Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Ensemble Studio Theatre/Going to the River presents The River Crosses Rivers II: 9 Short Plays by Women of Color, 9/14-10/2

Miss Ruby Dee, actress and playwright and Elizabeth Van Dyke, producer and co-founder of Going to the River Photo by Lia Chang

Miss Ruby Dee, actress and playwright and Elizabeth Van Dyke, producer and co-founder of Going to the River Photo by Lia Chang

The Ensemble Studio Theatre and Going to the River are featuring some of the most gifted women playwrights of color – some new, some established – in the return of the series The River Crosses Rivers II, a three-week festival of 9 short plays by women of color, previewing September 14 for an opening September 17 (runs through October 2) at the Ensemble Studio Theatre, 549 West 52nd Street.

“The goal, simply put, is to give women playwrights of color the kind of exposure that is provided by the Ensemble Studio Theatre, whose goal is to nurture individual theatre artists and to develop new American plays,” said Ensemble Studio Theatre (EST) Artistic Director William Carden.

Elizabeth Van Dyke and Jamie Richards, Artistic Directors of River Crosses Rivers II, have organized a stellar lineup of playwrights whose voices add richness and texture to the American Canon.

The River Crosses Rivers II mixes established playwrights like Pearl Cleage and Regina Taylor with emerging playwrights France-Luce Benson, Christine Jean Chambers, Naveen Bahar Choudhury, Philana Omorotionmwan, Desi Moreno-Penson, Bridgette Wimberly and Cori Thomas.

“The River Crosses Rivers II, the second of a series of short plays that originated in 2009, is a program of Going to the River,” said Elizabeth Van Dyke, Producing Artistic Director of Going to the River who started the program ten years ago with the late Curt Dempster. “For the last decade, Going to the River has provided a forum through EST in which professional African-American women playwrights may develop, refine and present their work. The River Crosses Rivers crosses the river to other cultures to give voice to all women of color.

Play Lineup and Cast Lists
COMIDA DE PUTA (F#@king Lousy Food) by Desi Moreno-Penson, directed by José Zayas*
Stage Managed by Kevin Clutz; with Maggie Bofill+, Gilbert Cruz+, Ismael Cruz Cordova, Susanna Guzman+
Phaedra in the Bronx. A bodega-owner’s wife, is madly in love with her husband’s son, the lunch-counter boy, even her friend, the neighborhood ‘spiritual’ woman, Rosalia, can’t save her.
LEARNING TO SWIM by France-Luce Benson*, directed by Elizabeth Van Dyke*
Stage Managed by Daniel Melnick; with Stephanie Berry*+, Lincoln Brown+, Ashley Bryant+, & Paulo Quiros
A woman grappling with loss discovers the only way to rise above her grief is to swim through it.

Photo by Lia Chang

Photo by Lia Chang

MODERN ROMANCE by Bridgette Wimberly*, directed by Chuck Patterson*
Stage Managed by B’Jai Pierce-Astwood; with Chike Johnson, Trish McCall+ & Harvey Gardner Moore
Tanya has been lonely for a long time. Lately she has found something exciting to do with her afternoons … but is he for real?

ONE QUARTER by Christine Jean Chambers, directed by Talvin Wilks*
Stage Managed by Jonathan McCrory; with William Jackson Harper*+ Amelia Workman+
A multi-racial woman ponders the future of her progeny— How will her child inherit a culture she’s always felt alienated from.

Carmen DeLavallade Photo by Lia Chang

Carmen DeLavallade Photo by Lia Chang

ONE FOR THE BROTHERS, A LOVE STORY by Pearl Cleage, directed by Woodie King, Jr.
Stage Managed by Mutiyat Ade-Salu+; with Reggie Burch, Denise Burse+, & Morocco Omari+
A love story set during the turbulent 60′s & 70′s when revolution was the norm.

POST BLACK written & directed by Regina Taylor+
Stage Managed by B’Jai Pierce-Astwood+; with Ruby Dee+, Carmen DeLavallade+, & Micki Grant+
In an airport, a 110 year-old woman encounters the post black generation, much to their surprise.

Naveen Bahar Choudhury Photo by Lia Chang

Naveen Bahar Choudhury Photo by Lia Chang

THE SETTLEMENT by Philana Omorotionmwan, directed by A. Dean Irby
Stage Managed by Chiara di Lello; with Denny Dale Bess*+, Teresa Stephenson+, & Marie Thomas+
New homeowners find their domestic bliss disrupted by the late-night arrival of a stranger who insists that the couple’s home is rightfully hers.

SKIN by Naveen Bahar Choudhury, directed by Jamie Richards*
Stage Managed by Joshua Hernandez; with Vandit Bhatt+ & Nitya Vidyasagar*+
A classic tale of Hip Hop Wannabe Boy meets Disenchanted Poet Girl.

Cori Thomas Photo by Lia Chang

Cori Thomas Photo by Lia Chang

WAKING UP by Cori Thomas*, directed by Tea Alagić
Stage Managed by Kevin Clutz; with Lynnette Freeman+ & Amy Staats*+
Two women on different continents face breast cancer. A play about what separates us and what makes us the same.
*denotes member of EST
+denotes member of Equity

Going to the River has presented staged readings of full-length plays, a solo program entitled Down By the River All By Yo’Self, a River Poetry Slam Jam, RiverFest of ten-minute pieces, a writer’s unit, panels and distinguished guest speakers.

The entire evening will run approximately 2 1/2 hours, including intermission.

Performances are Wednesday through Saturday at 7:00pm, with one Saturday matinee, September 17, at 2:00pm and three Sunday matinees at 3:00pm on September 18, September 25 and October 2.

The Ensemble Studio Theatre is located at 549 West 52nd Street, west of Tenth Avenue. River Crosses Rivers performs September 14 through October 2. Tickets are $10 during previews and $18 from September 17 on. To order tickets call 866.811.4111 or click .

$10 Previews: Wednesday, September 14 – Saturday, September 17
Opening night: Saturday, September 17 @ 7pm
Pick Your Price Performance: Sunday, September 18 @ 3pm
Tickets: $18
Buy Tickets

The Ensemble Studio Theatre is a not-for-99 profit developmental theatre incorporated in 1972 with two primary goals: to nurture 100 individual theatre artists and to develop new American plays. Under the guidance of the 101 late founder Curt Dempster, the theatre’s membership grew from a core of 20 artists to a 102 flourishing community of over 500 theatre artists of the highest caliber. Among them are 103 winners of accolades and higher awards including Pulitzer Prizes, Oscars, Tonys, 104 Emmys, and Obies. The Ensemble Studio Theatre is a lifelong artistic home for its 105 member playwrights, directors, actors, designers, technical personnel and administrators. Each year, The Ensemble Studio Theatre produces over 300 projects, including readings, 107 workshops and fully produced mainstage full-lengths.

Special thanks to Jann Leeming, The Little Family Foundation, The Harold & Mimi Steinberg Trust, and Bloomberg Philanthropies for their support of new play productions at EST.

Other Articles by Lia Chang:
The River Crosses Rivers Opening Night Photos
Photos: Christine Toy Johnson, Angela Lin, Louis Ozawa Changchien, Jake Manabat, David Shih in Jen Silverman’s Crane Story at The Cherry Lane
Tony Award Winner Lea Salonga Leads Stellar Cast in First All-Filipino Concert for Philippine Development Foundation, “PhilDev Celebrates Broadway: Suites by Sondheim” at Alice Tully Hall on 11/7
Goodman Theatre World Premiere of David Henry Hwang’s Broadway Bound “Chinglish” Scores 5 Jeff Award Nods
Mu Performing Arts 2011-2012 20th Anniversary Season: Four Destinies, Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them, Into the Woods, & Mu Daiko 15th Anniversary Concert
The Playwrights Realm Presents Jen Silverman’s CRANE STORY at the Cherry Lane Theatre, 9/6-10/1
The Play Company Presents the Off-Broadway Run of Jonas Hassen Khemiri’s INVASION! at The Flea featuring Francis Benhamou, Andrew Guilarte, Bobby Moreno, Nick Choksi, 9/6-10/1
The Gospel According to James’ Andre De Shields, Charles Smith, Chuck Smith & Tyler Jacob Rollinson Nominated for Black Theater Alliance Awards
Photos: Phylicia Rashad, Michael McElroy, Marva Hicks in Broadway Inspirational Voices “Wondrous Grace” Concert in NY
Marva Hicks and the Columbus Jazz Orchestra light up the Southern Theatre with a “A Night at the Apollo”
Photos: Willie Reale, Frances McDormand, Lewis Black, Bela Fleck, Renee Goldsberry, Duncan Sheik, Lisa Benavides, Abigail Washburn, Tim Blake Nelson at The 52nd Street Project Benefit
House of Payne’s Denise Burse on the 2011 NAACP Image Awards & Season 7; “Shout Out” Episode airs April 20
Ruby Dee, Alicia Keys, Sidney Poitier to be honored at Woodie King, Jr.’s New Federal Theatre’s 40th Anniversary Gala at Edison Ballroom
Photos: David Duchovny, John Earl Jelks, Amanda Peet, Tracee Chimo opening night of Neil LaBute’s The Break of Noon
Playwright Camille Darby
Project1Voice’s Multiple Staged Readings of Alice Childress’ Trouble in Mind features André De Shields, Peter Coyote, Roger Robinson, Leslie Uggams, LaChanze, John Mahoney, Bill Irwin, LaTanya Richardson Jackson, Irma P. Hall on June 20
Meshach Taylor talks Wigger on Wendy Williams Show
Photos of AEA’s Asian Heritage Celebration, featuring the Leviathan Lab Asian American Women Writers Workshop
Sloan Robinson in Bananas: A Theatre Cabaret Based on the Life of Josephine Baker at The Schomburg
Elizabeth Van Dyke Stars in Love to All, Lorraine at Dwyer Cultural Center
New Federal Theatre founder and director Woodie King receives award for community service in communications arts from Howard University’s John H. Johnson School of Communications
Photo Call: Derek Walcott’s Marie Laveau
Dionne Warwick and Woodie King Jr. honored by AMAS Musical Theatre in New York
Celebrating Woodie King
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive.

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Lia Chang Photo by Brianne Michelle Photography

Lia Chang Photo by Brianne Michelle Photography

Lia Chang is an actor, performance and fine art botanical photographer, and 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. Lia currently plays Nurse Lia on “One Life to Live”. She has appeared in Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon, Taxman and “New York Undercover”.

Selections of Lia’s archive of Asian Pacific Americans in the arts, fashion, journalism, politics and space are now in the newly created LIA CHANG THEATER 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, TV Guide, Daily Variety, Interior Design, American Theatre,, Life & Style, OUT, New York Magazine, InStyle,,,,,, 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 She writes about culture, style and Asian American issues for a variety of publications and this Backstage Pass with Lia Chang blog.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2011 Lia Chang Multimedia. All rights reserved. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Lia Chang. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. For permission, please contact Lia at

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