Tag Archives: Andrew R. Cooksey

Debra Ann Byrd and Christopher Sutton Lead the Cast of Harlem Shakespeare Festival’s Production of Antony & Cleopatra, August 29 – September 1, 2013

Selina Hernandez, Debra Ann Byrd and Natasha Yannacañedo in Harlem Shakespeare Festival&#039's production of Antony and Cleopatra at Riverbank State Park Amphitheatre in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Selina Hernandez, Debra Ann Byrd and Natasha Yannacañedo in Harlem Shakespeare Festival’s production of Antony and Cleopatra at Riverbank State Park Amphitheatre in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Take Wing and Soar Productions and Voza Rivers/New Heritage Theatre Group in association with East Harlem Presents … set to bridge the arts across Harlem with the launching of the Harlem Shakespeare Festival’s inaugural production of Shakespeare’s ANTONY & CLEOPATRA, directed by Petronia Paley at the Waterfront Amphitheatre in Riverbank State Park, from August 29th – September 1st, 2013.
Christopher Sutton as Antony and Debra Ann Byrd as Cleopatra. Photo by Lia Chang

Christopher Sutton as Antony and Debra Ann Byrd as Cleopatra. Photo by Lia Chang


He is a Roman general, handsome & brave. She is the Queen of Egypt, beautiful & proud. Together they will defy the power of an Emperor. Together they will destroy that which they strive to uphold. Award-winning actress and director Petronia Paley leads the TWAS Classical Actors of Color as they share the stage with classical actor Christopher Sutton as Marc Antony and Debra Ann Byrd as Cleopatra, Egypt’s last Queen.
Christopher Sutton as Antony. Photo by Lia Chang

Christopher Sutton as Antony. Photo by Lia Chang

CHRISTOPHER SUTTON* [Marc Antony] An award-winning actor and three-time Barrymore Award Nominee for Outstanding Performance by a Leading Actor as Mickey in Blood Brothers and Don in Singin’ in the Rain, Christopher received the Barrymore Award for Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story, and is a recipient of the Louis B. Sudler National Prize in the Arts. He played the role of Prince Herbert/Not Dead Fred in the 1st national tour of Monty Python’s Spamalot for over 1,200 performances under the direction of Mike Nichols, and created the title role in the World Premiere of Flight of the Lawnchair Man at Goodspeed Opera House and NYMF (Outstanding Actor Award). Christopher recently appeared as Jack in David Ives’ Ancient History at 45th Street Theatre, and as John in the new play Lola-Lola by Peter Michalos. Other New York credits include I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, and the original casts of Golf: The Musical and The It Girl with Jerry Zaks. Regional credits include: Of Mice and Men (George), Desire Under the Elms (Eben), Odet’s Golden Boy (Joe), The Sea Gull (Treplyev), Me and My Girl (Bill), Carousel (Billy), Henry IV pt 1 (Prince Harry), Twelfth Night (Feste), As You Like It (Orlando), Henry VI Pts 1-3 (Richard Plantagenet, Duke of York).
Debra Ann Byrd as Cleopatra. Photo by Lia Chang

Debra Ann Byrd as Cleopatra. Photo by Lia Chang


DEBRA ANN BYRD* [Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt] Last seen as Lady Bracknell in the 1920’s Harlem production of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Debra Ann is an award-winning actress, producer & AUDELCO Award Nominee for Best Lead Actress as Cleopatra in Shakespeare’s Antony & Cleopatra (2011). She received a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Acting from Marymount Manhattan College, completed advanced studies at The Public Theater’s Shakespeare Lab; is a recipient of the League of Professional Theatre Women’s Lucille Lortel Award & Josephine Abady Award; and is the Founder & Producing Artistic Director of Take Wing And Soar Productions and the Harlem Shakespeare Festival. Her classical roles for the stage include Love’s Labors Lost (Winter), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Hippolyta), Richard III (Queen Elizabeth), Antigone (The Choragos), Coriolanus (Volumnia) & Mrs. Malaprop in The Rivals. Roles in other new American classics include Luce Morgan in Loose by Petronia Paley, Dido Queen of Carthage in Massinissa: The Man Who Betrayed Hannibal to Rome by Lorey Hayes & Queen Yemmo in David D. Wright’s Obatala: King of the White Cloth.
Backstage at Harlem Shakespeare Festival's Antony and Cleopatra at the Waterfront Amphitheatre in Riverbank State Park in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

Backstage at Harlem Shakespeare Festival’s Antony and Cleopatra at the Waterfront Amphitheatre in Riverbank State Park in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

David Heron and Norman A. Smalls, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang

David Heron and Norman A. Smalls, Jr. Photo by Lia Chang


Other company members for this Equity Showcase Production are actors David Heron* as Caesar, Tauriq Jenkins as Enobarbus, Renauld White* as Agrippa & Natasha Yannacañedo* as Charmian, with Getenesh Berhe, Egbert Bernard, Marckenson Charles*, Andrew R. Cooksey, Selina Hernandez, Julius Hollingsworth, Nicholas Johnson, Aixa Kendrick*, Tom Martin, Norman Anthony Small, Tarantino Smith*, Dwayne Walker-Dixon, & Justin Walker-White.
Aixa Kendrick, Natasha Yannacañedo, Julius Hollingsworth and Selina Hernandez. Photo by Lia Chang

Aixa Kendrick, Natasha Yannacañedo, Julius Hollingsworth and Selina Hernandez. Photo by Lia Chang

Scenic Designer: Pavlo Bosyy; Lighting Designer: Joyce Liao; Costume Designer: David Withrow; Sound Designer: David D. Wright; Casting Associate: Sara Koch Casting; Stage Manager: Jacqueline Anscombe; Assistant to the Director: Troi Danielle Hall; Patron Affairs: Natalie Clarke; Volunteer Divas and Divos Plus: LaZette McCants. Producers for Antony & Cleopatra: Debra Ann Byrd, Voza Rivers, Raphael Benavides & Dathan B. Williams. Assistants to the Producers: Julius Hollingsworth, Anna Chico, Carmen Borla & Lainie Cooke.
Co-producers Dathan B. Williams and Raphael Benavides. Photo by Lia Chang

Co-producers Dathan B. Williams and Raphael Benavides. Photo by Lia Chang


TAKE WING AND SOAR PRODUCTIONS & VOZA RIVERS/NEW HERITAGE THEATRE GROUP in association with RAPHAEL BENAVIDES/EAST HARLEM PRESENTS … set to bridge the arts across Harlem with the launching of the HARLEM SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL // 16 EVENTS, OVER 5 MONTHS, SPANNING AUGUST 28 – DECEMBER 15, 2013.

Three award winning, Harlem-based arts organizations have teamed up to launch the inaugural season of Take Wing And Soar’s newest initiative, the HARLEM SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL, an indoor/outdoor theatre festival spanning summer through late fall, consisting of 2 mainstage plays; 1 concert staged reading; 3 international Shakespeare films; 1 musical/concert opera performance; featuring related talk backs, lectures, panel discussions, picnics, master classes, youth workshops & family fun for all. The HARLEM SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL runs Wednesday, August 28 through December 15, 2013.

The cast of Harlem Shakespeare Festival's Antony and Cleopatra at the Waterfront Amphitheatre in Riverbank State Park in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

The cast of Harlem Shakespeare Festival’s Antony and Cleopatra at the Waterfront Amphitheatre in Riverbank State Park in New York. Photo by Lia Chang


FESTIVAL HIGHLIGHTS INCLUDE: An outdoor performance of Shakespeare’s ANTONY & CLEOPATRA at the Waterfront Amphitheatre in Riverbank State Park [August 29th through September 1st]; a Family Day Picnic in the Park & Ribbon Cutting Ceremony [Saturday, August 31st]; Shakespeare-On-Film Series, featuring the Royal Shakespeare Company’s contemporary African Julius Caesar, directed by Gregory Doran [October 2013]; an indoor mainstage production of CORIOLANUS: The African Warrior, directed by Jeffrey V. Thompson, starring Petronia Paley* [Opens October 31st]; a Shakespeare-In-Music concert Come Again Sweet Music created and directed by Dathan B. Williams [November 2013]; & an all-female production of The Tragedy of OTHELLO, directed by Lisa Wolpe of the Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company featuring staged combat by Safe Violence with Dan Burke [December 2013].
*DENOTES MEMBER AEA
The cast of Harlem Shakespeare Festival's Antony and Cleopatra at the Waterfront Amphitheatre in Riverbank State Park in New York. Photo by Lia Chang

The cast of Harlem Shakespeare Festival’s Antony and Cleopatra at the Waterfront Amphitheatre in Riverbank State Park in New York. Photo by Lia Chang


SPECIAL PRE-SHOW EVENT // August 31st 1pm – 6pm
FAMILY DAY PICNIC IN THE PARK & RIBBON CUTTING CEREMONY
Join us for a special Family Day Picnic in the Park celebrating the Launch of the HARLEM SHAKESPEARE FESTIVAL
This special Launch event, hosted by State Committeewoman Hon. Theresa Freeman, will honor Councilwoman Inez E. Dickens, the West Harlem Development Corporation & the leadership of the Festival. Food, Friends & Family fun for all!

DATES & TIMES: Wednesday, August 29 – Sunday, September 1, 2013 @ 7pm
THEATRE: Waterfront Amphitheatre ~ Riverbank State Park
West Harlem, NY ~ 145th Street & Riverside Drive
TICKETS: $ FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC
RESERVATIONS: Limited Seating. Book your seats in advance at www.harlemshakespearefest.org

The cast of Harlem Shakespeare Festival's Antony and Cleopatra at the opening night performance curtain call at the Waterfront Amphitheatre in Riverbank State Park in New York on August 29, 2013. Photo by Lia Chang

The cast of Harlem Shakespeare Festival’s Antony and Cleopatra at the opening night performance curtain call at the Waterfront Amphitheatre in Riverbank State Park in New York on August 29, 2013. Photo by Lia Chang

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Debra Ann Byrd Stars as Lady Bracknell in Take Wing and Soar’s Production of The Importance of Being Earnest at The Poet’s Den Theater, June 14-30, 2013

Power Players Debra Ann Byrd of Take Wing And Soar Productions, in partnership with Voza Rivers/New Heritage Theatre Group, are teaming up to present TWAS’ Tenth Year Anniversary Season main stage production of Oscar Wilde’s celebrated comedy, THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, directed by Kevin Connell for a limited run at the Poet’s Den Theater, from June 14-30, 2013.

Debra Ann Byrd

Debra Ann Byrd


In this production of THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST, helmer Kevin Connell sets the TWAS Classical Actors of Color in 1920’s Harlem with high style, dynamic dialogue and the music that changed a nation. Two young gentlemen living in 1920’s Harlem have taken to bending the truth in order to put some excitement into their lives. Things start to go awry when they end up together in the country and their deceptions are discovered. Experience a glimpse of America’s black bourgeoisie in Oscar Wilde’s hilarious comedy of manners.

Featured in the cast are James Edward Becton* [Playing with Fire], Andrew R. Cooksey [The Ritz], Michael Flood* [Arcadia, As You Like It], Samuel T. Gaines* [Romeo & Juliet, Cloud 9] Danielle Lee Greaves* [Lion King, A Streetcar Named Desire], Bliss Griffin* [War of the Roses], Lawryn LaCroix [Ruined], Tom Martin [King Lear, Hamlet] & Take Wing And Soar’s founder Debra Ann Byrd* [Antony & Cleopatra, The Rivals] as the infamous Lady Bracknell.

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST is designed by an award winning design team featuring Broadway Costume Designer Gail Cooper-Hecht, celebrity Scenic Designer Chris Cumberbatch, AUDELCO Award-winning Sound Designer David D. Wright, Lighting Designer James Carter, Dramaturgy by Talvin Wilks,Casting by Sara Koch Casting & Marketing by Shabazz Communications, Inc. Producers of EARNEST are Debra Ann Byrd & Voza Rivers, associate producer is Raphael Benavides.

KEVIN CONNELL [Director] is a Professor of Theatre Arts at Marymount Manhattan College, where he serves as Coordinator of Junior & Senior Acting & Recruiter for the Department of Theatre Arts. Kevin served as the Period Style & Etiquette Coordinator for the 2012-2013 Broadway production of The Heiress. Directing credits include: Lawrence Dukore’s ‘Round Midnight (Turnip Theatre Company & American Globe Theatre’s 17th Annual 15-Minute Play Festival); Christopher Durang’s Baby with the Bathwater (Ground UP Productions); Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliette (Collective Company); Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, Wilde’s An Ideal Husband, Marivaux’s The Triumph of Love, Constance Cox’s adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime & Richard Brinsley Sheridan’s The Rivals (Take Wing And Soar Productions at the National Black Theatre & the Poet’s Den Theatre); James Magruder (book), Jeffrey Stock (music) & Susan Birkenhead’s (lyrics) musical Triumph of Love; J.B. Priestley’s Time & the Conways, Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer, Michael John LaChiusa’s musical Hello Again, Tennessee Williams’ Approaching the End of a Summer, Edward Albee’s Finding the Sun, A.A. Milne’s The Ugly Duckling, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard II titled The Holy Terror, James Valcq & Fred Alley’s musical The Spitfire Grill, Seneca’s Trojan Women, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest & Tony Kushner’s Reverse Transcription (Marymount Manhattan College). He performed in the play Temporarily Yours, (also playwright) at the 2001 Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Scotland). Additionally, Kevin has performed in productions at The National Theatre (London), La Jolla Playhouse, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, TheatreWorks USA, The Wayside Theatre, TheatreFest, NJ & Pinewood Film Studios (London), among other credits. He is co-adapting Kathryn Harrison’s novel Exposure for the stage. Kevin attended The Ohio State University (B.F.A.) & the University of California, San Diego (M.F.A.).

Take Wing And Soar Productions, Inc. [Producer] founded in 1999 by classically trained actress Debra Ann Byrd, now celebrating its 10th season is a women-led, New York State, 501(c) 3 Professional Theatre Arts Corporation, dedicated to supporting women, youth & especially classically trained actors of color. In its brief history, Take Wing And Soar Productions has enjoyed many successes including the creation of The TWAS Theatre Project, The TWAS Classical Lab Reading Series, The Take Wing And Soar “Spirit of Excellence Awards,” the Harlem Shakespeare Workshop & the Hackney Harlem International Youth Project. The theatre company is the 2009-2010 recipient of the LPTW Lucille Lortel Award, presented in recognition of the theatre’s body of work in the community, audience development in Harlem & in celebration of the “International Exchange Program” between Take Wing And Soar Productions & London’s Hackney Empire Theatre. Other honors include five AUDELCO Awards & 27 AUDELCO Award nominations for its mainstage productions of Richard III, The Darker Face of the Earth, Hamlet, Medea, King Lear, Pecong, Antony & Cleopatra and Massinissa. THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST is Take Wing And Soar’s 34th production and 11th mainstage project.

Voza Rivers | New Heritage Theatre Group [Producer] is the oldest Black nonprofit theatre company in New York City. NHTG was originally established in 1964, under the name New Heritage Repertory Theatre by the late Roger Furman, a revered playwright, director, actor & lecturer who began his career in the 1940s with the American Negro Theatre in Harlem. It was created to present entertaining, informative & quality productions & to preserve & institutionalize classic works of Black theatre. In 1983, Voza Rivers, an award winning music & theatre producer took over the company. Today, New Heritage Theatre Group serves the community through presentations of entertaining, informative & quality productions of performing arts events, stage readings & documentary shorts & films. Through its umbrella organizations Impact Repertory Theatre, Furman Theatre Rep & New Heritage Films we reach out to the New York City & world community, giving training, exposure & experience to new & emerging artists. Our works reflect the historical, social & political experiences of African & Latino descendants in America & abroad. We seek to bring attention to works by international writers, directors & performing artists who have achieved success in their respective country but lack exposure in the United States.

*DENOTES MEMBER AEA
The show runs June 14 -30, 2013, Fri – Sat @ 8pm, Sat @ 2pm & Sun @ 3pm at The Poet’s Den Theater, 309 East 108th Street [Just Off 2nd Avenue]. Tickets: $18. General Admission| $15. Students & Seniors. Group sales available 10+; $35. Opening Night Gala Performance & Reception: Thur., June 20th at 7pm. For reservations, call OvationTix (212) 352-3101 or visit www.takewingandsoar.org.