Backstage Pass with Lia Chang

Photos: The Public Theater Presents Tony Award-winner Lemon Andersen’s ToasT starring Tony Nominees Keith David and John Earl Jelks, Hill Harper and more, April 21 – May 10

Tony nominees Keith David (Jelly’s Last Jam) as Dolomite and John Earl Jelks (Radio Golf) as Stackolee lead the cast of The Public Lab production of Lemon Andersen’s ToasT, helmed by Elise Thoron, with preview performances beginning on Tuesday, April 21 and running through Sunday, May 10 at The Public Theater, 425 Lafayette Street in New York. The official press opening is on Tuesday, May 5.

Keith David, Hill Harper, playwright Lemon Andersen, John Earl Jelks in the lobby of The Public Theater in New York on April 13, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

Keith David, Hill Harper, playwright Lemon Andersen, John Earl Jelks in the lobby of The Public Theater in New York on April 13, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

The cast also features Phillip James Brannon as Annabelle Jones, Dan Butler as Sheriff Jody, Teddy Cañez as G.I. Joe, Hill Harper as Hard Rock,  Jonathan Earl Peck as Hobo Ben, and Armando Riesco as Jesse James. Free tickets to the first preview on Tuesday, April 21 will be available via TodayTix mobile lottery, launching Tuesday, April 14. Winners will be notified by email and push notifications between 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. on the day of the first preview. Winners must confirm their winning tickets in the TodayTix app within one hour of being notified. Single tickets, starting at $20, are available now and can be accessed by calling (212) 967-7555,, or in person at the Taub Box Office at The Public Theater at 425 Lafayette Street. ToasT is an electrifying new play by acclaimed spoken word artist and Tony Award-winning writer Lemon Andersen, directed by Andersen’s County of Kings collaborator Elise Thoron. A Public Theater commission first presented at The Public’s Under the Radar Festival, ToasT ingeniously weaves major characters from black oral narratives into a gripping story about a group of inmates fighting to keep their minds free amidst the 1971 riots that rocked Attica Prison. After 27 years served for murder in Attica’s D-Block, Willie Green, aka the legendary Dolomite, has become an unlikely father figure to his cellmates, folklore heroes like Jesse James, Hobo Ben, Annabelle Jones, Stackolee and Hard Rock. When word brews throughout Attica that a riot is coming, Dolomite has to decide whether to join in or bet on the quickly approaching chance to taste freedom. Honoring the spoken word narratives recited in pool halls, bars and prisons across America by generations of black poets, ToasT is a stunning new play about men trying to live free in a system-and a world-designed to keep them chained. ToasT was developed, in part, at the Sundance Institute Theatre Program. Funding for the development of ToasT is provided by The Time Warner Foundation, and the MAP Fund, a program of Creative Capital supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. MellonFoundation. ToasT features scenic design by Alexis Distler, costume design by Dede Ayite, lighting design by Jen Schriever, and sound design by Rob Kaplowitz.

Hill Harper, Lemon Andersen and John Earl Jelks in the lobby of The Public Theater in New York on April 13, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

Hill Harper, Lemon Andersen and John Earl Jelks in the lobby of The Public Theater in New York on April 13, 2015. Photo by Lia Chang

LEMON ANDERSEN (Playwright) For a decade, his performances have rocked iconic venues including San Francisco’s Theatre On The Square, Gammage Performing Arts Center in Arizona, Charleston’s Spoleto Festival, New Haven’s Arts & Ideas Festival, the Chicago Theatre and the Kodak Theatre in L.A. Spike Lee produced Andersen’s memoir County of Kings at The Public, which was published in 2010, and awarded the New York Book Festival’s Grand Prize. Andersen won a Tony Award in 2003 for Def Poetry Jam, produced by Russell Simmons and broadcast on HBO for six seasons. He trained with The Public’s Shakespeare Lab and his work has received support from the Sundance Institute. As an author, he has publish a book of new poems titled Straightrazor and his writing was excerpted by actor/activist Hill Harper in Letters To An Incarcerated Brother. ELISE THORON (Director) is a playwright, director, and educator who brings stories which have not been widely heard to life on the stage. She developed and directed Andersen’s County of Kings with Andersen performing it at The Public, Spotleto, and venues around the world. Her plays have been produced in the U.S. and Europe, including Green Violin, music by Frank London; Prozak and the Platypus, music by Jill Sobule (also album/graphic novella); and Charlotte: Life? or Theater? based on paintings of the German Jewish artist, Charlotte Salomon. She also created Recycling: washi tales, a theater piece from the art work of distinguished Japanese paper artist Kyoko Ibe. At American Place Theater, Thoron with Wynn Handman, co-founded Literature to Life, a performance-based literacy program, which presents professionally staged adaptations of American literary works and partners with NYC schools and performing arts centers around the country. She continues as its Associate Artistic Director today. PHILLIP JAMES BRANNON (Annabelle Jones) has appeared Off-Broadway in Bootycandy, The City of Conversation, Love and Information, and Belleville. His film and television credits include Contagion; and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” DAN BUTLER (Sheriff Jody) has appeared at The Public Theater in Much Ado About Nothing and on Broadway in Twentieth Century, Biloxi Blues, and The Hothouse. His additional Off-Broadway credits include The Weir; Olive and the Bitter Ends; The Irish Curse; Beast, Old Money; The Only Worse Thing You Could Have Told Me, which he also wrote; The Lisbon Traviata; Waiting for Godot; and True West. His film and television credits include The Silence of the Lambs, Captain Ron, The Fan, “Roseanne,” “From the Earth to the Moon.” Suddenly Susan,” “Frasier,” and many others. TEDDY CAÑEZ (G.I. Joe) has appeared on Broadway in A Streetcar Named Desire. His film and television credits include Sleepwalk with Me, A Most Violent Year, “The Wire,” “How to Make It in America,” “The Mob Doctor,” and “Madame Secretary.” KEITH DAVID (Dolomite) has appeared at The Public in Othello, The Pirates of Penzance, Waiting for Godot, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, La Boheme, Coriolanus, Titus Andronicus, The Winter’s Tale, and Kit Marlow. David was nominated for a 1992 Tony Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical for his role in Jelly’s Last Jam. His other Broadway credits include Hot Feet, Seven Guitars, Hedda GablerMacbeth, As You Like It, Romeo and Juliet, and The Lady from Dubuque. His film and television credits include Armageddon; There’s Something About Mary; Pitch Black; Where The Heart Is; Highway; Sons of Liberty; “Gargoyles”; “The Job”; “The Big House”; “ER”; “Adventure Time”; “Community”; and many others. David is also an Emmy-winning voice-over artist with wins for the segment A Necessary War from Ken Burns’ miniseries The War, and Unforgivable Blackness: The Rise and Fall of Jack Johnson. HILL HARPER (Hard Rock) has appeared at The Public in Dogeaters, and his additional Off-Broadway credit includes Blue. His film and television credits include He Got Game; Beloved; In Too Deep; The Skulls; The Visit; The Breed; 30 Days; The Volunteer, 1982; Parts Per Billion; “City of Angels”; “The Handler”; “CSI: NY”; “Covert Affairs”; and others.

John Earl Jelks. Photo by Lia Chang

John Earl Jelks. Photo by Lia Chang

JOHN EARL JELKS (Stackolee) last appeared on Broadway in Holler If Ya Hear Me, and was nominated for a Tony Award for his performance as Sterling Johnson in August Wilson’s Radio Golf. Jelks made his Broadway debut opposite Phylicia Rashad in August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean as Citizen, directed by Kenny Leon (after runs at the Goodman, Huntington and Mark Taper, where he won a NAACP Theatre Award and an L.A. Ovation Award). Jelks received a 2014 Obie Award for his performances in the New York Theatre Workshop production of Will Power’s Fetch Clay, Make Man and in Labyrinth Theater Company’s production of Dominique Morriseau’s Sunset Baby. His other Off-Broadway credits include The Break of Noon (MCC) with David Duchovny, Amanda Peet and Tracee Chimo, directed by Jo Bonney; and Signature Theatre Company’s revival of The First Breeze of Summer, for which he garnered a 2008 AUDELCO Award for his role as Harper Edwards. Regional theatre credits include Regina Taylor’s Magnolia with Annette O’Toole at the Goodman Theatre, the world stage premiere of The Shawshank Redemption at the Gaiety Theatre in Ireland; Two Trains Running at Two River Theater Company; August Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone at the Penumbra Theatre Company and Missouri Repertory Theatre. Film and TV credits include A Powerful ThangEnter the Dangerous MindSnap, The MiraculousThe Miracle at St. Anna, “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” and “Blue Bloods”. JONATHAN EARL PECK (Hobo Ben) has appeared on Broadway in The Lion in Winter; Words & Music; and The Rothschilds. His Off-Broadway credits include Three Sisters, A Soldier’s Play, and Black. ARMANDO RIESCO (Jesse James)’s theater credits include The Happiest Song Plays Last, Olives and Blood, Water by the Spoonful, Becky Shaw, Sonia Flew, Four, Eleven Rooms of Proust, Bash, and This is our Youth. His film and television credits include Adult World, CHE, Putzel, Fever Pitch, National Treasure, 25th Hour, Garden State, “Elementary,” Blue Bloods,” “A Gifted Man,” “Army Wives,” “Kings,” “Fringe,” and others. Related articles: Branden Jacob-Jenkins’ Appropriate, Lisa Kron’s Fun Home, Sonya Tayeh, Emmanuel Brown, Mia Katigbak, K. Todd Freeman, John Earl Jelks Among 2014 OBIE AWARDS Cheryl L. Davis’ Maid’s Door Sweeps AUDELCOs with 7 Wins; Complete List of 2014 AUDELCO Recipients Chapman Roberts, Loretta Abbott, André De Shields, David Greer, Norm Lewis, Cherine Anderson, Lawrence Evans, Colby Christina & Nicholas A. Jenkins to Receive Special AUDELCO Awards on Nov. 17; 2014 AUDELCO Nominees Announced 2014 AUDELCO Nominations Announced; Ceremony at Peter Jay Sharp Theatre at Symphony Space on November 17 LAByrinth Extends New York Times Critic’s Pick Sunset Baby, Starring John Earl Jelks, DeWanda Wise and Harvey Gardner Moore, to December 15 Photos: LAByrinth’s Opening Night of Dominique Morisseau’s Sunset Baby with John Earl Jelks, DeWanda Wise, Harvey Gardner Moore, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Tracie Thoms, Alano Miller and More Photos: John Earl Jelks, DeWanda Wise, Harvey Gardner Moore, André De Shields at Dominique Morisseau’s Sunset Baby Nov. 6 – Dec. 8: Tony Nominee John Earl Jelks, Dewanda Wise and Harvey Gardner Moore Star in Labyrinth’s American Premiere of Sunset Baby by Dominique Morisseau at Bank Street Theater 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  NYTW Production Photos of Fetch Clay, Make Man: Ray Fisher, Nikki M. James, John Earl Jelks, K. Todd Freeman cropped-lia-chang_photo-by-carlos-flores-3.jpgLia Chang is an actor, a performance and fine art botanical photographer, and an award-winning multi-platform journalist. Lia has appeared in the films Wolf, New Jack City, A Kiss Before Dying, King of New York, Big Trouble in Little China, The Last Dragon and Taxman. She has guest starred on “One Life to Live,” “As the World Turns,” and “New York Undercover.” Lia starred as Carole Barbara in Lorey Hayes’ Power Play at the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, N.C., with Pauletta Pearson Washington and Roscoe Orman. She is profiled in Jade Magazine. Other Articles by Lia Chang: Photos: Traveling through the mouth of the Dragon with BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA’s James Hong, Peter Kwong, Lia Chang, Gerald Okamura, George Cheung, Al Leong, Jeff Imada, James Lew, Gary Goldman, Eric Lee, Joycelyne Lew A Sumptuous View of Ken Watanabe, Kelli O’Hara, Ruthie Ann Miles, Ashley Park, Conrad Ricamora, Jon Viktor Corpuz, Paul Nakauchi and More in Lincoln Center Theater’s Revival of The King and I Joe Mantegna receives Lifetime Achievement Award for Film and Television from The Riverside International Film Festival Hamilton tops Lucille Lortel Award Nominations along with Into the Woods, Between Riverside and Crazy, The Invisible Hand, The Nether and The Fortress of Solitude The Women in the Arts & Media Coalition, Inc.: 2015 Collaboration Award recognizing Women Working with Women Open Call Sinatra: An American Icon Exhibit on View through September 4 at The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts “Matthew Weiner’s Mad Men” on view at Museum of the Moving Image through June 14; Required Viewing: Mad Men’s Movie Influences Film Series Screenings through April 26 Disney Developing Live-Action ‘Mulan’ Kenny Leon Helmed ‘The Wiz’ Set as NBC’s Next Live Musical to air on Dec. 3; Broadway Revival Slated for 2016-17 Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion Exhibition on view at New-York Historical Society through April 19; Photos of An Evening with Amy Tan “Water to Paper, Paint to Sky: The Art of Tyrus Wong,” – Retrospective of Disney Legend at MOCA through September 13 Dining out at élan with Artist Arlan Huang; New Paintings on view at Trestle Gallery Award Winning Actor Raul Aranas Talks THE BLACKLIST, NAAP’S OLIVER!, Songwriting and the Zen of Cycling Tony Award Winners Chita Rivera and Roger Rees, Jason Danieley, Mary Beth Peil, David Garrison & More in Terrence McNally’s THE VISIT Photos: David Byrne, Alex Timbers, Jaygee Macapugay, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Adam Guettel, Sarah Saltzberg and More Celebrate Jose Llana’s Lincoln Center American Songbook Debut Signature Theatre Company’s Founding Artistic Director James Houghton To Step Down After 2015-16 25th Anniversary Season Photos: Hudson Yang, Randall Park, Eddie Huang, Richard Lui, Lori Tan Chinn and More at #FreshOffTheBoat Viewing Party at The Circle NYC LA Times Critic’s Choice FIGARO at A Noise Within; April 4, 5, 9, 10, 19, 30, May 1 and 10 Jon Tenney, Tessa Auberjonois, John de Lancie, Emily Ruth James and Kwana Martinez Set for World Premiere of Rajiv Joseph’s MR. WOLF at South Coast Repertory, April 12-May 3 Apr. 20: Garth Kravits joins Laura Benanti, Lena Hall, Scott Alan and more for BROADWAY SINGS TORI Concert to Benefit RAINN at (le) poisson rouge East West Players’ Honors Paula Madison of Madison Media Management LLC and “Fresh Off The Boat” Executive Producers Nahnatchka Khan and Melvin Mar on April 20 Jerome Preston Bates, Michael Chenevert, Stephanie Berry, Terria Joseph, Kim Weston Moran, Tony Sallemi and Count Stovall set for World Premiere of Richard Wesley’s AUTUMN at Crossroads Theatre in New Brunswick, April 23 through May 3 April 23-30: The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF) Lineup includes EVERYTHING BEFORE US, KTOWN COWBOYS, Shonali Bose’s MARGARITA, WITH A STRAW, Jennifer Phang’s ADVANTAGEOUS, Arthur Dong’s FORBIDDEN CITY, U.S.A. and THE KILLING FIELDS OF DR. HAING S. NGOR The 31st Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF) presents Jennifer Phang’s ADVANTAGEOUS Featuring Jacqueline Kim, James Urbaniak, Freya Adams, Ken Jeong, Jennifer Ehle, Samantha Kim, Jeanne Sakata, Jennifer Ikeda and Matthew Kim at the Aratani Theatre on April 24 April 26: The 31st Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival (LAAPFF) Artist Spotlight- Arthur Dong’s FORBIDDEN CITY, U.S.A. and THE KILLING FIELDS OF DR. HAING S. NGOR May 1: A/P/A Institute at NYU presents Remembering SlutForArt: Tseng Kwong Chi with Muna Tseng, Ping Chong, and Bill T. Jones 15th Annual New York Indian Film Festival (NYIFF) Lineup includes Shonali Bose’s MARGARITA WITH A STRAW & Aparna Sen’s SAARI RAAT; May 4-9 Photos: Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute Spring Exhibition, CHINA: THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, May 7–August 16 Tony Award® Nominees Omar Metwally and Arian Moayed to star in Rajiv Joseph’s GUARDS AT THE TAJ, helmed by Amy Morton, at Atlantic Theater Company, May 20-June 28 World Premiere Musical HAMILTON Transfers to Broadway; Previews begin July 13 Photos: National Black Theatre Festival 2013; NBTF runs August 3-8, 2015 and will include Act III – A Celebration of Life Reception saluting the late theatre icon Garland Lee Thompson, Sr. Suzan-Lori Parks’ FATHER COMES HOME FROM THE WARS, PARTS 1, 2 & 3 is the 2015 Winner of the Edward M. Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History  Crafting a Career 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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