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Thursday, April 4, 2019

Award-Winning Civil Rights Drama Too Heavy for Your Pocket Opens at George Street Playhouse


The moving new play will mark the last in the theatre’s temporary performance venue on Rutgers’ Cook Campus

New Brunswick, NJ –Critically acclaimed drama Too Heavy for Your Pocket, winner of the prestigious 2017 Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award, will open at George Street Playhouse on April 23 and close the Playhouse’s 2018-19 season as it prepares to move to its permanent new home at The New Brunswick Performing Arts Center this fall.
Called “illuminating and moving” by the New York Times following a sold-out run at The Roundabout Theatre Company, Jiréh Breon Holder’s Too Heavy for Your Pocket takes audiences back to Nashville in the summer of 1961. The Freedom Riders are embarking on a courageous journey into the Deep South. When 20-year-old Bowzie Brandon gives up a life-changing college scholarship to join the movement, he’ll have to convince his loved ones—and himself—that shaping the country’s future might be worth jeopardizing his own.

George Street’s production takes the stage under the direction of LA Williams (Rated Black: An American Requiem at New York Theatre Workshop) and will star Donnell E. Smith (TIME: The Kalief Browder Story on Netflix) as Bowzie Brandon.  He appears opposite Joniece Abbott-Pratt (The Good Negro at The Public Theater) as Sally-Mae Carter, Felicia Boswell (Jesus Christ Superstar Live on NBC opposite John Legend and Sara Bareilles) as Evelyn Brandon, and Landon G. Woodson (Back to the Real at Crossroads Theatre Company) as Tony Carter.

“This play is beautiful, passionate, and poetic, all while remaining rooted in very real experiences during a particular period in history,” George Street Playhouse Artistic Director David Saint said. “It explores important subjects we may not normally see depicted onstage, but that are still all too relevant today.” Too Heavy for Your Pocket was a recipient of the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award, which honors the work of an emerging writer each year.

“I immediately fell in love with the Jiréh Breon Holder’s southern voice. I fell in love with the historical aspects of the play. And I also fell in love with the inherent theatricality of Too Heavy for Your Pocket,” said director LA Williams, who worked on the play with the writer during its initial development, culminating in a reading at The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.

Too Heavy for Your Pocket serves as a wonderful piece to close our time here at our temporary venue as we look ahead to our permanent new home at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center,” Saint continued. “This season has been such a banquet of diverse places, ideas, and social issues, and I believe that is what theatre at its best is all about.”

The creative team for Too Heavy for Your Pocket will feature Wilson Chin (Set Designer), Asa Benally,  (Costume Designer), Jason Lyons (Lighting Designer), Chris Lane (Sound Design), Nikiya Mathis (Wig Designer), Nathan C. Crocker (Dialect Coach), Nat Adderley, Jr. (Vocal Coach/Music Direction), Michael Jerome Johnson (Fight Direction), and Nicole Kuker (Stage Management). Casting  by McCorkle Casting, LTD.

Regular tickets begin as low as $25. Audiences are encouraged to buy now to secure their seats.  2019-20 subscription packages are also now available.

To find tickets or for more information, visit the George Street Playhouse website at www.GeorgeStreetPlayhouse.org, or call the box office at 732-246-7717.  

Location: George Street Playhouse, 103 College Farm Road. New Brunswick, NJ 

Dates: April 23 - May 19

Tickets: Starting at $25+

About George Street Playhouse
Originally located in an abandoned supermarket on the corner of George and Albany Streets, George Street Playhouse was the first professional theatre in New Brunswick and played a major role in the revitalization of the downtown area.  In 1984, the Playhouse moved to a renovated YMCA on Livingston Avenue, and in 2017 took temporary residence in the former Agricultural Museum during construction of its new home.
Beginning with the 2019-20 Season, George Street Playhouse will move to the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center in downtown New Brunswick.  Featuring two state-of-the-art theatres and myriad amenities, the NBPAC will mark a new era in the esteemed history of George Street Playhouse.
Under the leadership of Artistic Director David Saint since 1998, and Kelly Ryman -- Managing Director since 2013, the Playhouse produces groundbreaking new works, inspiring productions of the classics, and hit Broadway plays and musicals that speak to the heart and mind, with an unwavering commitment to producing new work.  As New Brunswick’s first producing theatre, George Street Playhouse became the cornerstone of the revitalization of the City’s arts and cultural landscape.  With its 45-year history of producing nationally renowned theatre, the Playhouse continues to fill a unique theatre and arts education role in the city, state and greater metropolitan region.
The Playhouse has been well represented by numerous productions both on and off-Broadway, including the Outer Critics’ Circle Best Musical Award-winner The Toxic Avenger; the Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk and Drama League nominated production of The Spitfire Grill; and the Broadway hit and Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning play Proof by David Auburn, which was developed at the Playhouse during the 1999 Next Stage Series of new plays. In 2015, It Shoulda Been You opened on Broadway and Joe DiPietro’s Clever Little Lies opened off-Broadway.  Both shows received their premieres at the Playhouse. In 2018, George Street Playhouse was represented on Broadway with Gettin’ the Band Back Together which premiered on the Playhouse mainstage in 2013.  American Son, produced by George Street Playhouse in 2017, opened on Broadway in 2018 starring Kerry Washington and Stephen Pasqual, and will be appearing on Netflix.
In addition to the mainstage season, the Playhouse’s education department provides extensive programming for children, youth and adults.  Partnering with administrators and educators throughout New Jersey, the Playhouse provides unique education experiences that both reinforce classroom curriculum and investigate issues such as bullying, diversity, immigration, health and wellness, and the rising epidemic of opioid addiction.
George Street Playhouse programming is made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a partner agency of the National Endowment for the Arts.  Grant funding has been provided by the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders through a grant award from the Middlesex County Cultural and Arts Trust Fund. 

TOP PHOTO (L to R) Landon Woodson, Joniece Abbott-Pratt, LA Williams, Felicia Boswell, and Donnell E. Smith, the cast and director of  TOO HEAVY FOR YOUR POCKET

THE ARTISTIC TEAM & CAST

Jiréh Breon Holder (Playwright) is currently a writer on NBC's new hit show New Amsterdam. He is an Atlanta area playwright, director, and dramaturg. His sharp yet funny and often political plays frequently include wild visual metaphors and address the magic of everyday life in the South. From 2016-2019, Jiréh served as the Playwriting Fellow of the Department of Theater and Creative Writing at Emory University. In 2016, he received his MFA in Playwriting from the Yale School of Drama where he studied with Sarah Ruhl. He is a co-founder of Pyramid Theatre Company in Des Moines, Iowa. From 2012-13, he served as the Kenny Leon Fellow at the Tony Award-winning Alliance Theatre. He graduated cum laude from Morehouse College (B.A. Theatre) where he served as the artistic director of Spelman College Playwrights’ Workshop and directed several productions. His play Too Heavy for Your Pocket was the recipient of the Laurents/Hatcher Foundation Award, winner of the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition National Graduate Playwriting Competition, and had an extended off-Broadway run at the Roundabout Theatre. He was a recipient of the 2016 Edgerton Foundation New Play Awards and honored as the Fellowship of Southern Writers' 2017 Bryan Foundation Award for Drama. His other plays have received productions at the Alliance Theatre, the Yale School of Drama and Yale Cabaret. He has also received readings at the Manhattan Theatre Club, the Roundabout Theatre, the Kennedy Center, and the Old Globe Theatre. Jiréh is under commission with the Old Globe Theatre, the Roundabout Theatre, and the Manhattan Theatre Club.
LA Williams (Director) is a New York-based director focused primarily on new work. Recent credits include Father Comes Home from the Wars, Parts 1, 2 & 3 by Suzan-Lori Parks (The Juilliard School); Richard in 9 Poses by Sarah DeLappe (Clubbed Thumb). He has developed and directed new work at Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, The Public Theater, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, The New Group, The Classical Theatre of Harlem, Dramatists Guild of America, Brooklyn Arts Exchange, LaMama, National Black Theatre, McCarter Theatre Center, The Kennedy Center, Alliance Theatre, New York International Fringe Festival, Baltimore Center Stage, Firebone Theater, Quicksilver Theatre Company, Horse Trade Theater Group and Crowded Outlet. Assistant Director credits include: The Royale by Marco Ramirez (Lincoln Center Theater); Ugly Lies the Bone by Lindsey Ferrentino (Roundabout Theatre Company); brownsville song (b-side for Tray) by Kimber Lee (LCT3);Romeo & Juliet (The Classical Theatre of Harlem); APPROPRIATE by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins (Signature Theatre Company); and The Insurgents by Lucy Thurber (Labyrinth Theatre Company). LA is the founding Artistic Director of the Black Directors Studio, a new play reading series for emerging Black directors. In 2012, he created and executive produced Celebrate! with LA Williams: a multimedia docu-series that celebrates early career theater artists. LA currently serves on the ENCORES! Off-Center Artist Board at New York City Center, and is a 2017-18 National Directors Fellow and a 2016-17 Clubbed Thumb Directing Fellow. He is a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab, SDCF Observership program, and was the Kenny Leon Directing Fellow in 2009. Education: M.A. Emerson College, B.A. Alabama State University.

Joniece Abbott-Pratt (Sally-Mae Carter) New York: The Good Negro (Public Theater). Regional: Sunset Baby (City Theatre), Seven Guitars (Actors Theater of Louisville), The Mountaintop (Geva Theatre), Seven Guitars (No Rules Theater Company), The House That Will Not Stand (Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Yale Repertory), Stick Fly (Arden Theatre), A Raisin in the Sun (Palm Beach Dramaworks), Slippery as Sin (Passage Theatre), Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Huntington Theatre Company), Gem of the Ocean (Hartford Stage), The Piano Lesson (Yale Rep and Delaware Theatre Company), The Good Negro (Dallas Theatre Center), Mama’s Gonna Buy You (William Inge Theatre Festival), Dirt Rich (NY Summer Stage), Stick Fly and The Overwhelming (Contemporary American Theatre Festival), False Creeds (Alliance Theatre Company), Breath, Boom (Synchronicity Performance Group) and The Doll Play’s (Actor’s Express). Television: Instinct, Blindspot, Law & Order: SVU, Orange Is the New Black, Show Me a Hero, Luke Cage. Training: Clark Atlanta University; MFA–University of Iowa.

Felicia Boswell (Evelyn Brandon) Emmy Winner & Grammy Nominee (Jesus Christ Superstar Live NBC), 2x Helen Hayes Award Winner (Outstanding Lead Actress/ Musical), Broadway World Winner (Best Lead Actress), Jeff Award (Best Supporting Actress nom) Suzi Bass Award (Best Lead Actress nom). Broadway: Shuffle Along (Josephine Baker); Motown (Diana Ross); Memphis (Felicia Farrell). National Tour: Memphis (Felicia Farrell); Dreamgirls (Deena, Lorell). Regional highlights: The Color Purple (Celie) Portland Center Stage; Jelly's Last Jam (Anita) Signature Theatre; MEDEA (Medea) Bay Street Theatre; Jesus Christ Superstar (Mary Magdalene) Paramount Theatre; AIDA (Aida) Sandler Center; Man of La Mancha (Aldonza) Barrington Stage; RENT (Mimi) Atlanta Lyric; Caroline, or Change, Guthrie Theatre; Joe Turner's Come & Gone (Molly Cunningham). TV/Other: POWER as "Melissa" (STARZ); The Good Fight as "Lace" (CBS); NBC's Jesus Christ Superstar Live (Soul Sister), Macy's Day Parade NBC (Motown/Diana Ross), Last Week w/John Oliver, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Selma Lord Selma, SOUL: Stax Musical (Carla Thomas); Little Rock (Minniejean Brown); MANDELA (Zindzi) ASCAP.

Donnell E. Smith (Bowzie Brandon)  George Street Playhouse debut. Off-Broadway: The Revolving Cycles Truly and Steadily Roll’d (Playwrights Realm). Regional: The People Before the Park (u/s, Premiere Stages), A Raisin in the Sun (Westport Country Playhouse). Other: Kill Move Paradise (World Premiere, National Black Theatre), Much Ado About Nothing (The Fools & Kings Project). TV: title role in TIME: The Kalief Browder Story (Netflix; Peabody Award), Snug’s House (NBC Universal Kids; two-time Daytime Emmy nominated). Select Film: F.A.W.K., How the Light Gets In, The Grand Heist. Dedicated to those grounded in their truth and those searching for their light.

Landon G. Woodson (Tony Carter) is a native of Passaic, NJ, and a graduate of Rutgers University where he earned an M.F.A. in Acting. Previous credits include Back to the Real (Crossroads Theatre Company), Soldiers Heart (Premier Stages), The Mountaintop (Kitchen Theatre Company), To Kill a Mockingbird (Syracuse Stage), This is Modern Art (Blessed Unrest), Intimate Apparel (Sierra Repertory Theatre), and The Whistleblower (Denver Center for the Performing Arts).

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