Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Lia Chang: Tony Award Nominee John Earl Jelks is featured in MCC Theater’s world premiere of Neil LaBute’s The Break of Noon at the Lucille Lortel

John Earl Jelks Photo by Lia Chang

John Earl Jelks Photo by Lia Chang

I caught up with Tony Award nominee John Earl Jelks (Radio Golf, Gem of the Ocean) at the Lucille Lortel in New York, where he is featured in MCC Theater’s world premiere of Tony Award nominee Neil LaBute’s The Break of Noon, starring David Duchovny (“Californication,” “X-Files”) as an average Joe turned modern-day prophet, Amanda Peet (Barefoot in the Park, “Studio Sixty”) and Tracee Chimo (Bachelorette, Circle Mirror Transformation).

The Break of Noon, directed by frequent LaBute collaborator Jo Bonney (Some Girl(s), Fat Pig), which began previews on October 28, has been extended through December 22, 2010 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre (121 Christopher Street, NYC). Opening night is Monday, November 22, 2010. A co-production with the Geffen Playhouse, The Break of Noon will arrive in Los Angeles in January 2011.

The Break of Noon has set design by Neil Petal, lighting design by David Weiner, costume design by Emilio Sosa and sound design by Darron L. West.

The Break of Noon is Neil LaBute’s seventh collaboration with MCC Theater as Playwright-in-Residence, following the 2009 Tony Award-nominated Best Play, Reasons to be Pretty. Renowned for his darkly-comic morality plays (The Shape of Things, In a Dark Dark House), he teams up again with longtime collaborator, director Jo Bonney, for this exploration of the daunting, sometimes harrowing process of “finding religion.” Duchovny makes his New York stage debut as John Smith, a man who sees the face of God during a gruesome office shooting.

I last saw John Earl Jelks, who plays a lawyer and a detective in The Break of Noon, in his delightful turn as a bashful suitor in the Off-Broadway revival of Signature Theatre Company’s production of Leslie Lee’s The First Breeze of Summer starring Leslie Uggams and directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, for which he received a 2008 AUDELCO Award. Jelks received his Tony Award nomination for his performance as “Sterling” in August Wilson’s Radio Golf, which he also toured to the McCarter, Goodman, Center Stage, Seattle Rep., Mark Taper and Yale Repertory theaters. He also appeared with Phylicia Rashad on Broadway in August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean a s “Citizen” (after runs at the Goodman, Huntington, and Mark Taper theaters, where he won an NAACP Theater Award and an L.A. Ovation Award). Regional theater credits include Fetch Clay, Make Man at the McCarter Theatre, the world stage premiere of the Shawshank Redemption at the Gaiety Theatre in Ireland, Magnolia at the Goodman Theatre, Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at the Penumbra Theatre Company and the Missouri Repertory Theatre, The Piano Lesson at the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre and Diary of a Black Man at the Union Square Theatre and the Shaw Theatre in London, England. Recently, Jelks played Detective Dillard in in Spike Lee’s film Miracle at St. Anna.

“I was thrilled to be cast in Neil LaBute’s latest work The Break of Noon,” said Jelks. “It is such a timely topic for him to address. I now understand why The New Yorker wrote ‘there is no playwright on the planet these days whose writing is better than Neil LaBute’.”

Performances are Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7:00 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8:00 p.m., Saturdays at 2:00 & 8:00 p.m. and Sundays at 3:00 & 7:30 p.m. through December 12, 2010. The show will play the following schedule for the extension due to the holiday:
Tuesday, December 14 at 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, December 15 at 2:00 & 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, December 16 at 8:00 p.m.
Friday, December 17 at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, December 18 at 2:00 & 8:00 p.m.
Sunday. December 19 at 3:00 p.m.
Monday, December 20 at 7:00 p.m.
Tuesday, December 21 at 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, December 22 at 2:00 & 7:00 p.m.

Subscriptions for MCC’s 2010-2011 season are on-sale now and priced as low as $99 for the 3-play season. For more information visit www.mcctheater.org or to purchase packages, contact TicketCentral directly at www.ticketcentral.com or call 212-279-4200.

MCC Theater is one of New York City’s leading Off Broadway theater companies, committed to presenting New York and world premieres each season. When MCC Theater was founded in 1986, its mission was simple: to bring new theatrical voices to theater-going audiences. MCC Theater continues to accomplish this yearly through presentation of its mainstage works; its Literary Program, which actively seeks and develops new and emerging writers and its Education & Outreach Program, allowing more than 1,200 students yearly to experience theater, increase literacy and discover their own voices in the arts. Notable MCC Theater highlights include: the 2008 Tony Award-nominated Reasons to be Pretty by Neil LaBute, last season’s Fifty Words, the 2004 Tony-winning production of Bryony Lavery’s Frozen; Neil LaBute’s Fat Pig; Rebecca Gilman’s The Glory of Living; Marsha Norman’s Trudy Blue; Margaret Edson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Wit; Tim Blake Nelson’s The Grey Zone and Alan Bowne’s Beirut. Over the years, the dedication to the work of new and emerging artists has earned MCC Theater a variety of awards. For a complete production history, visit www.mcctheater.org.

The Geffen Playhouse has been a hub of the Los Angeles theater scene since opening its doors in 1995. Noted for its intimacy and celebrated for its world-renowned mix of classic and contemporary plays, provocative new works and musicals, the Geffen Playhouse continues to present a body of work that has garnered national recognition. Named in honor of entertainment mogul and philanthropist David Geffen, who made the initial donation to the theater, the company is helmed by Producing Director and President of the Board Gilbert Cates, Artistic Director Randall Arney, Managing Director Ken Novice and Chairman of the Board Frank Mancuso. Proudly associated with UCLA, the Geffen Playhouse welcomes an audience of more than 130,000 each year, and maintains an extensive education and outreach program, designed to engage young people and the community at large in the arts. For more information, visit www.geffenplayhouse.com.

Other Articles by Lia Chang
Costume Designer Karen Perry- Audelco Nod for The Public Theatre’s Brother/Sister Trilogy by Tarell Alvin McCraney
André De Shields leads cast of Charles Smith’s Knock Me A Kiss at Abrons Arts Center, 11/11-12/5
MIAAC Screens Ashes & The Waiting City, two films featuring Samrat Chakrabarti at SVA Theater on 11/12
Kenny Endo 35th Anniversary Concert Tour through November 20
STORIES FROM CHINESE AMERICA: The Arthur Dong Collection, Vol. 2 as 4 disc DVD Box Set, Parties in LA (11/6) and SF (11/13)
Abingdon Theatre Company Presents the New York premiere of Reggie Cheong-Leen’s play, The Nanjing Race, 10/29-11/21
Lia Chang: Velina Hasu Houston’s Calligraphy Set for World Premiere at LATC, 11/10-12/12
Photos: Happy Birthday to My Niece Asia
Cindy Cheung in Will Eno’s Middleton at the Vineyard through 11/21
Denise Burse and Peter Jay Fernandez Featured in INTAR Reading of Andrew Dolan’s The Many Mistresses of Martin Luther King, 9/21-22
Photos & Video Disney’s The Lion King Las Vegas-In the Makeup Chair with Thom Sesma
Photo Call: BD Wong and the Cast of Heading East at the Asia Society
Multimedia: Promises, Promises’ Stars Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hayes at Lord & Taylor Fifth Ave
Derek Walcott’s White Egrets Due Out March 2010
Classical Theatre of Harlem’s Archbishop Supreme Tartuffe, MTC’s Ruined are Top Winners at 2009 Audelcos
Photo Call: Derek Walcott’s Marie Laveau
Angela’s Mixtape Opening Night
Zooman and The Sign Opening Night Party
Celebrating Woodie King
Dionne Warwick and Woodie King Jr. honored by AMAS Musical Theatre in New York

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Lia Chang Photo by Brianne Planko

Lia Chang Photo by Brianne Planko

Lia Chang is an actor, performance and fine art botanical photographer, an award-winning multimedia journalist.

As a photographer and videographer, Lia collaborates with artists, organizations and companies in establishing their documentary photo archive and social media presence. She has been documenting her colleagues and contemporaries in the arts, fashion and journalism since making her stage debut as Liat in the National Tour of South Pacific, with Robert Goulet and Barbara Eden.

This year, selections of Lia’s archive of Asian Pacific Americans in the arts, fashion, journalism, politics and space will become part of newly created LIA CHANG THEATER PHOTOGRAPHY PORTFOLIO in the ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN PERFORMING ARTS COLLECTION housed in the Library of Congress Asian Division’s Asian American Pacific Islander Collection.

Lia’s portraits and performance photos have appeared in Vanity Fair, Gourmet, German Elle, Women’s Wear Daily, The Paris Review, VIBE, TV Guide, Daily Variety, Interior Design, American Theatre, Broadwayworld.com, Life & Style, OUT, New York Magazine, InStyle, Timeout.com, Villagevoice.com, Playbill.com, Theatermania.com, thelmagazine.com, The Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, USA Today, The Boston Globe, New York Times and Washington Post. A former syndicated arts and entertainment columnist for KYODO News, Lia is the New York Bureau Chief for AsianConnections.com. She writes about culture, style and Asian American issues for a variety of publications and this Backstage Pass with Lia Chang blog.

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