Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

James Wallert, Peter Jay Fernandez, Melissa Friedman, Godfrey L. Simmons and More Set for Epic Theatre’s RICHARD III: Born with Teeth at the Pershing Square Signature Center, April 16 – May 4, 2013

James Wallert, Peter Jay Fernandez, Melissa Friedman, Devin E. Haqq, Rhett Henckel, Lanna Joffrey, Michael Kirby, James Joseph O’Neil, Carra Patterson and Godfrey L. Simmons are featured in the cast of the Award-Winning Epic Theatre Ensemble’s production of William Shakespeare’s RICHARD III: Born With Teeth, part of Shakespeare for a New Generation, a national program of the National Endowment for the Arts in cooperation with Arts Midwest.

James Wallert and Peter Jay Fernandez in Epic Theatre Ensemble's Richard III: Born with Teeth at the Pershing Square Signature Center, April 16 - May 4, 2013.

James Wallert and Peter Jay Fernandez in Epic Theatre Ensemble’s Richard III: Born with Teeth at the Pershing Square Signature Center, April 16 – May 4, 2013.

The production, directed by Ron Russell, begins previews Off-Broadway on Tuesday, April 16th and opens Sunday April 21st at 7:30 PM at the Pershing Square Signature Center (480 West 42nd Street). The play will run through May 4th. Epic Theatre Ensemble’s tickets are $25 for this production. Student Rush is also available. For tickets, please visit or call (212) 270-4200. For more information, visit

In RICHARD III: Born With Teeth, Epic Theatre Ensemble wraps Shakespeare’s words in a contemporary setting where you’ll enter the world along side and through the eyes of Shakespeare’s most charming, funny and seductively evil actors: Richard III, himself.

Ron Russell (Director, Co-founder & Executive Director of Off-Broadway’s Epic Theatre Ensemble). After graduating from Oberlin College in 1992 with a degree in Neuroscience, Theatre, and Political Science, Ron founded the nationally acclaimed Summer Theatre Enrichment Program at El Centro de Servicios Sociales in Lorain, Ohio, working with members of youth gangs, where he first experimented with the role theatre can have in youth development, social and economic intervention strategies, and building civic participation. At the same time, he was working deeply with the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT/UP) using theatre as a form of protest across the nation to raise awareness. Ron came to New York as Education Director at Theatre for a New Audience, where he served over 25,000 students during his tenure, and created the Playwriting Program at Project Renewal, an assisted living facility for homeless men. He has directed extensively in NYC including 14 Off-Broadway productions (9 for Epic including an upcoming Macbeth starring Melissa Friedman and Ty Jones), and taught in over 60 school and community sites; Epic’s work has been recognized by two OBIEs (Off-Broadway highest honor) and citations from the Municipal Arts Society, Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg, and the Coming Up Taller Award from the President’s Committee for the Arts and the Humanities.

Peter Jay Fernandez (Hastings) Recent: Luz (La Mama), Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (New Haarlem Arts), CQ/CX (Atlantic Theater Co.). Broadway: Cyrano de Bergerac, Henry IV, Jelly’s Last Jam, Julius Caesar, The Merchant of Venice. Off Broadway; Macbeth, The Pain and the Itch, Too Much Memory, Widowers Houses, Thunder Knocking on the Door, Phaedra in Delirium, As You Like It, Henry VIII, Spell# 7, Coriolanus, Split Second, Checkmates and more. TV/Film; “House of Cards,” “Deception (TV),” “The Good Wife,” “Blue Bloods,” “Body of Proof,” “Law and Order(s),” “Mama I Want to Sing,” The Adjustment Bureau, Deception (Film), Preaching to the Choir, Funny Valentines and more. Awards: Audelco (2), Helen Hayes (Nom.) BTTA (Nom), Audie Award (narration).

Melissa Friedman (Elizabeth, Artistic Director and Co-Founder of Epic Theatre Ensemble) Melissa holds an MFA in Acting from the Old Globe/University of San Diego and a BA in Theatre from Oberlin College. Before co-founding Epic, Melissa worked as a Lead Teaching Artist with many NYC theatres including Roundabout Theatre Company, Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Shakespeare Teaches program, and Theatre for a New Audience. As Epic’s Education Director, she co-developed Epic’s Citizen Artist curriculum and acts as a Lead Teaching Artist in Epic’s partner schools and outreach programs. As an actor, she has appeared in many Off-Broadway productions including as Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing as well as many Epic productions including Time and the Conways, Habitat, Hannah and Martin opposite David Strathairn, Einstein’s Gift, A Hard Heart with Kathleen Chalfant, and A More Perfect Union. Her numerous regional theatre productions include playing a witch to Victor Garber’s Macbeth and Lady Mortimer in Jack O’Brien’s production of Henry IV with John Goodman. In Epic’s Journeys Series, she performs the roles of Emilia in Othello, The Chorus Leader in Antigone and Clytemnestra in Ipphigenia. Melissa has directed 7 of Epic’s after-school Shakespeare Remix Productions including Macbeth, The Winter’s Tale and Richard III. On behalf of Epic, Melissa received the 2009 Coming Up Taller Award for Shakespeare Remix from First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House ceremony. She has published in the Teaching Artist Journal and sat on the Arts-in-Education Panel of the New York State Council on the Arts. Melissa has led Professional Development workshops throughout New York State including at the Empire State Partnership’s Summer Seminar, Common Ground, Face to Face, and NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education.

James Wallert (Richard III, Associate Artistic Director of Epic Theatre Ensemble) As an actor with Epic, James has appeared in nine Off-Broadway productions including Othello, Mahida’s Extra Key to Heaven, A Hard Heart, Widowers’ Houses, Einstein’s Gift, Hannah and Martin, Habitat, Little Eyolf, Time & The Conways and ten workshops including the musicals Pop’d and Save El Cid, which he wrote. As an actor and mentor with Shakespeare Remix, he has worked on Macbeth, A Winter’s Tale, Much Ado About Nothing and Romeo and Juliet. Other theatre credits include Othello, Romeo and Juliet and All in the Timing at the Old Globe Theatre, Pride’s Crossing and Three Days of Rain at Northern Stage, Tis Pity She’s A Whore at Here Arts Center, Sparrows at Circle Theatre, Much Ado About Nothing at the Kansas Shakespeare Festival and King Lear at the Nebraska Shakespeare Festival. TV and Film credits include FOX Television’s “Time of Your Life,” “Just the Beat,” and “Tumbling After.” Since Co-Founding Epic Theatre Ensemble in 2001, James has curated and administered Epic’s Forum Series (funded by the New York Council for the Humanities), serving over 15,000 audience members. He is currently the lead teaching artist and site manager at Chelsea Vocational High School, where he oversees Epic’s sequential learning program. MFA- Acting, Old Globe/University of San Diego; BA- Theatre, University of Kansas.

Carra Patterson (Lady Anne) Broadway: Wit (Susie Monahan, MTC). Off Broadway: Luck of the Irish (Lincoln Center 3) Measure for Measure (Public). Regional: In the Red & Brown Water (Alliance), Ceremonies in Dark Old Men (dir. Kenny Leon, True Colors), The Wiz (True Colors), Henry Box Brown (a Tony Kushner musical, dir. Mark Wing-Davey). MFA: NYU Graduate Acting Program.

James Joseph O’Neil (Buckingham) Broadway: Present Laughter with Victor Garber, directed by Nicholas Martin, Roundabout. Off B’wy: The Hired Man (47th St. Theatre), Look Back in Anger (CSC). Regional: American Repertory Theatre, Westport Country Playhouse, Mark Taper Forum, South Coast Rep, Ojai Playwrights Conference, Huntington Theatre Co., Baltimore Center Stage, Old Globe, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, American Stage Festival, Long Wharf, Pioneer Theatre Co. Film/TV: Deep Powder, Dovid Meyer, The Bourne Legacy, Fair Game, Zodiac, Acts of Worship, “Law & Order,: SVU,;CI,” “24,” “Veronica Mars,” “Third Watch,” “Sex & the City”. BFA Adelphi U, MFA USD/Old Globe.

About the Company: Epic Theatre Ensemble
Epic Theatre Ensemble is an OBIE, Lucille Lortel, and OTTO Award-Winning artist-run company. Founded in 2001 to create theatrical events Off-Broadway and in the New York City Public Schools that inspire vital dialogue about social issues, Epic is best known for their premieres of No Child… by Nilaja Sun, Palace of the End by Judith Thompson, and Hannah and Martin by Kate Fodor, as well as their groundbreaking Shakespeare Remix after-school program that received a 2009 Coming Up Taller Award from First Lady Michelle Obama at a White House Ceremony this past November.

The design team for RICHARD III: Born With Teeth is comprised of Mikiko Suzuki MacAdams (sets), Cat Tate Starmer (lighting), Margaret E. Weedon (costumes) and Ron Russell (sound).

Every performance of RICHARD III: Born With Teeth will be immediately followed by a post performance forum lead by scholars, authors, and thinkers connected to the content of the show. This series is sponsored by the New York City Council on the Humanities. Speakers already confirmed for the series include journalist and author Jonathan Alter (April 18th “Political Manipulation”), playwright and producer Keith Josef Adkins (April 19th “Diversity in the American Theatre”) and author and profession John McWhorter (April 26th, “The Language of Political Manipulation”). Past participants have included author Chris Hedges, former Senator Bob Kerry, James Shapiro, and other noted Shakespeare scholars.

Other Articles about Peter Jay Fernandez:
Peter Jay Fernandez Set for World Premiere of Catherine Filloux’s LUZ at La MaMa’s First Floor Theatre, September 28-October 14, 2012
Photos: Larry Bryggman, Denise Burse, Peter Jay Fernandez, Tim Hopper, Arliss Howard, Kobi Libii, Mary McCann, Neil Pepe, David Pittu, Steve Rosen, Sheila Tapia, Debra Winger at Atlantic Theatre’s Opening Night of Gabe McKinley’s CQ/CX
Larry Bryggman, Peter Jay Fernandez, Arliss Howard and David Pittu Set for Atlantic Theater Company’s CQ/CX, January 25-March 4, 2012
Denise Burse & Peter Jay Fernandez Featured in INTAR Reading of Andrew Dolan’s The Many Mistresses of Martin Luther King
Multimedia: Zooman and The Sign Opening Night Party
Peter Jay Fernandez and Laura Heisler Star in Too Much Memory

Other articles by Lia Chang:
Epic Theatre Ensemble Presents New York Premiere of Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths Starring Joel de la Fuente at the Theatre at the 14th Street Y, October 12-November 18, 2012
Signature Theatre’s Revival of August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson Leads 28th Annual Lucille Lortel Awards Nominations
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
Jose Llana, Ruthie Ann Miles, Maria-Christina Oliveras, Conrad Ricamora, Kelvin Moon Loh and More Set for World Premiere of David Byrne and Fatboy Slim’s Here Lies Love at The Public, April 2 – May 19, 2013
Keith David, January LaVoy, John Douglas Thompson, Glynn Turman, Lillias White and More Set for Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at the CTG/Mark Taper Forum, April 24 – June 9, 2013
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
Albee, Hwang, Enos, Taylor, Wilson, Clarke and Jacobs-Jenkins Set for Signature Theatre’s 2013-14 Season
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
Photos: David Henry Hwang’s The Dance and The Railroad Opening Night at Signature Theatre
Photos: Partying with the Cast of David Henry Hwang’s Golden Child
Photos: David Henry Hwang, Oskar Eustis, BD Wong, Brian d’Arcy James, Francis Jue, Jennifer Lim and Leigh Silverman at WNYC’s The Greene Space
Hold These Truths Opening Night at Honolulu Theatre for Youth’s Tenney Theatre with Daniel Dae Kim, Joel de la Fuente and Jeanne Sakata
Signature Theatre’s World Premiere of Sam Shepard’s Heartless Starring Lois Smith, Gary Cole, Jenny Bacon, Betty Gilpin, and Julianne Nicholson Extends through September 30, 2012
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.

Lia Chang

Lia Chang

Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. She is a Signature Theatre alumni who was in the cast of Sam Shepard’s Chicago, during his Signature 1996-1997 Playwright-in-Residence Season.
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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