Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Lia Chang Photos: Denise Burse, Michael Genet, Doug Eskew, Tracie Thoms, Sakina Ansari-Wilson and More Celebrate Marcus Gardley’s dance of the holy ghosts Opening Night at Center Stage

photo (21)The Blues were on tap at Center Stage’s opening night of Marcus Gardley’s dance of the holy ghosts, helmed by Center Stage Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah on Wednesday, October 16, 2013.

Michael Genet, Jasmine Carmichael, Denise Burse, Doug Eskew, chandra thomas, Sheldon Best. Photo by Lia Chang

Michael Genet, Jasmine Carmichael, Denise Burse, Doug Eskew, chandra thomas, Sheldon Best. Photo by Lia Chang

Hors d'oeuvres from Crème Restaurant. Photo by Lia Chang

Hors d’oeuvres from Crème Restaurant. Photo by Lia Chang

Preshow, in the Deering lobby on the main floor, Memphis Gold played Traditional Rhthym Blues. On the fifth floor, early attendees noshed on complimentary hors d’oeuvres from Crème Restaurant at tables, while enjoying Traditional Rhythm and Blue Jazz/funk blends from Trina Coleman and her husband, guitarist Zachary Coleman; and in the Chapel Bar on the fourth floor, Jonny Grave played Hill Country Blues.

Trina and Zachary Coleman. Photo by Lia Chang

Trina and Zachary Coleman. Photo by Lia Chang

dance of the holy ghosts began previews on October 9, and performances will continue through November 17. Tickets start at $19 and can be purchased by calling 410.332.0033, or visiting www.centerstage.org.

Kwame Kwei-Armah,Denise Burse, Michael Genet. Photo by Lia Chang

Kwame Kwei-Armah,Denise Burse, Michael Genet. Photo by Lia Chang

Marcus Gardley’s acclaimed poetic family drama, 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.

Michael Genet, Denise Burse. Photo by Lia Chang

Michael Genet, Denise Burse. Photo by Lia Chang

Denise Burse, Doug Eskew. Photo by Lia Chang

Denise Burse, Doug Eskew. Photo by Lia Chang

Leading the cast are veteran stage and screen stars Michael Genet as Oscar Clifton and Denise Burse as his wife, Viola Clifton. 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. 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.

Sheldon Best, Michael Genet, Doug Eskew. Photo by Lia Chang

Sheldon Best, Michael Genet, Doug Eskew. Photo by Lia Chang

chandra thomas, Jasmine Carmichael, Denise Burse. Photo by Lia Chang

chandra thomas, Jasmine Carmichael, Denise Burse. Photo by Lia Chang

The cast also features Sheldon best as Oscar’s grandson, Marcus, chandra thomas as Darlene, Jasmine Carmichael as Tanisha, and Broadway vet Doug Eskew (The Color Purple, Five Guys Named Moe, Truly Blessed), who previously appeared in Center Stage’s production of Ain’t Misbehavin’, as Willie, Father Michael and Bluesy Tux.

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.

Denise Burse is flanked by Donald Thoms and his daughter Tracie Thoms. Photo by Lia Chang

Donald Thoms, Denise Burse, Tracie Thoms. Photo by Lia Chang

Denise Burse and Sakina Ansari-Wilson. Photo by Lia Chang

Denise Burse and Sakina Ansari-Wilson. Photo by Lia Chang

Tracie Thoms and Sakina Ansari-Wilson were on hand to celebrate at the opening night party with the cast and creative team.

As soon as the curtain fell, Gardley left his opening night to take the train to Providence, RI, where he was scheduled to teach a class at Brown University the next morning. Below are excerpts from a message from Gardley, read aloud by Catherine Maria Rodriguez, his dramaturg.

“I’m sorry that I could not be with you tonight. I have to catch some speed aboard a train bound for young minds. I have to teach an early class in Providence and will not make it unless I leave now. But I want to thank you for dancing with me tonight. We have raised the ghosts. We have laughed between tears, we have hoped for the hopeless, and you have heard the most intimate details of my life. All of it is true. Tanisha is real…”

Photo by Richard Anderson

Photo by Richard Anderson

“I wrote this play because I never knew my grandfather. He died when I was 4 years old. So I wrote this blues rift for him, put pieces of his story together. The women in his family were haunted by his memory. They loved him, and loved to hate him, and loved him in private – in hums and whispers, between teeth and giggles when they remembered how he loved to curse and sing. This play is for them and for him, and for those that have left their marks on our hearts. I hope you enjoyed the dance. I know it wasn’t easy. The steps are hard, the music is often out of key, and the laughter eventually fades. But it is life, is it not? I believe in us. I believe we can show up in one another. I believe that our angels guide us to one another, and I believe in this cast and director. Kwami is a warrior for good, and this dramaturg, and Sam and Laura and the Center Stage family, I believe we told a story, I believe that people were moved. And I believe that although the government can be shut down, we’ve got to keep moving. We have to keep encouraging one another and we have to keep showing up for our children. You all have blessed me tonight. I thank you. My grandparents thank you. This toast is for you. God bless you all.”

Sakina Ansari-Wilson, Samantha Godfrey, Denise Burse, Michael Genet, Jasmine Carmichael, Heather Jackson, chandra thomas and Catherine Maria Rodriguez. Photo by Lia Chang

Sakina Ansari-Wilson, Samantha Godfrey, Denise Burse, Michael Genet, Jasmine Carmichael, Heather Jackson, chandra thomas and Catherine Maria Rodriguez. Photo by Lia Chang

Click here to see the video interview with Marcus Gardley.

Kwame Kwei-Armah, Tracie Thoms. Photo by Lia Chang

Kwame Kwei-Armah, Tracie Thoms. Photo by Lia Chang

dance of the holy ghosts, directed by Kwame Kwei-Armah, has performances at Center Stage, 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. Tickets start at $19 and can be purchased by calling 410.332.0033, or visiting www.centerstage.org. Full information on the season can be found at www.centerstage.org/2013-14season.

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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.

Denise Burse in her dressing room at Center Stage in Baltimore on October 16, 2013. Photo by Lia Chang

Denise Burse in her dressing room at Center Stage in Baltimore on October 16, 2013. Photo by Lia Chang

Other articles about Denise Burse:
Center Stage Photo Preview: Denise Burse and Michael Genet in Marcus Gardley’s dance of the holy ghosts, Opens October 16, 2013
Oct. 9 – Nov. 17: Denise Burse and Michael Genet Star in Marcus Gardley’s dance of the holy ghosts at Center Stage
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

Jeremiah Abiah, Denise Burse and MaameYaa Boafo Abiah. Photo by Lia Chang

Jeremiah Abiah, Denise Burse and MaameYaa Boafo Abiah. Photo by Lia Chang

Denise Burse, Michael Genet, Lia Chang.

Denise Burse, Michael Genet, Lia Chang.

Other articles by Lia Chang:
Nov. 18: David Henry Hwang, Annie Baker and Rajiv Joseph to be honored at Sixth Annual Steinberg Playwright “Mimi” Awards
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: André De Shields, Mary Zimmerman, Akash Chopra, Richard M. Sherman, Kevin Carolan, Larry Yando, Nehal Joshi and More Celebrate The Jungle Book Opening Night at Huntington Theatre in Boston
Oct. 5-Nov. 17: LTC3/Lincoln Center Theater’s World Premiere of JC Lee’s LUCE Features Olivia Oguma, Marin Hinkle, Neal Huff, Okieriete Onaodowan and Sharon Washington
Photos: Backstage Q & A with Thom Sesma and the cast of Signature’s Miss Saigon
Photos: Backstage with Michi Barall and the cast of Regina Taylor’s stop.reset. at Signature Theatre
Febone1960.net Review: Power Play Powerful & Suspenseful
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
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 liachangpr@mail.com.
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