Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

John Earl Jelks, Richard Masur, Ray Fisher, Nikki M. James, K. Todd Freeman and More Set for Fetch Clay, Make Man at NYTW, August 23 – October 13, 2013

John Earl Jelks. Photo by Lia Chang

John Earl Jelks. Photo by Lia Chang

Tony Award nominee John Earl Jelks (Radio Golf), Richard Masur (Lucky Guy), Ray Fisher, Tony Award winner Nikki M. James (The Book of Morman), Tony Award nominee K. Todd Freeman (The Song of Jacob Zulu), Anthony Gaskins, and Jeremy Tardy are featured in the cast of New York Theatre Workshop’s (NYTW) production of Will Power’s Fetch Clay, Make Man, directed by Two-time Tony award winner Des McAnuff (The Who’s Tommy, Jersey Boys).

Previews begin Friday, August 23 at NYTW, 79 East 4 Street, between Bowery and Second Avenue in New York. Opening night is set for Thursday, September 12 at 7pm. Fetch Clay, Make Man is scheduled to run through Sunday, October 13. Tickets start at $70 and may be purchased online at, 24 hours a day, seven days a week or by phoning Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200, noon – 8pm daily. For exact dates and times of performance, visit

In the days leading up to one of Cassius Clay’s most anticipated fights, the heavyweight boxing champion forms an unlikely friendship with the controversial Hollywood star Stepin Fetchit. With a script by award-winning performer and playwright Will Power, who received rave reviews for his plays Flow and The Seven at NYTW, and direction by Tony Award winner Des McAnuff (The Who’s Tommy, Jersey Boys), Fetch Clay, Make Man explores the improbable bond that forms between two drastically different and influential cultural icons. One a vibrant and audacious youth, the other a resentful and almost forgotten relic, they fight together to form their public personas and shape their legacies amidst the struggle of the civil rights movement of the mid-1960s. This true story is as powerful and poetic as Clay himself while also humorous and irreverent like Fetchit’s signature act. Finding commonality in contradiction, Fetch Clay, Make Man examines the true meanings of strength, resilience, and pride.

The scenic design for Fetch Clay, Make Man is by Riccardo Hernandez; costume design is by Paul Tazewell; lighting design is by Howell Binkley; projection design is by Peter Nigrini, soundscape is by Darron L West; original music is by Justin Ellington; the production stage manager is Megan Smith. The boxing consultant is former boxing champion Michael Olajide, Jr.

Will Power is an award-winning playwright and performer. Power’s adaptation of the Greek tragedy Seven Against Thebes retitled The Seven, and his solo show Flow enjoyed a successful run at NYTW and La Jolla Playhouse. Power’s numerous awards include a United States Artist Prudential Fellowship, a Lucille Lortel Award for Best Musical, the TCG Peter Zeisler Memorial Award, a Jury Award for Best Theatre Performance at the HBO US Comedy Arts Festival, a Drama Desk Award nomination, and the Trailblazer Award from The National Black Theater Network. Power’s numerous film and television appearances include “The Steven Colbert Report” (Comedy Central) and “Bill Moyers on Faith and Reason” (PBS). Presently, Power is in the process of developing new works for The Dallas Theatre Center, The Center Theatre Group in Los Angeles, Hartford Stage and The Royal Shakespeare Company.

Des McAnuff is a two-time Tony Award-winning director and the immediate past Artistic Director of the Stratford Festival. He is also Artistic Director Emeritus of La Jolla Playhouse, where during his tenure he directed more than 30 productions of classics, new plays and musicals including Rex Pickett’s Sideways, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, The Wiz, Dr. Zhivago, Palm Beach, Aaron Sorkin’s The Farnsworth Invention, Tartuff and Jesus Christ Superstar. Under his leadership, The Playhouse received more than 300 theatre awards including the 1993 Tony Award as America’s Outstanding Regional Theater. This past year he was awarded Canada’s esteemed Governor General’s National Arts Center Award and the Order of Canada. In June 2011 he was honored with a doctorate from Ryerson University and in 2005 he received the prestigious Julia Hansen Award for lifetime achievement in directing. McAnuff’s Broadway credits include Jesus Christ Superstar (2012); Guys and Dolls (2009); Aaron Sorkin’s The Farnsworth Invention (2007); Jersey Boys (2006, four Tony Awards including Best Musical); Billy Crystal’s 700 Sundays (2004, Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event); Dracula the Musical (2004); How to Succeed… (1995); The Who’s Tommy (1993 Tony Award for Best Director; 1997 London Olivier Award for Best Director/Best Musical); A Walk in the Woods (1988); Big River (1985, seven Tony Awards including Best Director, Best Musical). Stratford: A Word or Two, The Tempest, and Caesar and Cleopatra (all starring Christopher Plummer), Tommy, Jesus Christ Superstar, Twelfth Night and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. His opera credits include Faust at the Met & ENO, Wozzeck at San Diego Opera.

John Earl Jelks was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance as Sterling in August Wilson’s Radio Golf. Jelks also appeared with Phylicia Rashad on Broadway in August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean as Citizen (after runs at the Goodman, Huntington and Mark Taper, where he won a NAACP Theatre Award and an L.A. Ovation Award). In 2008, Jelks won an AUDELCO Award for his work in the Off-Broadway revival of The First Breeze of Summer. Jelks also appeared Off-Broadway in MCC’s production of Neil LaBute’s The Break of Noon with David Duchovny, Amanda Peet and Tracee Chimo. Regional theatre credits include Two Trains Running at Two River Theater Company; 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 Missouri Repertory Theatre. Recently, Jelks appeared as Lt. Ike Murray in the film Snap; as the Man in the Desert in The Miraculous, a short film co-directed and co-written by Laurel Nakadate and Brent Stewart; as Jermaine Dansby Sr. in the Spike Lee helmed TV movie Da Brick. On TV, his guest starring roles include Mr. Achok on “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” and as Ray Bell on “Blue Bloods”. Jelks recently completed a developmental workshop for a new musical inspired by the work of Tupac Shakur, titled Holler if Ya Hear Me, directed by Kenny Leon, which is slated for Broadway.

Actor and director Richard Masur has been well known to film and television audiences for 40 years. He studied at The Yale School of Drama. Subsequently, he appeared in productions at The Public Theater, The Williamstown Theatre Festival, The Yale Rep and The Long Wharf Theatre. He first appeared on Broadway in 1973 in the award-winning production of The Changing Room. Masur has starred in more than 50 feature films, including Risky Business, My Girl, Heaven’s Gate, Forget Paris, Heartburn and Under Fire. Masur has starred in numerous popular TV series, including “Picket Fences,” “Rhoda” and “One Day At A Time,” and guest starred on countless TV comedy and drama series. He has most recently appeared on Broadway in the Tony nominated productions of Nora Ephron’s Lucky Guy, starring Tom Hanks, and Michael Frayne’s Democracy. Recent Off-Broadway credits include the Culture Project’s production of The Exonerated; MTC’s world premiere of Sarah, Sarah, by Daniel Goldfarb; The Public Theater’s production of Rinne Groff’s The Ruby Sunrise; Playwrights Horizon’s world premiere of a feminine ending by Sarah Treem; The New Group’s production of Mike Leigh’s 2000 Years; Fetch Clay, Make Man at the McCarter, and Charles Busch’s Olive and The Bitter Herbs at Primary Stages.

Ray Fisher appeared regionally in King Lear, Cymbeline, As You Like It (Oregon Shakespeare Festival), To Kill a Mockingbird (Shakespeare Theatre of NJ) and Fetch Clay, Make Man (McCarter).

K. Todd Freeman has been a member of Steppenwolf Theatre Company since 1993. Freeman performed at New York Theatre Workshop last season in Paula Vogel’s A Civil War Christmas. Broadway credits include One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, The Song of Jacob Zulu (Tony nomination). Off-Broadway credits include Intelligent Homosexual… and Spunk at The Public Theater, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Freeman’s regional theatre credits include Good People, The Brother/Sister Plays, The Tempest, Topdog/Underdog, Clockwork Orange and more all at Steppenwolf in Chicago, Miss Evers’ Boys and Angels in America at the Mark Taper Forum. TV/Film: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, “NYPD Blue,” “A Gifted Man,” The Dark Knight, The Cider House Rules and Gross Pointe.

Anthony Gaskins was last seen Off-Broadway as Michael in the HERE Arts Center World Premiere, You Are Dead. You Are Here. Gaskins also was also featured in Thomas Hodge in the Urban Stages World Premiere and New York Times Critics Pick, Honky, The Porter in The Mint Theater’s, A little Journey, and For Black Boys Who Consider Homicide When The Streets Are Too Much. Film Credits include the Award Winning short film, Crazy Beats Strong Everytime, The Jerk Theory, Inside and Weight Classes. A graduate of the American Repertory Theater, Institute for Advanced Theater Training at Harvard University.

Nikki M. James is currently starring in the Broadway hit musical, The Book of Mormon, in the role of Nabalungi, which she originated and won the Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. James most recently performed a one woman cabaret show to a sold out audience at 54 Below in New York City. She just wrapped filming the movie, Lucky Stiff alongside Jason Alexander and will also appear in the film The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby starring James McAvoy and Jessica Chastain. No stranger to Broadway, she has starred in the productions of All Shook Up and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Other theatre productions include Romeo and Juliet, Caesar and Cleopatra alongside Christopher Plummer, The Wiz, Bernarda Alba, House of Flowers and Walmartopia. James’ theatre workshops include Lizzie in Baby (Papermill/NJPAC) and Beehive. James has appeared in a variety of TV shows such as “30 Rock,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “Third Watch” and “The Jury.” She resides in New York City and holds a BFA in Drama from NYU.

Jeremy Tardy began acting in theater productions with his elementary school which led to him working and training with Milwaukee’s First Stage Children’s Theater. With First Stage, Tardy was introduced to the classical texts of Shakespeare, Sophocles, and Moliere where he was featured in productions of Othello, Romeo and Juliet, and The School for Wives. After receiving a scholarship from the Utah Shakespeare Festival, Tardy was chosen to be in the drama division of The Juilliard School. Now a recent graduate of The Juilliard School, Tardy was featured in productions of Twelfth Night, The Taming of the Shrew, Balm in Gilead, and most recently McCreele and Topdog/Underdog.

Fetch Clay, Make Man plays at New York Theatre Workshop, 79 East 4th Street, between Second Avenue and Bowery. The regular performance schedule is Tuesday and Wednesday at 7:00pm; Thursday and Friday at 8:00pm; Saturday at 3pm and 8pm; Sunday at 2pm and 7pm. Fetch Clay, Make Man runs through October 13. Tickets start at $70 and may be purchased online at, 24 hours a day, seven days a week or by phoning Ticket Central at (212) 279-4200, noon – 8pm daily. For exact dates and times of performance, visit

AfterWords post-performance discussions creative team members and experts will follow the performances on Tuesday, August 27; Tuesday, September 17; Tuesday, October 8 and Cucina Chats, post-show discussions with the audience accompanied by a glass of wine will follow the performances on Friday, September 27, Wednesday, October 2 and Thursday, October 10.

NYTW is pleased to make theatre accessible to everyone with its $20 CheapTix Sundays program. A dedicated number of tickets for Sunday evening performances at 7:00pm can be purchased in person at the NYTW Box Office for only $20. Tickets may be purchased in advance, payable in cash only and are available to all audience members.

NYTW also has $25 student tickets available for all performances. Student tickets may be purchased in advance from the NYTW Box Office with valid student identification, one ticket per id. A student matinee is scheduled for Wednesday, September 25 at 1pm.
In addition, NYTW offers discount ticket prices for adult and student groups of 10 or more. Please contact group sales at

The NYTW Box office is open 1:00pm to 6:00pm, Tuesday through Saturday.

New York Theatre Workshop, now celebrating its 31th Season, is a leading voice in the world of Off-Broadway and within the theatre community in New York and around the world. NYTW has emerged as a premiere incubator of important new theatre, honoring its mission to explore perspectives on our collective history and respond to the events and institutions that shape our lives. In addition, NYTW is known for its innovative adaptations of classic repertory. Each season, from its home in New York’s East Village neighborhood, NYTW presents three to five new productions, over 80 readings, and numerous workshop productions, for over 45,000 audience members. Over the past 28 years, NYTW has developed and produced over 100 new, fully staged works, including Jonathan Larson’s Rent, Tony Kushner’s Slavs! and Homebody/Kabul, Doug Wright’s Quills, Claudia Shear’s Blown Sideways Through Life and Dirty Blonde, Paul Rudnick’s The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told and Valhalla, Caryl Churchill’s Mad Forest, Far Away, and A Number, Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen’s Aftermath, and Rick Elice’s Peter and the Starcatcher. The 2002 remounting of Martha Clarke’s seminal work, Vienna: Lusthaus and subsequent American tour was one of the longest-running productions in NYTW’s history. NYTW’s acclaimed production of Once is currently enjoying a Broadway run, and Peter and the Starcatcher, which made its New York Premiere at NYTW, has returned to Off-Broadway following a successful Broadway run. NYTW supports artists in all stages of their careers by maintaining a series of workshop programs including work-in-progress readings, summer residencies, and minority artist fellowships. NYTW’s productions have received a Pulitzer Prize, seventeen Tony Awards and assorted Obie, Drama Desk, and Lucille Lortel Awards.

Lia Chang. Photo by Thom Sesma

Lia Chang. Photo by Thom Sesma

Lia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia recently starred 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 Phynjuar.

Other articles on John Earl Jelks:
Photos: Ruben Santiago-Hudson, Phylicia Rashad, John Earl Jelks, Leslie Uggams, Anthony Chisholm, S. Epatha Merkerson, Taraji P. Henson, Jesse L. Martin, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Kenny Leon and More Set for August Wilson American Century Cycle Recording Series at The Greene Space in NY, Aug. 26-Sept. 28, 2013
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
Jelks, Blanks, Chisholm, Cooper, Odera, Ruff and Williams Set for Two Trains Running, Directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson at Two River Theater Company, February 2 – March 3, 2013
Geffen Playhouse Production Photos of Neil LaBute’s The Break of Noon starring Kevin Anderson, Tracee Chimo, Catherine Dent and John Earl Jelks
Kevin Anderson, Catherine Dent, Tracee Chimo, John Earl Jelks in Neil La Bute’s The Break of Noon at the Geffen
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

Other articles by Lia Chang: Review: Power Play Powerful & Suspenseful
A Summer in Bangkok for Thom Sesma, Star of Signature’s Miss Saigon
Signature Theatre’s 2013-14 Season Features New Works by Albee, Hwang, Enos, Taylor, Wilson, Clarke and Jacobs-Jenkins
Photos: The 58th Annual Drama Desk Awards and After Party
Photos: Late Night with Patrice Andrew Davidson, 2013 NBTF Award Recipient for Outstanding Achievement in Scenic Design
Video: Power Play’s Lorey Hayes and Lia Chang on The Carmen Mathis Show
Hal Williams, S. Epatha Merkerson, Ben Guillory, Oz Scott, Jonathan McCrory and Starletta DuPois among 2013 National Black Theatre Festival® Honorees
Tonya Pinkins, Dorien Wilson, Pauletta Pearson Washington, Roscoe Orman, Rain Pryor, André De Shields, Debbi Morgan, Chester Gregory, Tommy Ford and More Set for National Black Theatre Festival® in Winston-Salem, NC
Photos: Charles Smith’s Knock Me A Kiss Starring André De Shields Featured in Encore Performances at The National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, NC, July 30-August 1, 2013
The Chronicle Features Lorey Hayes’ Power Play
Celebrity Actress, Pauletta Pearson Washington returns home to North Carolina starring at 2013 National Black Theatre festival with Roscoe Orman (“Sesame Street,” Willie Dynamite) and all star cast in Lorey Hayes’ award-winning “Power Play”, a play about Politics, Passion and The Power of God
Photos: Yellow Fever Playwright Rick Shiomi Explores New Territory with An All-Female Cast
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive.

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