Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Apr. 22 – May 18: Working Theater Presents The off-Broadway Premiere of James McManus’ CHERRY SMOKE at Urban Stages

Playwright James McManus. (Photo courtesy of Samuel French)

Playwright James McManus. (Photo courtesy of Samuel French)

Working Theater, in its 29th season off-Broadway, will continue its current exploration of the face of poverty in America, with James McManus’ Princess Grace Award-winning play, CHERRY SMOKE. The play is a brutal love story that details the irrational hope of four destitute young people, all stretching to grasp the American dream. Directed by Tamilla Woodard, the production will run April 22nd through May 18th at Urban Stages, 259 West 30th Street in Manhattan. The official opening is on Thursday, May 1st.

a life for him and Cherry?
On the outskirts of Pittsburgh, Fish is a ticking time bomb and a back alley fighter who has been in and out of jail his entire life, Cherry is a runaway who has been on her own since age 10 and hopes for a more simple life where she and Fish can be together, Will Fish be able to harness his rage and make a life for him and Cherry?

James McManus captures the devastated remnants of the steel towns of his youth, channeling the frustrations of a working class without work. A vivid combustion of the magical and the mundane, Cherry Smoke takes you to a world rarely seen on the New York stage.

Todd London, Artistic Director of New Dramatists explains that McManus “writes about characters with hard lives and hard luck, and he writes about them with profound love. His dialogue is painful and gorgeous. It’s a poetry of the actual, reminiscent of two American masters–Paddy Chayevsky and, McManus’s great example, August Wilson. But like everything else in CHERRY SMOKE, the voice is entirely his own. James McManus is an important American playwright, who deserves to be more widely known. It’s fitting and encouraging that the Working Theater is producing this beautiful play in New York City.”

The cast of CHERRY SMOKE features Molly Carden (Emotional Creature) Patrick Carroll, (Good People) Julie Jesneck, (Rock and Roll) and Vayu O’Donnell (Golden Boy).

Playwright James McManus is the author of six plays: Love on San Pedro, Dorothy 6, Bulldog Whiskey, Underground, Cherry Smoke and Blood Potato. His plays have been developed and performed at Cornerstone Theater Company, Labyrinth Theater Company, Apothecary Theatre Company, The Clockwork Theatre, Glass Umbrella Creative (Sydney), Revolt Theatre (Melbourne), Gurnet Theatre Project, The Kennedy Center, The BE Company, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre Company, The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Barebones Productions, Irish Repertory Theatre, Son of Semele, The Side Project Theatre Company, The Lark Play Development Center, The Inkwell, Diverse City Theater Company, and the August Wilson Center for African American Culture. James was the recipient of the 2006 Princess Grace Award in Playwriting for Cherry Smoke, which is published by Samuel French. He received an MFA in Dramatic Writing from Carnegie Mellon University and is a resident playwright at New Dramatists.

Tamilla Woodard is a Director residing in New York City. She is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama, an alumnus of The Lincoln Center Directors Lab and founder of PopUp Theatrics, a partnership creating site impacting theatrical events in collaboration with theatre artists working around the globe. Most recent work: Long Distance Affair: BA Edition, (Bienal Arte Joven Buenos Aires and PopUP Theatrics, Buenos Aires) INSIDE (PopUP Theatrics, Madrid, Spain;) La Ruta, by Ed Cardona Jr. ( Working Theater, NYC) With PopUP Theatrics: Long Distance Affair, an international collaboration for live Skype performance; Hotel Project, Co-Creator, world premiere in Querétaro Mexico in July 2011, American premiere at Washington Jefferson Hotel and the Summit Grand Hotel in January 2012; Other recent work includes, 3 Editions of Long Distance Affair, Edinburgh, Scotland, Querétaro, Mexico, New York, USA; DramaTour in Querétaro Mexico (Sabandijas del Palacio) Valiant by Lanna Joffrey at InterAct Theatre (Philadelphia, PA); Nightlands by Sylvan Oswald (New Georges,NYC) and the development and direction of Saviana Stanescu’s Polanski Polanski (Teatrul Odeon, Bucharest; The Sibiu International Theatre Festival, Sibiu, TIFF International Festival, Cluj; PS122/SoloNOVA festival, HERE, NYC and The Chain, LIC, New York). She has directed for the Working Theater, HERE, The Actors Theatre of Louisville, PS122, DR 2, The Culture Project, Urban Stages, Dance Theatre Workshop, The Kitchen Theatre and for festivals around the US and internationally. She a recipient of The Charles Bowden Award from New Dramatists, The Josephine Abady Award from The League of Professional Theatre Women, New York Theatre Workshop Director Fellowship, New Georges Audrey Residency and a TCG On The Road Grant.

CHERRY SMOKE features Scenic Design by Mikiko Suzuki MacAdams, Costume Design by Emily DeAngelis, Lighting Design by Solomon Weisbard, Sound Design by Sam Kusnetz. Prop Design by Claire Kavanah, Fight Coreography by Rick Sordelet. The Production Stage Manager is Megan Dickert. The Assistant Stage Manager is Kelly Hardy. The Production Manager is Libby Jensen and the Assistant Director is Dina Vovsi.

Performances of CHERRY SMOKE are on Monday, Wednesdays – Saturdays at 7:00PM with Saturday matinees at 2PM and Sunday matinees at 3:00PM. At Urban Stages 259 West 30th Street between 7th and 8th Aves in New York. Click here to learn more about Cherry Smoke.

Tickets to CHERRY SMOKE are $25 (General Admission) and $23 (Students/Seniors/Union Members) and may be purchased in advance at or by calling 212-868-4444. For group rates, contact Working Theater offers pay-what-you can performances on each Monday. Subject to availability and at the door only.

Now in its 29th season, Working Theater is New York’s only professional Off- Broadway theatre company dedicated to producing plays for and about the workingmen and women of New York. Past productions include Ed Cardona Jr.’s site-specific play about immigration reform, La Ruta, performed inside a real 48’truck; Lisa Ramirez’s play about nannies, Exit Cuckoo, directed by Colman Domingo; Roberto Aguirre Sacasa’s King Of Shadows; Annie Wiesman’s Hold Please; Israel Horovitz’s Henry Lumper, Rob Ackerman’s Table Top; Stefanie Zadravec’s Honey Brown Eyes and many others. For more information, visit

Other articles on Working Theater:
Photos: Working Theater and the Harold Clurman Lab Theater Present Michael Milligan’s Mercy Killers Off-Broadway through February 16, 2014
Photos: Working Theater’s World Premiere of Ed Cardona, Jr.’s La Ruta through May 12, 2013
Working Theater in Collaboration with Magnum Foundation Present World Premiere of Ed Cardona, Jr.’s La Ruta, April 10 – May 12, 2013
Working Theater presents The Best of TheaterWorks!: Stories from the 99%, at The Dorothy Strelsin Theatre at the Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex
Working Theater presents The Poetry of Philip Levine with Jeffrey Eugenides, André De Shields, Gene Gillette and Lisa Ramirez on May 7
Photos: Working Theater’s Production of Rob Ackerman’s CALL ME WALDO at Abingdon Theatre Arts Complex An Emerson-Loving Electrician Takes the Stage in Call Me Waldo
1199SEIU President George Gresham to receive Labor Leadership Award at 2011 Working Theater Annual Awards Ceremony
André De Shields & Alison Fraser Star in Reading of Michael Aman’s The Unbleached American at Theater Row on 5/9
Working Theater Presents Staged Reading of Chay Yew’s Visible Cities at The Studio Theatre on Theatre Row
Photos:The Working Theater’s Off-Broadway production of HONEY BROWN EYES by Stefanie Zadravec at The Clurman
Lia Chang Photo Slideshows of Productions in the Working Theater’s 25th Anniversary Season
Multimedia: Photos of Ed Cardona, Jr.’s American Jornalero at the Dorothy Strelsin Theatre
Photos of André De Shields in Mine Eyes Have Seen The Glory: From Douglass to Deliverance
Achieving the American Dream, Professional Charmer Andre De Shields Sees Theater is a Way to Life

Other articles by Lia Chang:
André De Shields, Mary Zimmerman, Among 4 Elliot Norton Award Nominations for Huntington’s World Premiere of The Jungle Book, a co-production with The Goodman
Photos: Bryan Cranston, Peter Jay Fernandez, Roslyn Ruff, Tamara Tunie, Leslie Uggams, Ruben Santiago-Hudson Celebrate All The Way Opening Night
Photos: AALDEF Honors Mari Matsuda, Aasif Mandvi, and John Chou in 2014 at 40th Anniversary Celebration
Apr. 23-27: Joel de la Fuente Stars in Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths at PlayMaker’s Repertory Company
Jun. 22 – July 27: Richard Thomas and Kristen Connolly Set for Old Globe Debut in OTHELLO
Apr. 17-May 18: Tonya Pinkins and Roscoe Orman Lead the Cast of New Federal Theatre’s Off-Broadway Production of The Fabulous Miss Marie
Photos: Backstage and Opening Night of Signature’s World Premiere of David Henry Hwang’s Kung Fu
Rome Neal’s Banana Puddin’ Jazz Presents “LADY” Featuring Lia Chang, Monica Garrido, Carolyn Holmes, Noel Simon’ Wippler, Linda Hudson, Adi Meyerson and Kathleen Doran
Photos: Harriet Harris, John Tartaglia, Christine Toy Johnson, Alan Muraoka, James Saito and More celebrate Ann Harada’s Debut at Lincoln Center in the American Songbook Series
Photos: Steve Rosen, David Rossmer, Hannah Elless, Vadim Feichtner, Cathryn Salamone, Ken Triwush and Kate Wetherhead Celebrate The Other Josh Cohen Opening Night
Q & A with Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play’s Garth Kravits
Photos: David Henry Hwang, Annie Baker and Rajiv Joseph honored at Sixth Annual Steinberg Playwright “Mimi” Awards
Q & A with Meet Me in St. Louis: A Live Radio Play’s Garth Kravits
Photos: André De Shields, Michael Shannon, Rajiv Joseph, Christine Sherrill, Doug Peck, Alexis J. Rogers, Karen Ziemba and More Celebrate 2013 Jeff Equity Awards
Photos: Christine Toy Johnson, Baayork Lee, Jose Llana, Ann Harada, Dodie Pettit and More at Charles Randolph-Wright’s “Three Voices” concert series at Stage 72
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. All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2014 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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