Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Feb. 25- Mar. 1: Patrice Johnson Chevannes, Nana Mensah and Christine Osuala Set for National Black Theatre’s Workshop Production of Mfoniso Udofia’s HER PORTMANTEAU, Helmed by Victor Maog


Dr. Barbara Ann Teer’s National Black Theatre [NBT] located at 2033 National Black Theatre Way (Fifth Avenue) is presenting the Workshop Production of HER PORTMANTEAU, by Mfoniso Udofia and directed by Victor Maog, February 25, 2015 – March 1, 2015. This is the culminating event of NBT’s Black History Month Programing and the launch of Women’s History Month. HER PORTMANTEAU is also the theatrical debut of the theater’s I Am Soul – Playwright Residency Program, for which Udofia is the 2014 recipient of this residency.

“How Mfoniso utilizes the musicality of Ibibio intertwined with English to tell a dynamic, heartfelt story is breathtaking,” said Jonathan McCrory, Theatre Arts Director, “and NBT is proud to produce her first stage production.”

The cast features three dynamic actresses: Patrice Johnson Chevannes (Tamburlaine), Nana Mensah (“An African City”) and Christine Osuala. All of these actresses are making their NBT debut. The Creative team includes: Justin Townsend (Light / Set Designer; Broadway: Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike); Jadele McPherson (Live Musician); Kristine Schlachter (Production Stage Manager); Beth McGuire (Dialect and Language Coach; Broadway: Street Car Name Desire); Ebbe Bassey (Translator & Language Sepcialist) and Anton Floyd (Dramaturge).

HER PORTMANTEAU was written by Nigerian-American Mfoniso Udofia during the 2014 inaugural year of I Am Soul – Playwright Residency Program. Udofia’s play tells the story of legacy and forgiveness. Trapped within a small New York apartment, matriarch Abasiama Ufot and her two eldest children must construct a new definition for their family. As vaults are opened and old pains are re-lived, three women from three different generations, attempt to build the bridge across very different worlds. After every show there will be talkbacks with the playwright and director [except March 1, 2015] in order to further develop the piece.

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased online or by calling the theatre directly at (212)722-3800.

Launched in 2014 as a part of NBT’s Theatre Arts Program, lead by Jonathan McCrory, the I Am Soul – Playwright Residency Program is a competitive program that recognizes one Black playwright annually whose work demonstrates exceptional artistic merit and excellence in the field.

Performance Schedule:
HER PORTMANTEAU has a limited performance schedule and will run from Wednesday, February 25 – Sunday, March 1, 2015. The show will start at 7:30pm Thursday – Saturday. A Saturday matinee performance at 2PM and a Sunday performance at 4pm. Tickets are $20 general admission. For students, active military and Seniors (65+) with ID and groups 10+ please call the theatre at (212) 722-3800 or e- mail to learn more. Post-performance discussions will be conducted after each performance.

Tickets are available by calling (212) 722-3800, visiting, or going to the NBT Box Office at 2031 Fifth Avenue between 125th & 126th Streets in Harlem, New York. Box Office hours are 1:00pm to 6:00pm, Tuesday through Saturday.

MFONISO UDOFIA (Playwright) is a New York based storyteller, actor, slam-poet and teaching artist. She attended Wellesley College for Political Science and obtained her MFA in Acting from San Francisco’s Tony award winning, American Conservatory Theater. During this stay in the Bay Area, Udofia pioneered a youth initiative, The Nia Project, which provided artistic outlets for youth residing in Bayview/Huntspoint. Some of Ms. Udofia’s plays include: The Grove, Sojourners, runboyrun, Lilyvine, hunger and Sherman: ablackcomedy. Ms. Udofia is a 2013 Sundance Theatre Lab Resident Playwright and is a Summer Yale Resident with the Page 73 development programs. She is Makehouse’s Sponsored Artist and the Inaugural Playwright in Residence with the National Black Theatre. Ms. Udofia was a New Black Fest 2012 Writing Fellow and she served as a 2012-2013 Writing Fellow with both Playwrights Realm and Rising Circle’s INKTank. She has also been a finalist for the 2013 Lark Playwrights’ Week and has been a semifinalist for the Eugene O’Neill National Playwrights Conference. She received this distinction with her plays and was a finalist for the 2013 Many Voices Fellowship. Please follow her at @mfudofia and check out her site for the latest news.

Victor Maog. Photo by Lia Chang

Victor Maog. Photo by Lia Chang

VICTOR MAOG (Director) is an award-winning theatre artist who’s work has reached over half the continental United States. He’s directed and developed works at the NYSF/Public Theater, Hartford Stage, Williamstown Theatre Festival, 54 Below, Signature Theatre Company, Mabou Mines, Joe’s Pub, Intar, New York Theatre Workshop, Lark Play Development Center, Working Theater and New Dramatists. His new work creation has taken him from major institutions in New York City & Los Angeles to non-traditional projects in Chicago’s south side & Phnom Penh, Cambodia. He was one of six directors in the United States to receive the prestigious 2004-06 NEA/TCG Career Development Award, Sweet Briar Fellowship at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Paula Altvater Fellowship at Cornerstone Theatre Company, Van Lier Directing Fellowship at Off Broadway’s Second Stage Theatre, and The Presidential Award for Outstanding Academic Enrichment with the Theatre Arts Project of San Joaquin County, where he served as Artistic Director at age twenty. He’s also a respected artist-educator who’s worked at schools such as NYU, UPenn, Fordham, Emory, JMU, WVU, Miami, Delta State, and organizations including the American Theatre Wing, Theatre Development Fund, and the Kennedy Center’s American College Festival. Currently, he’s on the directing team of the ABC/Disney Casting Project, in the inaugural class of the TCG SPARK Leaders Program, and Artistic Director of 2g. Victor graduated from NYU’s Gallatin School with a concentration in Global Leadership and Performance Studies.

PATRICE JOHNSON CHEVANNES (Abasiama) is making her NBT debut. Her theatre credits include The Crucible opposite Liam Neeson and Laura Linney, and Racing Demon, both directed by Sir Richard Eyre on Broadway; Desdemona opposite Patrick Stewart in Othello (Shakespeare Theatre Company); Banished Children Of Eve (Irish Repertory Theatre); All’s Well That Ends Well (The Public Theater); Angelique (AUDELCO nomination); for colored girls .. (AUDELCO Award); Coming Home (The Wilma Theater, Best Actress Barrymore Award nomination); Tamburlaine directed by Sir Michael Boyd (Theatre for a New Audience), Steel Hammer directed by Anne Bogart (Actors Theatre of Louisville, upcoming in the fall at BAM) and the World Premiere of Danai Gurira’s new play, Familiar at Yale Repertory, also part of Playwrights Horizon season, 2015-2016). Patrice has directed three award-winning feature films through her production company God-And-All-O Wee Productions, Kings County, NY’s Dirty Laundry, and Hill and Gully, and is currently working on a fourth. Additional film and television credits include Undertow, The Guardian, “ER,” and “Without a Trace,” among others.

NANA MENSAH (Iniabasi) is currently in post-production on the film Queen of Glory, in which she starred. And wrote. And directed. Nana Mensah is not a megalomaniac. She also plays the role of Sade in the hit series, “An African City” and can soon be found in the limited web-series “The Walker,” starring Academy Award nominees Carey Mulligan & Gabourey Sidibe. New York theater credits include Shakespeare in the Park, (The Bacchae, starring Anthony Mackie & Jonathan Groff, and Mother Courage and Her Children starring Meryl Streep & Kevin Kline), as well as plays at Playwrights Horizons, Classic Stage Company, and the Culture Project.

CHRISTINE OSUALA (Adiaga) is a 1st Generation American actress and spoken word poet of Nigerian descent. A recent graduate of NYU’s Graduate Acting Program, she is extremely grateful to have one of the early performances of her career be a play that displays an accurate depiction of hers and so many other Nigerian descendants’ lives. She would like to thank Mfoniso for this opportunity and the National Black Theatre for providing a space for such works of art to be produced and seen.

NATIONAL BLACK THEATRE: Currently under the leadership of CEO, Sade Lythcott, was founded by visionary Dr. Barbara Ann Teer in 1968. National Black Theatre is a cultural and educational institution, where Dr. Teer pioneered “the healing art of black theatre as an instrument for wholeness in urban communities where entrepreneurial artists of African descent live and work.” In 1983, Dr. Teer expanded the vision of NBT by purchasing a 64,000 square foot building on 125th and Fifth Avenue (renamed “National Black Theatre Way” by local law in 1994). This was the first revenue-generating black arts complex in the country, a visionary arrangement through which for-profit businesses who shared NBT’s spiritual and aesthetic values rented retail space to subsidize the arts. She worked tirelessly to shift the cultural identity of people of African descent born in America in every area of human concern. Out of her vision, NBT houses the largest collection of Nigerian new sacred art in the Western hemisphere and is considered the authentic representation of a model whose time has come. Where else but in community based cultural institutions can artists and writers replace what has been wiped clean in the American history books? NBT is a place where we can still weave our own stories and determine our own destiny. It is a place where we can create our own legends and move forward back into self-love to mutual love of others based on respect and shared visions. As a cultural and educational anchor institution, NBT’s contribution is not only recognized in Harlem, but also citywide and nationally. Visit or follow them on Facebook ( NationalBlackTheatre) and Twitter/Instagram (@NatBlackTheatre).

Other Articles by Lia Chang:
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Cheryl L. Davis’ Maid’s Door Sweeps AUDELCOs with 7 Wins; Complete List of 2014 AUDELCO Recipients
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The Greene Space at WNYC presents Preview Screenings of ABC’s FRESH OFF THE BOAT; Conversation with Amy Chua, Awkwafina & Jay Smooth, moderated by Jeff Yang
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Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Advantageous, Oh Lucy!, Meru, Umrika, The Chinese Mayor, The Stanford Prison Experiment Among 2015 Sundance Film Festival Award Winners
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Feb. 20-Mar. 27: Trestle Gallery Presents “Swimming Awkward Moment,” the newest works by painter Arlan Huang
Novelist Jessica Hagedorn, Neal Katyal of Hogan Lovells, and John W. Kuo of Varian Medical Systems, to receive AALDEF 2015 Justice in Action Awards on February 23
Mar. 4: Tony Award-Winner Lillias White, Carol Fredette & More to be Honored at 30th Annual Bistro Awards at Gotham Comedy Club
Unsuk Chin’s Opera Alice in Wonderland, Featuring Libretto Co-Written with David Henry Hwang, Set for UK Premiere at the Barbican Celebrating the 150th Anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s Novels on March 8, 2015
Lincoln Center Theater’s The King and I, Starring Ken Watanabe, Kelli O’Hara, Ruthie Ann Miles, Conrad Ricamora, Jon Viktor Corpuz, Paul Nakauchi and More Kick off Rehearsals; Previews Begin March 12
Broadway Bound Doctor Zhivago Featuring Tam Mutu, Kelli Barrett, Tom Hewitt, Paul Nolan, Lora Lee Gayer, Melody Butiu and More Kicks Off Rehearsal; Previews Begin March 27
The Old Globe Presents World Premiere of Christopher Gattelli Helmed IN YOUR ARMS Featuring Vignettes written by David Henry Hwang, Rajiv Joseph, Douglas Carter Beane, Nilo Cruz, Christopher Durang, Carrie Fisher, Terrence McNally, Marsha Norman, Lynn Nottage, and Alfred Uhry, September 16 – October 25
Rajiv Joseph Wins Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award for New Play Guards at the Taj; Set for World Premiere at Atlantic Theater Company in May
Photos: Tony Award Winning Playwright David Henry Hwang, NEFA, Graham Sheffield CBE and Susan Stockton Receive 2015 ISPA Awards
Photos: Late Night at HERE LIES LOVE with Jaygee Macapugay, David Byrne, Jose Llana, Conrad Ricamora, Melody Butiu and More
THE WIZ Turns 40- Photos from Original Broadway Production and BC/EFA Gypsy of The Year Celebration Featuring André De Shields, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Ken Page, Charl Brown, Carly Hughes, Christina Sajous, Alton Fitzgerald White, Lillias White and More
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Click here for the Lia Chang Articles Archive and here for the Lia Chang Photography Website.

All text, graphics, articles & photographs: © 2000-2015 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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