The following list was gathered for the program of TCG’s “Our Stories” Gala honoring Samuel L. Jackson and LaTanya Richardson Jackson on Jan. 9. If you would like to recommend a theatre artist for a future Role Call, fill out our open Google Form here.
Candrice Jones (she/her)
Hometown: Dermott, Ark.
Current Home: Little Rock, Ark.
Known for: Her play Flex, about high school girls basketball in the rural American South, had its official co-premiere at Fayetteville, Ark.’s TheatreSquared and Atlanta’s Theatrical Outfit in summer 2022, two years after a production at the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Humana Festival of New Plays was cancelled mid-rehearsal due to COVID. Flex is slated for a production at Lincoln Center Theater this spring.
What’s next: She’s currently working on a commissioned musical with composer Randy Preston, effusing, “I’m super excited about this, as it sheds light on an issue very close to my heart and personal history: public education.”
What makes her special: Delicia Turner Sonnenberg, who directed Flex both in Louisville and in Fayetteville, characterized Jones’s writing as “bold, with rich characters. Her use of language is beautiful and poetic, even when it’s in everyday vernacular. Her sense of rhythm is like magic. Words I would use to describe her work: fierce, brave, honest, poetic, funny, sexy.”
Tell the stories: Growing up in the rural South, Jones found her “first sanctuary” in basketball, and later felt a similar welcome in the theatre, where she saw “people tell personal stories, seemingly careless of the judgment of others.” That’s an energy she sustains not only in making her own work but by serving on panels to select plays for awards or other opportunities, which exposes her to new writing; she named Anchuli Felicia King, Zola Dee, Minghao Tu, and Lester Eugene Mayers as writers whose work she has found especially exciting.
Christopher Rudd (he/him)
Hometown: Born in Kingston, Jamaica, raised in Miami
Current Home: New York City
Known for: A 2019 Guggenheim Choreography Fellow and the inaugural New Victory Theater LabWorks Launch Artist, Rudd is also the founder, and artistic director of RudduR Dance. A dance-maker who blends contemporary ballet with contemporary circus to speak to relevant social issues, he is best known for creating the groundbreaking Touché and Lifted for American Ballet Theatre (ABT), both of which premiered at Lincoln Center. Touché was ABT’s first explicitly homosexual work, and Lifted made history by featuring an entirely Black cast and Black creative team, including a Black conductor.
What’s next: Rudd is currently working on finding the resources to complete and tour his three-part ballet Witness, which is inspired by the murders of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, and countless other African Americans.
What makes him special: According to teaching artist Rachael Holmes, Rudd’s Witness has faced challenges with potential programmers who considered its themes “burdensome.” Even so, Holmes believes that Rudd “is set to forever change the way families interact with art and build and cherish community in response. His work is like nothing before. It is astonishing in its humility. Anyone who experiences his work will without question leave forever changed.”
Humane and important: As Rudd put it, “The responsibility I have to my artists and the mission of RudduR Dance to better the world through dance gets me up in the morning and keeps me up at night. I am constantly thinking of how to make important and relevant work in the most humane way possible.”
James R. Dixon (he/they)
Profession: Youth suicide prevention program specialist, actor, director
Hometown: Goldsboro, N.C.
Current home: Portland, Ore.
Known for: Dixon directed Bootycandy at OUTWright Theatre Festival, and Matter with Many Hats and Portland Playhouse. Matter can be viewed on jamesrdixon.com, along with a few other projects.
What’s next: Dixon will direct Ronald Reagan Murdered My Mentors by C. Julian Jiménez for BlaQ OUT and Fuse Theatre Festival, which will be their first staged performance, in February 2023. Dixon is producing artistic director of BlaQ OUT, a producing engine of Fuse Theatre Ensemble, which centers works created at the intersection of Blackness and queerness.
What makes them special: Rusty Tennant, artistic director of Fuse Theatre Ensemble, called Dixon “a vigilant social activist who works diligently to create a rehearsal room that is a safe space for all artists, especially queer, Black, and brown artists. Their work in social justice has led them to developing a trauma-informed process that places the safety and concerns of the performer at its core, allowing them to present provocative and challenging works while still caring for the artists they invite into the process.”
Opportunity out of necessity: “I started acting, directing, and now producing out of pure necessity,” Dixon said. “I am one of many participants in the Black experience waiting for the chance to tell their own stories. The goal is to get the right voices at the table at every step of the process. And I hope to continue to provide access and foster lateral mentorship with other creatives.”
Kara Young (she/her)
Hometown and current home: Harlem, New York City
Known for: Young has blazed a trail of indelible performances both Off-Broadway (All the Natalie Portmans at MCC Theater, The New Englanders at Manhattan Theatre Club, The Revolving Cycles Truly and Steadily Roll’d at Playwrights Realm, Pretty Hunger at the Public Theater, Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven at the Atlantic), and on Broadway in Clyde’s at Second Stage and Cost of Living at Manhattan Theatre Club. TV watchers may have seen her on MTV’s Girl Code or the HBO Max series The Staircase.
What’s next: In February, Young will reprise her role in Carl Cofield’s production of Twelfth Night at the Classical Theatre of Harlem, in which she appeared last summer. She also has a role in Boots Riley’s upcoming Amazon series I’m a Virgo.
What makes her special: Jo Bonney, who directed Young in Cost of Living, calls her “fearless…completely open to any and every possibility for her character and in her relationship with her scene partners. She’s also beautifully incapable of delivering a dishonest moment.” And Kate Whoriskey, who directed Young in Clyde’s, calls the actor “a triple threat: a generous collaborator, an insightful interpreter of text, and an electrifying performer onstage.”
Opening doors: “I started acting as a child for fun,” Young recalled. “Doing it as an adult is magic. What gets me up in the morning is feeling like there is humanity to honor, worlds to deepen and expand, unopened doors to explore. What keeps me up at night is when those doors and worlds start to open themselves.”
Marie Cisco (she/her)
Profession: TV, film, and theatre producer
Hometown and current home: Atlanta
Best known for: Cisco was line producer on Ain’t No Mo’ at the Public Theater and a co-producer of The U.S. Vs. Billie Holiday on Hulu. She was also the driving force behind “Theatres Not Speaking Out,” a public Google spreadsheet monitoring the statements (and follow-through track records) of U.S. theatres in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd.
What’s next: Cisco is working on a number of projects with Stardust Films, the production company founded by Common, which is also consulting on the future of NSangou Njikam’s play Syncing Ink.
What makes her special: Garlia Cornelia Jones, who worked as a producer with Cisco both at the National Black Theatre and at the Public Theater, said that her colleague has “an attentive firmness that allows artists to be supported and seen,” adding, “Marie is a problem solver. She listens, and I have found Marie to be an empathetic ear.”
Pivot with love: Cisco loves producing, i.e., creating “spaces for artists to do their best work,” but in recent years she has felt the thrill ebbing as the field “lost sight of the values that brought us to the proscenium in the first place.” The field she would like to build is one “where the structures and systems we build hold the capacity for compassionate leadership and the bravery to pivot when things simply aren’t working. I envision a field where we experience theatre not to judge and critique but to observe and understand the varied perspectives of others. Until then, we keep doing the work, and in all things lead with love.”
Yvonne Miranda (she/her)
Profession: Costume designer
Current Home: Chicago
Known for: Her extensive costume work has been featured in Scene Shift magazine, shown in an exhibit at Texas’s McNay Art Museum, and garnered such honors as 2019 Black Theatre Network’s Judy Dearing Student Costume Design Competition, 2019 SMU’s Taubman Scholarship, and the 2018 Television Academy Costume Design Internship. In 2019, she also designed the “Big Tex” T-shirt for the Texas State Fair.
What’s next: In May she will design for her first Off-Broadway production, The Knight of the Burning Pestle with Red Bull Theatre and Fiasco Theatre, and in March and April she will design her first August Wilson, a co-production of Seven Guitars by Milwaukee Rep and Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park.
What makes her special: Kevin Moriarty, who’s directing Into the Woods at Dallas Theater Center in the spring, raved about Miranda, who’s doing the costumes for the show, “Every director in the American theatre should know Yvonne. Her designs can move from exquisite recreations of highly researched times past to bold, fantastical, highly theatrical designs.” Her previous productions at DTC included her
“breathtakingly beautiful version of Our Town and an all-out creative tour-de-force production of The Odyssey…I am in awe of Yvonne, who can efficiently manage 100 fittings and bring the show in on budget, while also creating work that is witty, creative, and visionary.”
Heard and seen: A veteran of military and corporate America, Miranda counts herself lucky to work in the theatre, where “my collaborators actually listen and appreciate my voice. I’ve never been so heard or seen before as an individual in my life, and it’s a wonderful sensation to finally find my tribe.”
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