by Regina Taylor
adapted from the book
by Michael Cunningham and Craig Marberry
directed by Debbie Blunden-Diggs and Scott Stoney
music direction by Scot Woolley
When troubled Brooklyn teenager Yolanda is sent to live with her church-going grandmother down South after the death of her brother, she finds healing in the personal stories of the ladies of the congregation and the hats that adorn their heads. Through time and space, their intimate histories create a soulful, joyous triumph of song, dance, culture and glorious “hattitude” in this powerhouse gospel musical like no other.
The Roberts Foundation | Dayton Daily News
Regina Taylor (Playwright) is the author of Oo-Bla-Dee, which received its world premiere at the Goodman theatre in 1999 and later transferred to La Jolla Playhouse. In April 2000, Oo-Bla-Dee received the American Theatre Critics/Steinberg New Play Award. Ms. Taylor’s other projects include Crowns, which premiered at McCarter Theatre in their 2002-2003 season, an adaptation of The Cherry Orchard for the Alliance Theatre, and The Dreams of Sarah Breedlove, about famed black entrepreneur madam C.J. Walker, for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Her play Drowning Crow (an adaptation of Chekhov’s The Seagull) was produced at the Goodman Theatre as part of the 2001 season. Ms. Taylor’s other writing credits include Urban Zulu Mambo, Escape from Paradise, Watermelon Rinds, Inside the Belly of the Beast, Mudtracks, Between the Lines, and Behind Every Good Man. Her acting credits include roles on Broadway, Off-Broadway, and in numerous regional theatres. Her film credits include Clockers, Losing Isaiah, Lean on Me, A Family Thing, Courage Under Fire with Denzel Washington, and The Negotiator with Samuel L. Jackson. Television credits include Children of the Dust with Sidney Poitier and The Education of Max Bickford. For her role as Lilly Harper on the television series I’ll Fly Away, Ms. Taylor won an NAACP Image Award and received the Golden Globe Award for Best Leading Dramatic Actress. She is currently on the USA Network television series Dig.
Debbie Blunden-Diggs (Co-Director/Choreographer) is best known for her lifetime of work with the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company. Not surprising as she is the daughter of founder and first Artistic Director, Jeraldyne Blunden. Ms. Blunden-Diggs began her dance training at the age of five at the Schwarz School of the Dance. She joined DCDC at the age of twelve and won national recognition for her choreographic talents by the time she was age seventeen. Her first piece, Variations in Blue, was submitted as an entry in the Young Choreographers Showcase and selected for inclusion in the National Choreographic Plan and made available to dance companies across the country. During her more than 40 years with the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Ms. Blunden-Diggs has appeared in most of the company’s repertoire and has been resident choreographer for more than 20 years. She has contributed an impressive body of work, including No Room, No Place, No Where for which she received the Monticello Award in 1982. Ms. Blunden-Diggs is also the Executive Director of Jeraldyne’s School of the Dance, the cornerstone of the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, and works closely with the pre-professional company, DCDC2. In 1990, Ms. Blunden-Diggs was made Associate Artistic Director and in 2003 became Deputy Director for Arts and Operations. When Kevin Ward retired on July 1, 2007, Ms. Blunden-Diggs became the company’s new Artistic Director.
Scott Stoney (Co-Director) Though known more for his onstage work with over 40 years of professional credits, Scott acknowledges that any craft as a director has come from his mentor, Marsha Hanna. He is especially grateful to work with long-time friend Debbie Blunden-Diggs on this very special production. His more recent directing credits include Torch Song Trilogy; Caroline, or Change; Next to Normal at the Victoria Theatre; August: Osage County in collaboration with Wright State University and most recently Mame as Associate Director with Kevin Moore. Scott has also received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Montgomery County Arts & Cultural District and is in the Dayton Theatre Hall of Fame.
Scot Woolley (Music Director/Pianist) happily returns to The Human Race where he is a Resident Artist. Past appearances with HRTC include: The Noteworthy Life of Howard Barnes; Caroline, or Change; Band Geeks!; I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change; Forever Plaid; Harold and Maude; Five Course Love; Ethel Waters: His Eye Is on the Sparrow and Man of La Mancha at The Loft Theatre; plus It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play; Shenandoah; Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical and Next to Normal at the Victoria Theatre. Scot also serves as Music Director and Vocal Instructor for Wright State Theatre where he recently worked with Leslie Uggams. Recent concert appearances have included Wolf Trap, The National Park for the Performing Arts, The Nashville Philharmonic, and as pianist conductor for nationally-recognized baritone Daniel Narducci. Scot continues to create arrangements and orchestrations for symphony orchestras and guest soloists around the country and abroad.
Tamara L. Honesty (Scenic Designer) is delighted to return to The Human Race Theatre! Past designs at HRTC include Other Desert Cities, Becky’s New Car, Lombardi, Managing Maxine, Permanent Collection, Rounding Third, Ethel Waters: His Eye Is on the Sparrow, Alone Together, and Green Gables. She also enjoys designing theatre for young audiences, recently designing River Rat & Cat, her tenth show for Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park’s Educational Touring Company. Her designs have been on stages from New York City to the Midwest. Currently, she is an Assistant Professor of Scenic Design/Head of Design at Western Illinois University. Check out her website at www.edwardlaynedesigns.com.
David M. Covach (Costume Designer) has been involved with the art of costuming for over 30 years and Crowns marks his 30th production with The Human Race Theatre Company since his first show with them in 1989. His most recent Human Race productions include Managing Maxine, August: Osage County, Moonlight and Magnolias, Lend Me a Tenor, Five Course Love, The Underpants and Green Gables, which earned him a prestigious DayTony Award for excellence in costuming. David is currently the costume shop manager for Asolo Repertory Theatre in Sarasota, Florida and had the opportunity to work on Duck Commander, a musical based on the rags to riches story of the Duck Dynasty family, which opened in April in Las Vegas. David is thrilled to return to his roots and to work once again with this wonderful company.
John Rensel (Lighting Designer) is the long-term Resident Lighting Designer for The Human Race Theatre Company, Muse Machine, the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra Pops series and Dayton Opera Association. He also serves as the long-time Technical Director for the Fraze Pavilion and has provided technical advance production coordination, lighting designs, automation programming and performance operation services for many artists and productions that have visited that venue. John also has a diverse dance lighting background, having provided lighting designs and technical production services for many years to The Dayton Ballet and Dayton Contemporary Dance Co. John’s national credits included a lighting design package for a National Touring Production of the Elton John/Tim Rice collaboration Aida. Most recent local credits include all the designs for the 2014-15 Human Race Theatre Company’s season at The Loft Theatre; Muse Machine’s production of Oliver! at the Victoria Theatre and the Dayton Opera Association’s 2014-15 season at the Schuster Center.
Jay Brunner (Sound Designer) is an HRTC veteran, working on Mame; Play It by Heart; Fiddler on the Roof; Next to Normal; Avenue Q; and Red-Blooded, All-American Man as Conductor/Co-Music Director/Guitarist/Arranger (take your pick) and is thrilled to add Sound Designer to the list having just composed incidental music for HRTC’s production of Taking Shakespeare. Jay has designed sound/incidental music for countless voiceovers, regional commercials, radio spots, training videos, collegiate theatre projects, marching bands, clubs, and organizations. He owns/runs a professional recording studio, Ardmore Underground with his wife, professional actor/voice-over artist Christine Brunner (clients include: IAMS, McDonalds, Campbell’s Soup, McGraw-Hill, Audio Books, Marriott, Delta Airlines, Baptist Health, Cincinnati State, Time Warner, Febreze, YMCA, UD). Jay performs and records with local groups Uncle Daddy and the Family Secret, Adagio Blue and 21 Ghosts.
Kevin Anderson (Percussion) is happy to return to The Human Race Theatre Company. He most recently performed as the Foley Artist for It’s A Wonderful Life and played percussion for Mame. A former member of the Dayton-based music and dance company Rhythm in Shoes for 11 seasons, he is working with local artists on developing a new performing company, Puddingstone Project, which is currently doing in-school performances and in production of an audiobook and stage show.
Kay Carver (Production Stage Manager) graduated from Wright State University’s Department of Theatre, Dance and Motion Pictures with a degree in Design/Technology and Stage Management. Her professional credits include Production Stage Manager for Taking Shakespeare, Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike, Family Shots, Mame, Miracle on South Division Street, HRTC’s 2013-2014 Loft season, the 2013 Festival of New Musicals, HRTC’s 2012-2013 Loft season and MTW Dani Girl, Assistant Stage Manager for The Drowsy Chaperone and Tenderly: The Rosemary Clooney Musical and Production Assistant for Twelfth Night, The 39 Steps and Ordinary Days, all with The Human Race Theatre Company. She also served as the Production Stage Manager for the Wright State University/Dayton Philharmonic collaborative production of Bernstein’s Mass at the Schuster Center.
Jasmine Easler (Velma) is from Toledo, Ohio and will be a senior musical theatre major at Wright State University in the fall. Her credits include Hot Mikado (Katisha), Fences (Rose), The Magic Fire (Rosa), Fugitive Songs (Alisha), and 1913: The Great Dayton Flood (Phylis Sloan). She is also a jazz vocalist in the Toledo area and has been featured at places like The Grand Plaza Hotel for the Art Tatum Jazz Heritage Foundation, The Valentine Theatre, and also local jazz bars around the city. She is thrilled to be a part of a production at The Human Race for the first time.
Joilet F. Harris (Mother Shaw) Recent theater: Because of Winn Dixie (Gloria), How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying (Miss Jones), A Raisin in the Sun (Lena), Ella (Fitzgerald) in Ella the Musical, Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Nell), Hairspray (Motormouth Maybelle), Tulipomania, Finian’s Rainbow (Lead Sharecropper), Damn Yankees (Doris), Crowns (Mabel & Mother Shaw), It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues (Gretha), and many, many more. TV: The Wire (2 seasons as Detective Caroline), Law & Order SVU, Hack, Philly. Film: The Perfect Witness, Animal Factory, Beloved, Maximum Risk, 12 Monkeys, Rocky V and others. To God Be the Glory!
Joy Lynn Jacobs (Wanda) Born singing on Christmas Eve in Philadelphia. Broadway credits: Marie Christine world premiere, The Music Man revival. Broadway tours: Ragtime, Show Boat revival. Created role of Power Woman in original New York production of Menopause the Musical. Regional roles: Wanda in Crowns, Reno Sweeney in Anything Goes, Lady Thiang in The King and I, Aldonza in Man of La Mancha, Armelia in Ain’t Misbehavin’ and Joyce Heth in Barnum, and others! Soloist: Winston-Salem, Portland, Spokane, Roanoke, Phoenix, and Detroit symphonies, to name a very few. Film: Menace II Society. TV: Gotham, Nurse Jackie. Joy thanks hubby Michael, Mom and Dad, and God for making all things possible!
David Jennings (The Man – June 11 - 19) is happy to return to Crowns, after appearing in Chicago’s Goodman Theatre production, directed by Regina Taylor. While in the Tony Award®-winning Broadway musical After Midnight, David performed alongside such music royalty as Fantasia, Gladys Knight, Vanessa Williams, Patti LaBelle and more. His additional Broadway credits include Hands on a Hardbody, Brooklyn the Musical (original Street Singer), Once Upon a Mattress and The Genius of Ray Charles on London’s West End. At the invitation of Ms. Jennifer Holliday, David delivered a powerhouse performance as Curtis Taylor, Jr. opposite Ms. Holliday in Dreamgirls at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre. David also received a Grammy nomination for the 30th Anniversary recording of Ain’t Misbehavin’ which featured Ruben Studdard and Frenchie Davis. David was honored with an L.A. Ovation Award (Best Featured Actor in a Musical) nomination for his work as Jake in the critically acclaimed West Coast premiere of Side Show. He also starred as Coalhouse Walker, Jr. in Ragtime as well as Sgt. Eddie Souther opposite Dawnn Lewis in the world premiere of Sister Act. On the small screen David guest starred on the CBS police drama Blue Bloods starring Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg, opposite Michael Chiklis and Glenn Close in the smash F/X television drama The Shield, and in the films The Sleepless and Burning Sands.
Alan Bomar Jones (The Man – June 20 - 28) is a professional international actor and director; is a Resident Artist with The Human Race Theatre Company and American Stage Theatre Company. Alan has appeared in over seventy professional theatrical shows including Permanent Collection, Race, Driving Miss Daisy, Dracula: A Rock Opera and 9 of the 10 August Wilson Cycle plays. He was a recipient of two Onyx Awards for Best Equity Actor from AACTA (African-American Council of the Arts) in Pittsburgh, PA. He was nominated for an AUDI Award for Best Narrator in Non-Fiction in 2012. Alan portrays an FBI Agent in John Travolta’s soon to be released movie, Criminal Activities. His first international performance occurred when he appeared in Driving Miss Daisy in Sterling, Ontario, Canada. His non-stage acting credits include a made for TV movie, The Movement, seven independent films including the full length feature film Missed It. He has appeared in several regional commercials. When not acting and directing Alan enjoys life with his talented singer/actress wife, Becky Barrett-Jones.
Monette McKay (Yolanda) is thrilled to be part of the legacy of Crowns. Broadway: Mamma Mia!, Memphis, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. National Tours: Mamma Mia!. TV: Law & Order: Criminal Intent and HBO’s Crime. Much love to family, friends, and my one and only Preston. Thanks to TalentWorks. Follow the adventures at monettemckay.com and Tweetgram: @monettemckay
Debra Walton (Jeanette) Last seen by HRTC audiences in Children of Eden, Debra is thrilled to be returning to Dayton where her professional career began! Broadway and Off-Broadway highlights include: The Pajama Game, Storyville!, The Bubbly Black Girl and Cookin’ at the Cookery: The Life and Times of Alberta Hunter, in which Debra created her award-winning roles earning her a Drama Desk Nomination and a Barrymore Award. In 2009, the creators of Ain’t Misbehavin’ officially dubbed her the new Charlaine! National Tours include: South Pacific, Annie Get Your Gun and Chicago, playing multiple roles including Mama Morton! For more fun facts about Walton and to see video clips check out www.debrawalton.com and YouTube.
Torie Wiggins (Mabel) is a graduate of UC CCM with a BFA in Dramatic Performance. She has co-adapted and performed a one-woman show, Your Negro Tour Guide, and toured with it across the country. She has appeared on All My Children and the feature film Love Me Through It. Cincinnati credits: Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party, Collapse, Afghan Women Writer’s Project, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson, Pluto, and Harry and the Thief (Know Theatre of Cincinnati) and The Mountaintop (Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati). She also appeared in To Kill a Mockingbird with Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, and performed the title role in Black Pearl Sings! at ETC, both for which she was nominated for an LCT Award. This season she made her HRTC debut as Vera Charles in Mame, and then returned to Dayton as Cassandra in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike at the Victoria Theatre.