Playwrights’ Arena with Artistic Director Jon Lawrence Rivera, the only theatre dedicated to discovering, nurturing and producing original works written exclusively by Los Angeles playwrights, is celebrating its 24th Anniversary with their annual fund-raiser presenting HOT NIGHT IN THE CITY : an electrifying evening of songs and words, Tuesday, April 5, 2016, at Barnsdall Gallery Theatre, 4800 Hollywood Boulevard Hollywood, CA 90027 .
The special performance, which benefits the programs of Playwrights’ Arena, celebrates the works of Los Angeles’ most adventurous resident composers and lyricists writing for the theater today and honors Councilmember Mitch O’Farrell with the Community Partner Award, Actor/Playwright Jeanne Sakata and Actor/Director Michael A. Shepperd with the *Lee Melville Award for their outstanding contribution to the Los Angeles theatre community.
*The Lee Melville Award is named in honor of the memory of Lee Melville for his over fifty years in show business.
Jeanne Sakata is a renowned actress whose acclaimed “cross-gender” portrayal of Master Hua in Chay Yew’s RED at East West Players earned her the LA Ovation Award for Best Lead Actress. Sakata recently appeared on Ken Jeong’s ABC sitcom “Dr. Ken,” and Bravo TV’s pilot “True Fiction” opposite Olivia Grant, Jim Piddock and James Le Gros. Recent stage appearances include starring as Masha in the LAPC Theatre production of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, and appearing in A Noise Within’s (ANW) production of Figaro.
She has performed across the country at The Public Theater, Lincoln Center Theater, Kennedy Center, Mark Taper Forum, La Jolla Playhouse, South Coast Rep, American Conservatory Theater, Northlight Theatre, Intiman Theatre, Berkeley Rep, A Contemporary Theatre, Portland Center Stage, Syracuse Stage and the Arizona Theatre Company, and developed new works with The Sundance Institute Theatre Lab and the Ojai Playwrights Festival. Screen credits include “NCIS Los Angeles,” “Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns,” “Desperate Housewives,” “ER,” “Threat Matrix,” “Line of Fire,” “Presidio Med,” “American Family,” “Numb3rs,” John Ridley’s “I Got You,” the MOW’s “The Reading Room,” “Hiroshima,” “Consensual Relations,” and the feature films The Babymakers, XXX2: State of the Union and American Fusion.
Sakata has received the Los Angeles’ Pacific American Friends of Theatre Outstanding Artist Award, the Monaco Charity Film Festival Best Actress Award (Adultolescence), Stage Scene Outstanding Performance mention (Master Class), Entertainment Today Best Supporting Actress Award (A Winter People), and the Drama-Logue Outstanding Performance Award (The Maids. www.jeannesakata.com
Her critically acclaimed play Hold These Truths (formerly Dawn’s Light: The Journey of Gordon Hirabayashi), had its world premiere in 2007 at Los Angeles’ East West Players, co-presented by the UCLA Department of Asian American Studies, the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, and the Japanese American National Museum. In its 2012 New York premiere at the Epic Theatre Ensemble, Hold These Truths opened to unanimous rave reviews from The New Yorker, The Washington Post/API, and many other theatre critics, resulting in a Drama Desk Nomination for Outstanding Solo Performance, and a subsequent Hawaiian premiere, co-presented by Daniel Dae Kim and the Honolulu Theatre For Youth. Developed by the Lark Play Development Center and the New York Theatre Workshop, it has also been performed at Chicago’s Pritzker Pavilion with Silk Road Rising/Millennium Park, the University of California at Riverside and the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where it served as the inspiration and theatrical centerpiece of the civil rights symposium Civil Liberties, National Security and the Legacies of the Japanese Removal and Incarceration. With the East West Players Theatre For Youth program in 2008 and 2010, the play has twice toured high schools and junior high schools in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Hold These Truths is now part of the Jeanne Sakata Collection in the Library of Congress Playwrights Archive, Asian American Pacific Islander Collection, Washington DC. (www.holdthesetruths.info, www.facebook.com/holdthesetruths), www.holdthesetruths.info)
Mitch O’Farrell has served the constituents of the 13th Council District for more than a decade. Mitch is passionate about making our neighborhoods even safer and improving quality of life in Atwater Village, East Hollywood, Echo Park, Elysian Valley, Glassell Park, Historic Filipinotown, Hollywood, Mid-Wilshire/Koreatown, and Silver Lake.
Prior to his election in May of 2013, O’Farrell served the district under the leadership of then Council President Eric Garcetti. O’Farrell’s experience as field deputy, district director, and senior advisor provide him with a strong background in working with the government on every level.
O’Farrell is focused on improving quality of life, creating opportunities for more affordable housing, reforming City policy to help drive the local economy, and collaborating with the entertainment industry to find creative solutions to bring more jobs back to Hollywood.
O’Farrell lives with his partner, George Brauckman, in Glassell Park, and is the first openly gay person to be elected to the 13th Council District seat.
Michael A. Shepperd was seen in the critically acclaimed productions of Intimate Apparel (NAACP Theatre Image Award) at San Diego Rep, The Bacchae (4 Ovation Award nominations, including Best Play and Best Director) and “4” at Celebration Theatre.
Recent Los Angeles credits include: Caroline, or Change (Ahmanson Theatre), The Blacks (Evidence Room), STEEL: John Henry and the Shaker (Oasis Theater, 2002 Ovation Award winner, Lead Actor), Raisin (ICT, NAACP Theatre Image Award nomination, Robby nomination), Antigone. Tertiary. Sexxx. (Oasis), Figaro Pigaro (Falcon Theater), and Parade (MTG). Sheppard was the voice of Audrey II in the Broadway production of Little Shop of Horrors directed by Jerry Zaks.
Regional credits include work at Steppenwolf, Northlight, City Lit, Court, and Bailiwick theaters in Chicago, The Phoenix Theater in Indianapolis, and work in New York, New Jersey, Florida, and pretty much any town with a fresnel. His regional work has garnered him 4 Jeff nominations and 2 Pat awards.
Film and television credits include guest spots on Criminal Minds, Frasier, Monk, Ally McBeal, Arrested Development, ER, Lisa Williams: Life Among the Dead, and Strong Medicine, as well as numerous independents and shorts. Sheppard is one of the founders of The Quarterly Report — go to www.TheQuarterly Report.com for future performances. Sheppard’s play Coffee Will Make You Black premieres at the Celebration Theatre in the spring of 2008.
Jon Lawrence Rivera is the recipient of the first Career Achievement Award from the critics of Stage Raw. Most recently, Rivera directed the following world premieres for Playwrights’ Arena: @thespeedofJake by Jennifer Maisel, PAINTING IN RED by Luis Alfaro, CINNAMON GIRL by Velina Hasu Houston and Nathan Wang (also at the 2014 Peking University Musical Theater Festival), DALLAS NON-STOP by Boni B. Alvarez, THE ANATOMY OF GAZELLAS by Janine Salinas Schoenberg, Euripides’ HELEN by Nick Salamone (at the Getty Villa), THE GIRL MOST LIKELY TO by Michael Premsrirat and BONDED by Donald Jolly. Other recent works include: CRIERS FOR HIRE by Giovanni Ortega, STAND-OFF AT HWY #37 by Vicky Ramirez, FLIPZOIDS by Ralph B. Peña (also in Manila), THE SONNETEER by Nick Salamone, OEDIPUS EL REY by Luis Alfaro, THE LAST FIVE YEARS by Jason Robert Brown, MISS SAIGON by Schönberg/Boublil, , LAWS OF SYMPATHY by Oliver Mayer, THE JOY LUCK CLUB by Susan Kim and DOGEATERS by Jessica Hagedorn. Recipient of a NY Fringe Festival Award, an LA Weekly Award, and a five-time Ovation Award nominee, Rivera is the founding artistic director of Playwrights’ Arena.
Lia Chang is an award-winning filmmaker, a Best Actress nominee, a 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, Taxman and Hide and Seek, which will screen at The Women’s Film Festival 2016 in Philadelphia on March 13th and the Disorient Film Festival in Eugene Oregon in April. She is profiled in Examiner.com, Jade Magazine and Playbill.com.
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