Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Oct. 9 – Nov. 17: Denise Burse and Michael Genet Star in Marcus Gardley’s dance of the holy ghosts at Center Stage

Photo by Lia Chang

Photo by Lia Chang

Veteran stage and screen stars Denise Burse and Michael Genet are starring in Center Stage’s production Marcus Gardley’s dance of the holy ghosts, which begins previews on Wednesday, October 9, and is directed by Center Stage Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah. Center Stage is located at 700 North Calvert Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21202. Opening night is set for Wednesday, October 16, and performances will continue through November 17. Tickets start at $19 and can be purchased by calling 410.332.0033, or visiting

Marcus Gardley’s acclaimed play, dance of the holy ghosts, follows the story of Oscar Clifton, a Blues man living through his memories of the past until his estranged grandson Marcus pays a visit. This poetic family drama chronicles their saga through love, regret, and missed opportunities.

Denise Burse, best known for the role of Claretha Jenkins on the hit TBS series Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne,” returns to Center Stage, having previously appeared in August Wilson’s Radio Golf and Fences. Her numerous other film and TV roles include Preaching to the Choir, Basquiat, and “The Sopranos,” and she has performed in dozens of regional theaters throughout the country. Ms. Burse plays Viola, Oscar’s estranged wife.

Michael Genet

Michael Genet

Broadway and film star Michael Genet takes on the central role of Oscar. Mr. Genet’s many film and TV roles include working with Spike Lee on 25th Hour and She Hate Me, and his numerous Broadway productions include Fences, Lestat, Hamlet, and A Few Good Men. Also a writer, he most recently published a new book, They Must Not Know Who I Think I Am: Lessons’ in Defiant Resilience.

Playing Oscar’s grandson, Marcus, is Sheldon Best, whose regional credits include the U.S. Premiere of Roy Williams’s Sucker Punch at Studio Theatre in Washington, DC. Also in the cast is Chandra Thomas, who has appeared regionally at New York Theatre Workshop, Classical Theatre of Harlem, and the Guthrie, among others; and Jasmine Charmichael, a recent graduate of Rutgers University, who will appear in the upcoming independent film Romeo and Juliet in Harlem. Rounding out the cast is stage veteran Doug Eskew. Mr. Eskew previously appeared in Center Stage’s production of Ain’t Misbehavin’, and his extensive credits include Broadway productions of The Color Purple, Five Guys Named Moe, and Truly Blessed.

Marcus Gardley is an award-winning poet-playwright whose most recent play, Every Tongue Confess, received the Edgerton Foundation New Play Award and was nominated for the Steinberg New Play Award and the Charles MacArthur Award. His many honors include a 2011 PEN/Laura Pels Award, the Gerbode Emerging Playwright Award, the National Alliance for Musical Theatre Award, and the Eugene O’Neill Memorial Scholarship. He is a professor of Playwriting at Brown University, and in 2012 was commissioned to write for Center Stage’s My America.

“I am continually moved and inspired by Marcus’s work,” says Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah. “His writing is poetic, entwining themes of spirit, history, and manhood in a way that brings to mind the work of August Wilson. We are thrilled to have actors of Michael and Denise’s caliber join us for this production, and that we have assembled an extraordinary cast that can bring Marcus’s poetry to life.”

dance of the holy ghosts, directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, begins previews on Wednesday, October 9 at 700 North Calvert Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21202. Center Stage is located in the heart of Baltimore’s historic Mount Vernon Cultural District, just two blocks east of the iconic Washington Monument and 10 blocks north of Harborplace.The show opens officially on Wednesday, October 16, and closes November 17. Tickets start at $19 and can be purchased by calling 410.332.0033, or visiting Full information on the season can be found at

Denise Burse-(Viola) Center Stage: Fences (Rose) (dir.Donald Douglas), Radio Golf (Mame)(dir. Kenny Leon). Broadway/Lincoln Center- Wendy Wasserstein’s An American Daughter (dir. Daniel Sullivan). Off Broadway: Ohio Theatre: Eisa Davis’ Angela’s Mixtape; Classical Stage Company: Don Juan of Seville; American Place Theatre: Ground People (Theatre World Award, Audelco Nom.); Cherry Lane Theatre: Harriet’s Return; Negro Ensemble Company: Hannah Davis; New Federal Theatre: Bill Harris’ Robert Johnson: Trick the Devil (Audelco/Best Actress Award). Tours- Radio Golf (Pre-Broadway, Center Stage, Mark Taper Forum, Seattle Rep); Regional-The Kennedy Center: Pearl Cleage’s Flyin’ West w/ Ruby Dee; Cincinnati Playhouse, Geva: Charles Randolph Wright’s Blue; Illusion Theater: Miss Evers’ Boys; Cleveland Playhouse: African Company Presents Richard III; Fences; Seattle Rep: The Piano Lesson (dir. Lloyd Richards); True Colors Theatre Company/NBAF: James Baldwin’s The Amen Corner; Alliance Theatre: The Piano Lesson, Seven Guitars (dir. Kenny Leon). Workshop: New York Stage and Film/Powerhouse: Marcus Gardley’s The House That Will Not Stand (dir. Marion McClinton). Film/TV- Claretha Jenkins on Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne” (2011 NAACP Award recipient for Outstanding Comedy Series), Peace, Love, and Misunderstanding (dir. Bruce Beresford), Preaching to the Choir, Funny Valentines (BET/STARZ), All the “Law and Orders,” “Third Watch,” “100 Centre Street”. This show is dedicated to my late Aunt Viola.

Center Stage
Under the leadership of playwright, actor, and director Kwame Kwei-Armah OBE (Artistic Director) and national arts leader Stephen Richard (Managing Director), Center Stage is an artistically driven institution committed to engaging, entertaining, and enriching audiences of today and tomorrow through joyous and bold performance. The professional, nonprofit theater company is dedicated to the creation and presentation of a dynamic and diverse array of new and classic work, and each year hosts an audience of more than 100,000 in its historic home in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood. With its signature focus on civic and community engagement, Center Stage, The State Theater of Maryland, enters its second 50 years with a commitment to exploring how art and entertainment communicate in the 21st century, and to igniting conversation in Baltimore and beyond.

Center Stage is supported by a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC), an agency dedicated to cultivating a vibrant cultural community where the arts thrive. An agency of the Department of Business & Economic Development, the MSAC provides financial support and technical assistance to nonprofit organizations, units of government, colleges, and universities for arts activities. Funding for the MSAC is also provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency. Maryland Public Television is a Media Partner for Center Stage’s 2013-14 Season.

Other articles about Denise Burse:
Photos: Denise Burse, Lizan Mitchell, Novella Nelson, Arthur French at Regina Taylor’s stop. reset with LaTanya Richardson Jackson at Signature
Denise Burse, Harriett D. Foy, Lynda Gravatt, Nikiya Mathis, Dennis Parlato, Saycon Sengbloh and Tracie Thoms in Marcus Gardley’s The House That Will Not Stand in 2012 Powerhouse Theater Season, July 20-22, 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
Denise Burse, Michael Early, Phillip James Brannon, Malesha Jessie & Ellen Mandel featured in HAPPY BIRTHDAY LANGSTON HUGHES at Cornelia Street Café
Denise Burse & Peter Jay Fernandez Featured in INTAR Reading of Andrew Dolan’s The Many Mistresses of Martin Luther King
Multimedia: The 52nd Street Project Benefit Photos: Michael Cerveris, James Monroe Inglehart, Rebecca Naomi Jones, Matthew Morrison, Greg Naughton and Kelli O’Hara
Michael Cerveris, Matthew Morrison & Kelli O’Hara sing for 52nd Street Project’s Benefit
Multimedia: Zooman and The Sign Opening Night Party
Slideshow – On October 16, 2005, The Virginia Theatre was renamed the August Wilson Theatre

Other articles by Lia Chang:
National Black Theatre Festival Photos: Backstage with André De Shields, Marie Thomas, Erin Cherry, Sean Phillips and Morocco Omari in Knock Me A Kiss
Photos: Backstage with Michi Barall and the cast of Regina Taylor’s stop.reset. at Signature Theatre
Roscoe Orman, Anthony Chisholm, Amari Cheatom, Stephen McKinley Henderson and More Set for Live Recording of Jitney at The Greene Space
Photos: Opening Night of Will Power’s Fetch Clay, Make Man with John Earl Jelks, Richard Masur, Nikki M. James, K. Todd Freeman, Ray Fisher
Sept. 13 – Oct. 12: Bryan Cranston, Brandon J. Dirden, Michael McKean, Reed Birney, Peter Jay Fernandez, Crystal Dickinson and More Set for Robert Schenkkan’s All The Way at A.R.T.
Photos: Edward James Hyland Stars in Lee Blessing’s WORLD PREMIERE A User’s Guide to Hell, Featuring Bernard Madoff At Atlantic Stage II, September 5 – 28, 2013
NYTW Production Photos of Fetch Clay, Make Man: Ray Fisher, Nikki M. James, John Earl Jelks, K. Todd Freeman
Photos: Debra Ann Byrd and Christopher Sutton Lead the Cast of Harlem Shakespeare Festival’s Production of Antony & Cleopatra
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
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
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
Video: Power Play’s Lorey Hayes and Lia Chang on The Carmen Mathis Show Review: Power Play Powerful & Suspenseful
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 Theatre’s 2013-14 Season Features New Works by Albee, Hwang, Enos, Taylor, Wilson, Clarke and Jacobs-Jenkins
A Summer in Bangkok for Thom Sesma, Star of Signature’s Miss Saigon
Photos: The 58th Annual Drama Desk Awards and After Party
Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

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