Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Chuck Cooper, Austin Pendleton, Nicholas L. Ashe, Kyle Beltran, Grantham Coleman, Jeremy Pope, and Wallace Smith Set for MTC’s World Premiere of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s Choir Boy, June 18- July 21, 2013

Tony Award winner Chuck Cooper (Caroline, or Change), Drama Desk Award winner Austin Pendleton (Ivanov), Nicholas L. Ashe (The Lion King), Kyle Beltran (In The Heights), Grantham Coleman (As You Like It), Jeremy Pope (Little Shop of Horrors), and Wallace Smith (American Idiot) are set for MTC’s world premiere of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s CHOIR BOY, the new play featuring gospel music directed by Trip Cullman.

Chuck Cooper

Chuck Cooper

The limited engagement will begin previews Tuesday, June 18 and open Tuesday, July 2 at The Studio at Stage II – Harold and Mimi Steinberg New Play Series at New York City Center – Stage II (131 West 55th Street). CHOIR BOY was commissioned by MTC with support from Time Warner Inc.

Tickets for CHOIR BOY will go on sale to the general public on Monday, April 15. In order to ensure that tickets to CHOIR BOY are affordable to the widest possible, most diverse audiences, MTC is pricing tickets at $30 for the initial run of the show. Tickets will be available via CityTix (212-581-1212),, and at the New York City Center Box Office.

The Charles R. Drew Prep School for Boys is dedicated to the creation of strong, ethical black men. Pharus (Jeremy Pope) wants nothing more than to take his rightful place as leader of the school’s legendary gospel choir. Can he find his way inside the hallowed halls of this institution if he sings in his own key?

The creative team for CHOIR BOY includes: David Zinn (scenic and costume design), Peter Kaczorowski (lighting design), Fitz Patton (sound design), Jason Michael Webb (music director).

For additional details on CHOIR BOY and offers to all MTC shows, please sign up for MTC’s “30 Under 30” program for theatergoers age 30 and under

Under the leadership of Artistic Director Lynne Meadow and Executive Producer Barry Grove, MTC has become one of the country’s most prominent and prestigious theatre companies. Over the past three decades, MTC productions have earned a total of 18 Tony Awards and six Pulitzer Prizes, an accomplishment unparalleled by a New York theatrical institution. MTC has a Broadway home at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre (261 West 47th Street) and an Off-Broadway theatre at New York City Center – Stage I (131 West 55th Street). Since January 2011, Mandy Greenfield (Artistic Producer) has taken the lead in programming and execution at MTC’s Off-Broadway home. Renowned MTC productions include Venus in Fur; Master Class; Good People; The Whipping Man; Time Stands Still; The Royal Family; Ruined; The American Plan; Come Back, Little Sheba; Blackbird; Translations; Shining City; Rabbit Hole; Doubt; Proof; The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife; Love! Valour! Compassion!; A Small Family Business; Sylvia; Putting It Together; Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune; Crimes of the Heart; and Ain’t Misbehavin.’

The Studio at Stage II is Manhattan Theatre Club’s new initiative, under the leadership of Mandy Greenfield, at New York City Center – Stage II (131 West 55th Street). The initiative launched fall of 2012 with the sold out, critically acclaimed world premiere of MURDER BALLAD the new rock musical by Julia Jordan and Juliana Nash and will continue this summer with the American premiere of CHOIR BOY, a play with music by Tarell Alvin McCraney. As part of The Studio at Stage II, MTC and Ars Nova (Jason Eagan, Artistic Director; Jeremy Blocker, Managing Director) have partnered to launch The Writer’s Room a program to commission, develop, and support playwrights in the process of creating new work for the stage. Commissioned writers for 2012-2013 are Adam Bock (A Small Fire) and Justin Levine (Bonfire Night) collaborating on the creation of a new musical; Thomas Bradshaw (Job); Samuel D. Hunter (The Whale); and Sharyn Rothstein (The Invested).

The Studio at Stage II has been partially underwritten with a major grant from The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust. CHOIR BOY is a co-production with ALLIANCE THEATRE.

TUESDAY, JUNE 18 – SUNDAY, JUNE 23: Tuesday through Sunday at 7:30 PM. Matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 PM.
MONDAY, JUNE 24 – SUNDAY, JUNE 30: Monday and Tuesday at 7:30 PM, Thursday through Sunday at 7:30 PM. Matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 PM. There will be no performance on Wednesday, June 26 of this week.
MONDAY, JULY 1 – SUNDAY, JULY 7 (WEEK OF OPENING & JULY 4 HOLIDAY): Monday through Wednesday at 7:30 PM, Friday through Sunday at 7:30 PM. Matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 PM. There will be no performance on Thursday, July 4 of this week.
MONDAY, JULY 8 – SUNDAY, JULY 21: Tuesday through Sunday at 7:30 PM. Matinees on Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 PM.

Tarell Alvin McCraney (Playwright) is best known for his acclaimed trilogy, The Brother/Sister Plays: The Brothers Size, In the Red and Brown Water, and Marcus; Or The Secret of Sweet. They have been performed at McCarter Theater in Princeton, The Public Theater in New York, Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago, at a trio of theaters in the Bay Area: Marin Theatre Company, ACT, and Magic Theatre, as well as the Young Vic in London (Olivier Award nomination) and around the world. Other plays include The Breach (Southern Rep, Seattle Rep), Wig Out! (Sundance Theatre Institute, Royal Court, and Vineyard Theatre – GLAAD Award for Outstanding Play), and American Trade (Royal Shakespeare Company/Hampstead Theatre). Steppenwolf Theatre Company, where he is an ensemble member, will produce the world premiere of his commissioned play, Head of Passes in April 2013. His play Choir Boy, commissioned by Manhattan Theatre Club, will be produced there in June 2013 and played to sold-out crowds at The Royal Court Theatre in London this past fall. During the 2013-14 season, Tarell will direct his own edit of Shakespeare’s Antony & Cleopatra, reimagined during the Haitian revolution against the French, at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon, GableStage in Miami and The Public Theater in NYC.
Tarell was the Royal Shakespeare Company’s International Playwright in Residence in 2008-2010, where he co-edited and directed the Young People’s Shakespeare production of Hamlet which toured throughout the UK and was presented at the Park Avenue Armory in New York. He is the recipient of the prestigious Whiting Award and Steinberg Playwright Award, as well as London’s Evening Standard Award for Most Promising Playwright, the inaugural New York Times Outstanding Playwright Award, the inaugural Paula Vogel Playwriting Award, and most recently the inaugural Windham Campbell Award from Yale University.

He is a graduate from the New World School of the Arts High School, the Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago, and the Yale School of Drama. He is a resident playwright at New Dramatists and a member of Teo Castellanos/D-Projects in Miami.

Trip Cullman (Director). Select NYC: Julia Jordan and Juliana Nash’s Murder Ballad (MTC), Paul Weitz’s Lonely, I’m Not (Second Stage); Leslye Headland’s Assistance (Playwrights Horizons); Adam Bock’s A Small Fire (Playwrights Horizons, Drama Desk nomination); Adam Rapp’s The Hallway Trilogy: Nursing (Rattlestick); Headland’s Bachelorette (Second Stage); Terrence McNally’s Some Men (Second Stage); Bert V. Royal’s Dog Sees God (The Century Center); Bock’s The Drunken City (Playwrights Horizons); Weitz’s Roulette (EST); Jonathan Tolins’s The Last Sunday In June (Rattlestick and Century Center); Bock’s Swimming In The Shallows (Second Stage); Gina Gionfriddo’s US Drag (stageFARM); and several productions with The Play Company including Robert Farquhar’s Bad Jazz, Lloyd Suh’s American Hwangap and Brooke Berman’s Smashing. Select regional: John Guare’s Six Degrees of Separation (Old Globe), Richard Greenberg’s The Injured Party (South Coast Rep), McNally’s Unusual Acts of Devotion (La Jolla Playhouse), Christopher Durang’s Betty’s Summer Vacation (Bay Street Theater), Bess Wohl’s Touched (Williamstown Theater Festival).

NICHOLAS L. ASHE (Junior Davis) is thrilled to be performing at the Manhattan Theatre Company as Junior in Choir Boy. As a just graduated senior, Ashe has starred in numerous productions at Freeport High School as well as community theatre. His professional credits include: National Tour of The Lion King (Young Simba). Television: “Philly Lawyer” (AMC Pilot), “Are We There Yet” (TBS). He has also appeared in numerous commercials and voiceovers. Ashe would like to thank his family, friends, and educators for their unwavering support.

Kyle Beltran (David Heard) made his Broadway debut as Usnavi in the Tony award-winning musical In The Heights, after originating the role on the first national tour. He appeared Off-Broadway in 10 Things To Do Before I Die (Second Stage.) His regional credits include Head of Passes (Steppenwolf), Good Goods (Yale Rep), Kingdom (Old Globe,) and Aida (WVPT.) He has performed in numerous workshops including Fortress of Solitude (The Public), Clueless (The New Group), and Tupac Shakur’s Holler If Ya Hear Me (The Gold Company). His television appearances include “The Big C” and a recurring role as Henry on CBS’ “Unforgettable.” Beltran received a BFA from the Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama.

Grantham Coleman (Austin Justin James) was most recently seen in Soho Rep’s We Are Proud to Present by Jackie Sibblies Drury and directed by Eric Ting. He performed in Shakespeare in the Park’s production of As You Like It directed by Daniel Sullivan, and played Romeo in The Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Romeo and Juliet directed by Tony Speciale. He is a graduate of the Juilliard School.

Chuck Cooper (Headmaster Marrow) won the 1996 Tony Award for best featured actor in a musical, for his performance in Cy Coleman’s The Life, The Audelco Best Actor Award for Caroline, or Change and The San Diego Critics Circle Award for August Wilson’s Two Trains Running. He has 10 Broadway shows on his resume, numerous Off-Broadway and regional theatre credits. His many Film and Television appearances along with detailed biographical information can be found at or at Facebook users can look up his “Get The Scoop On Coop” page. Favorite role: Eddie, Alex, and Lilli’s father. He recently appeared in Two Trains Running at Two River Theater Company and in The Piano Lesson at Signature Theatre, both under the direction of Ruben Santiago-Hudson.

Austin Pendleton (Mr. Pendleton) last appeared in New York as Lebedev, at CSC, in Ivanov, with Ethan Hawke, and as Dr. Sugar, at Mississippi Mud, in Suddenly Last Summer. Other recent New York appearances include Rosmersholm, at the Pearl Theatre, Another Vermeer (by Bruce Robinson) and Love Drunk (by Romulus Linney), both at the Abingdon Theatre, both performances recipients of the Abby Award for Best Actor. He has appeared many times on, off, and off-off Broadway, beginning his New York career in the original Jerome Robbins productions of Fiddler on the Roof and Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Momma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad. He is a member of the Ensemble at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre, where he has appeared in Cormac McCarthy’s The Sunset Limited (which moved to 59 E. 59th St., in New York), Educating Rita, opposite Laurie Metcalf (this also moved to New York), Uncle Vanya (in the title role), Valparaiso, by Don de Lillo, and The Crucible, as Danforth (replacing Francis Guinan during the run). He has appeared in about 150 movies, and as a regular on such TV series as “Homicide” and “Oz.” He is also a director and a playwright, and teaches acting at HB Studio, in New York. He apprenticed (and has acted and directed many times) at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, under the guidance of Nikos Psacharopoulos.

JEREMY POPE (Pharus JoNathan Young) is grateful to be making his New York debut in Choir Boy. He is recent graduate from The American Musical & Dramatic Academy. Theatre credits include Seymour in Little Shop of Horrors and SkippyJon in Theatre Works USA’s SkippyJon Jones. Originally from Orlando, FL, Jeremy has been writing, recording, and producing music since he was 13 years old. He thanks his family for all their love and support, & his angels at Judy Boals, Inc for never giving up on him.

Wallace Smith (Bobby Marrow) is thrilled to be one of the boys! Smith was recently seen in Broadway’s Revival of Godspell as ‘Judas.’ Other Broadway credits include Green Day’s American Idiot as the ‘Favorite Son,’ Disney’s The Lion King as ‘Simba,’ the Tony Award-winning revival of Hair as ‘Hud’ and the revival of Ragtime (Coalhouse understudy). National Tours/Regional: The Lion King first and second national tours and Las Vegas Company as ‘Simba;’ Whoopi Goldberg’s White Noise as ‘Dion;’ Miss Saigon as John; Bare A Pop Opera (L.A. company) as ‘Matt;’ Alex Timbers’ NYC Lab, The Last Goodbye (role of Prince); and The Leading Player in KC Rep’s Pippin. Television: CBS’s “Blue Bloods,” NBC’s “American Dreams,” Fox Family’s “State of Grace,” The Onion News Network, as well as “Soul Food” on Showtime.

Lia Chang. Photo by Bruce Alan Johnson

Lia Chang. Photo by Bruce Alan Johnson

Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. This summer she will appear as Carole Barbara in Lorey Hayes’ Power Play at the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., with Pauletta Pearson Washington, Roscoe Orman, Lorey Hayes, Marcus Naylor and Penwah, July 30-August 1, 2013.

Other articles by Lia Chang:
Photos: All-Access Pass to August Wilson’s Two Trains Running with John Earl Jelks, Harvy Blanks,Chuck Cooper, Anthony Chisholm, Owiso Odera, Roslyn Ruff and James A. Williams
Signature’s Off-Broadway Revival of August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson, helmed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson, runs October 30 -December 9, 2012
Paper Dolls at the Tricycle Theatre Extends through April 28, 2013
Orville Mendoza is currently appearing as Sergeant Lombardi in Classic Stage Company’s Passion through April 19, 2013
NAATCO Presents A Dream Play at Here, March 22 – April 13, 2013
Phylicia Rashad to Helm August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at the CTG/Mark Taper Forum at The Music Center, April 24 – June 9, 2013
Signature Theatre’s 2013-14 Season Features New Works by Albee, Hwang, Enos, Taylor, Wilson, Clarke and Jacobs-Jenkins
Signature Theatre’s Revival of David Henry Hwang’s The Dance and The Railroad Set for Wuzhen Theatre Festival in Wuzhen, China, May 9-12, 2013
Paul Giamatti Leads Yale Rep’s Production of Hamlet, March 15-April 13, 2013
Photos: David Henry Hwang’s The Dance and The Railroad Opening Night
Denise Burse as Claretha Jenkins in House of Payne’s “Payneful Visit”
Photos: David Duchovny, John Earl Jelks, Amanda Peet,Tracee Chimo opening night of Neil LaBute’s The Break of Noon
John Earl Jelks is featured in MCC Theater’s world premiere of Neil LaBute’s The Break of Noon at the Lucille Lortel
Denise Burse, Rocky Carroll, Anthony Chisholm, John Earl Jelks and James A. Williams in Radio Golf by August Wilson at The Pearlstone Theater in Baltimore
Costume Designer Karen Perry- Audelco Nod for The Public Theatre’s Brother/Sister Trilogy by Tarell Alvin McCraney
Harlem Nights with Lorey Hayes, Actress, Director and Award-Winning Playwright of Power Play and Massinissa
Photos: All-Access Pass to Disney’s Aladdin at The Muny with Thom Sesma, Francis Jue, Robin De Jesus, John Tartaglia, Jason Graae, Curtis Holbrook, Eddie Korbich, Samantha Massell and Ken Page
Performing Arts Images from the Asian American Pacific Islander Collection on Display at the Library of Congress to Celebrate APA Heritage Month
Photos: Yellow Fever Playwright Rick Shiomi Explores New Territory with An All-Female Cast
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2013 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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