Meet the team of talents behind this explosive dark comedy.
Suzan-Lori Parks — a playwright, screenwriter, novelist, and songwriter — won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for Topdog/Underdog. In 2001 she received a MacArthur Fellows “Genius” Grant. And in 2018 she received the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award. She holds Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts Degrees from Mount Holyoke College and Spelman College. Her work is the subject of the PBS film The Topdog/Underdog Diaries, and her plays are published by Theatre Communications Group and Dramatists Play Service, Inc. Her first feature-length screenplay was girl 6, for Spike Lee. She has also written screenplays for Jodie Foster, Danny Glover, and Oprah Winfrey. Other screenplays include adaptations of Toni Morrison’s novel Paradise, Zora Neale Hurston’s novel Their Eyes Were Watching God, and screenplays for Miramax and Brad Pitt. Her plays include In the Blood (2000 Pulitzer nominee), Venus (1996 Obie Award), Fucking A, The America Play, Imperceptible Mutabilities in the Third Kingdom (1990 Obie Award), The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World, and 365 Days/365 Plays. Topdog/Underdog (2002 Tony nominee) has had successful runs on Broadway, in cities throughout the United States, and in London at the Royal Court Theatre. Additional recognition includes two NEA playwriting fellowships, a W. Alton Jones Grant, a grant from The Kennedy Center Fund For New American Plays, the Whiting Award, and grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the CalArts/Alpert Award, the PEW Charitable Trusts, and The Guggenheim Foundation. Suzan-Lori is a professor at the California Institute for the Arts, where she heads the Dramatic Writing Program. Her first novel, Getting Mother’s Body, is published by Random House. www.suzanloriparks.com
Louis E. Davis (Booth) was a member of the Helen Hayes Award-winning ensemble in the Theater Alliance production of Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s hip-hop choreopoem Word Becomes Flesh. His other credits include Solas Nua’s The Frederick Douglass Project (Helen Hayes Award nomination, outstanding supporting actor in a play), Taffety Punk’s Don Juan, Avant Bard’s King Lear, Imagination Stage’s The Freshest Snow Whyte, Mosaic Theater Company’s Charm, and Folger Theatre’s The Second Shepherds’ Play. He recently appeared in Constellation Theatre’s The Master and Margarita.
Jeremy Keith Hunter (Lincoln), making his Avant Bard debut, is one of the dopest artists you’ll ever meet. Hailing out of the DMV, Jeremy is a multidisciplinary artist with a strong focus in theatre and film acting, writing, and graphic design. His previous theatre credits include The Painted Rocks at Revolver Creek (Metrostage), The Farnsworth Invention (1st Stage); Rabbit Summer (Ally Theatre Company); Word Becomes Flesh (us) (Theater Alliance); Hooded, Or Being Black for Dummies, Milk Like Sugar, When January Feels Like Summer (Mosaic Theatre Company); Arabian Nights (Constellation Theater); and The Effect (us) (Studio Theatre). www.iammercury.com
THE CREATIVE AND PRODUCTION TEAM
DeMone Seraphin (Director) is founding artistic director of The New American Theatre Co. in New York City and is excited to return to Avant Bard, after appearing as Singer Oedipus in its hit production of The Gospel at Colonus (2017). Selected directing credits include The Exonerated, Dutchman, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Jitney, Split Second, Endangered Species (world premiere), The Mountaintop, Runaways, Winter’s Tale, and Barnum. DeMone is the recipient of a regional Emmy Award and the Joseph Jefferson Award.
Nephelie Andonyadis (Set Designer) has been designing scenery and costumes (and sometimes puppets) from coast to coast for more than twenty-five years. She is an ensemble member of Cornerstone Theater Company and has worked with Seattle Repertory Theatre, Pittsburgh Public Theater, SITI Company, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Playmakers Repertory, and South Coast Repertory among many others. She has recently returned to Washington, DC, the city of her birth, after a long hiatus. Upcoming projects in the area include designs with Studio Theatre, Adventure Theatre, Urban Arias, and Theatre J. Nephelie earned her BS from Cornell University and her MFA from Yale University’s School of Drama and was a recipient of the NEA/TCG Design Fellowship. www.nepheliemaria.com
Danielle (Danie) Harrow (Costume Designer) is excited for her first show with Avant Bard. Recent designs include Mystery of Love and Sex, The Laramie Project, and The Rocky Horror Show, all for Iron Crow Theatre. When not focused on costuming, Danie also designs custom clothing for special events. www.seaminglydanie.com
John D. Alexander (Lighting and Projections Designer) is excited to return to Avant Bard. His recent designs include A Civil War Christmas by Paula Vogel (1st Stage), American Moor by Keith Hamilton Cobb (Anacostia Playhouse), the national tour of The Migration: Reflections of Jacob Lawrence presented by Step Afrika!, the national tour of Anne and Emmett by Janet Langhart Cohen, Marie and Rosetta by George Brant (Mosaic Theater Company), and Skeleton Crew by Dominique Morisseau (TheatreSquared). Upcoming designs include HERstory by Goldie Patrick (The Kennedy Center).
e’Marcus Harper-Short (Composer and Sound Designer) received the Helen Hayes Award (2015) for Outstanding Musical Direction for Black Nativity by Langston Hughes (Theater Alliance); a Grammy Award nomination (1998) for Best Traditional Gospel Recording as Conductor for Love Alive V: Walter Hawkins and the Love Center Choir; and a Hollywood NAACP Theater Image Award Nomination (2004) for Best Musical Direction for Da Kink in My Hair by Trey Anthony. He was Musical Director and played Creon in Avant Bard’s 2017 production of The Gospel at Colonus (nominated for a Helen Hayes award for Outstanding Ensemble) and its 2018 revival. Other credits include Musical Arranger for Three Mo’ Divas (PBS Special National) conceived by Marion J. Caffey, and Musical Direction for Invisible Life (Apollo Theater, New York) based on a book by E. Lynn Harris. In 2017 he was named a United States Arts Envoy by the U.S. Department of State.
Liz Long (Properties Designer) returns to Avant Bard having recently worked her magic for Ilyria, or What You Will. Other recent designs include Puffs, Coraline, and 1776 (Landless Theatre Company), The Man Who, The River, and Happy Hour (Spooky Action Theatre), and Five Lesbians Eating a Quiche (Monumental Theatre). When not making theater magic, Liz is the Production Manager for Encore Decor Event Design and Production.
Casey Kaleba (Fight Choreographer) returns to Avant Bard having worked on previous productions of King Lear, Othello, Night and Day, and Lulu. Recent work includes productions at the Chesapeake Shakespeare Company (Henry IV), Signature Theatre (Billy Elliot, The Scottsboro Boys), and Rorschach Theatre (Reykjavic). www.toothandclawcombat.com
Keta Newborn (Production Stage Manager) is thrilled to be joining Avant Bard for her fourth production, having been the Stage Manager on King Lear and both the 2017 and 2018 stagings of The Gospel at Colonus. As a freelancer, Keta has worked in the world of theatre for over 10 years. She has held several titles including Stage Manaager, Assistant Stage Manager, Venue Manager, Production Assistant, Light & Sound Board Ops, and now Production Manager. Her past credits include The New Play Festival (Young Playwrights’ Theater), Little Thing, Big Thing (Solas Nua), Yellowman (Anacostia Playhouse), Black Nativity and Dontrell, Who Kissed the Sea (Theater Alliance), Leto Legend and Failure: A Love Story (The Hub), Disgraced, Secret Garden, and Gidion’s Knot (Next Stop), and The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, How We Got On, and Gidion’s Knot (Forum), The Flick and How We Got On (Company One). Keta would like to thank the whole Avant Bard cast, crew, and the Gunston Theatre for being a part of amazing shows! She thanks G_d for the opportunity to be used as one of His vessels, working to bring His work of art into the hearts of many while doing what she loves. www.newbornketa.com
Andrew Wilkinson (Rehearsal Stage Manager) is extremely grateful for this opportunity to participate in Topdog/Underdog. This is Andrew’s first show with Avant Bard. Previous credits include Catch Me If You Can, Side Show, and Les Miserables at Montgomery College Summer Dinner Theatre; Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and The Hunchback of Notre Dame at Alluvion Stage Company; Young Frankenstein, Newsies, Momma Mia, Ain’t Misbehavin’, The Little Mermaid, and Gypsy at Toby’s Dinner Theatre; and Hairspray, Honk Jr., Blueberries for Sal, Pirates!, and Fancy Nancy’s Splendiferous Christmas at Adventure Theatre.
Krysta Hibbard (Associate Director) is a New York–based director and self-proclaimed “artist wrangler.” She is currently an Artistic Associate for Shrunken Shakespeare Company and previously served as the Associate Producer for the nonprofit organization Throughline Artists, producing the Summer Shorts festival at 59E59, as well as Stage to Screen. Past works include The Exonerated, Arrabal, For Hope, Acolyte, Seafarer, Dark Clothes of Night, Love Letters to a Dictator, Everybody Dies, Certifiable. Upcoming projects: Origin Stories, Belle of Amherst. www.krystahibbard.com
Ashley D. Buster (Assistant Director) is a DC Metro native from Silver Spring, MD. She is a member of the Actors’ Equity Association and is currently School Programs Manager at Shakespeare Theatre Company. She excited to be back at Avant Bard but this time as an Assistant Director! Ashley’s area credits as an actor include The Gospel at Colonus (Avant Bard), The Wiz and Freedom’s Song (Ford’s), Elmer Gantry (Signature), and Godspell (Infinity). She is excited to have her first experience as an Assistant Director with this team!
A. Lorraine Robinson (Dramaturg) is a freelance Director/Dramaturg. She received the Central Ohio Theatre Critics Circle Award: Best Director & Production in 2002 (The Laramie Project, Contemporary American Theatre Company) and 2017 and 2018 Tony Awards: Excellence in Theatre Education — Honorable Mention Awards for her directing work at Sitar Arts Center. She was formerly Co-Founding/Artistic Producing Director of MuseFire Productions. www.linkedin.com/in/arobinson4
Victor Vazquez (Casting Director) serves as the Casting Director/Line Producer at Arena Stage in Washington DC. Previous employment includes Center Theatre Group, The Pasadena Playhouse, Cornerstone Theatre Company, and DAQRI. Originally from Los Angeles, he now splits his time between DC, New York, and London.
Ralph Derbyshire (Technical Director) is an Arlington native. He has worked throughout the DC region for the last 15 years, most notably with The Smithsonian Folklife Festival (2002-08, 2010-15), GWU’s Lisner Auditorium (2007-12), as well as many local crewing companies setting up special events. He has held the titles Master Carpenter, Master Flyman, Assistant Stage Manager, and Shop Foreman. He also works and volunteers with the National Folk Festival as well as several other festivals locally and around the country. This is his fourth show as Technical Director with Avant Bard—his first was The Gospel at Colonus (2018)—and he is excited to bring his skills to real theatre.