Atlanta Artist Fellow February 19, 2:00 pm
    • Evanston: A Rare Comedy begins with the disappearance of a teenage girl in deepest suburbia and ends when a meeting of the local Women’s Book Club goes horribly awry. In between, a housewife dreams of Mexico, an economics professor has an affair with a check-out clerk at Whole Foods, and the financial crisis rages on. Inspired by the words of Psalm 137 and the best-seller Eat, Pray, Love, Evanston: A Rare Comedy takes a look at Middle America and asks: how can we sing a song of joy in this strange land?
  • DISCUSSION: A conversation with Celise Kalke and THE C.A. LYONS PROJECT author and Alliance/Kendeda competition winner Tsehaye Geralyn Hébert February 19, 5:00 pm
  • FINALIST READING: BALLAST by Georgette Kelly, Hunter College, Director TBD February 19, 7:30 pm
    • What happens when you wake up, and find that the person sleeping next to you is not the person you thought they were at all? Zoe dreams of flying, of escaping to new heights. Grace, her transitioning spouse, dreams of standing on a pulpit, and finding a religious community that accepts her after her transition from man to woman. Savannah dreams only of Xavier, a 16 yr old that is coping with becoming a man, and Xavier is haunted by the nightmares he sees in starring back at him from the mirror.  All four characters experience the act of ballast flying through dreams, lifted up just long enough to discover some kind of truth- a peace in transition.

The five plays selected each year during the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition represent one manifestation of the Alliance’s mission of shared theatre for diverse people with their rigorous multigenerational, multicultural, and omni-political ambitions.  Emerging writers are offered the ultimate developmental tools and networking opportunities with industry professionals.  At the same time, Atlanta audiences are introduced to the country’s brightest emerging playwrights.  Past winners have become some of today’s most exciting playwrights and include Tarell Alvin McCraney, Kenneth Lin, and Meg Miroshnik.

Over the past eleven years, the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition has been supported by a gift from the Kendeda Fund.  Other supporters of the competition include The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, The Edgerton New American Plays Award, and the National Endowment for the Arts, among others.

Performances are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8:00 pm, Saturdays at 2:30 pm and 8:00 pm, and Sundays at 2:30 pm and 7:30 pm, February 13 – March 8, 2015, on the Hertz Stage.  There will be no 2:30 pm performance on Saturday, February 14.

Tickets start at $25 and are available at The Woodruff Arts Center Box Office in person or by calling 404-733-5000.  Tickets are also available online at www.alliancetheatre.org/calyonsDiscounted rates for groups of 10 or more are available by calling 404.733.4690.  Discount rates are also available for members of the military, seniors and students.  The Alliance Theatre is located at The Woodruff Arts Center, 1280 Peachtree Street, at the corner of Peachtree and 15th Street, in Midtown Atlanta.