Professional Nonprofit Theater on Martha's Vineyard
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24 Church Street, Box 2452, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568 | 508-696-6300
Martha's Vineyard Hebrew Center

In Development

Written by Yorri J. Berry
Reading directed by Brandon Monokian
Conceived and reconstructed by Suzzanne Douglas & Brandon Monokian
With music by Alva Nelson, Louise Robinson & Carol Maillard
Choreography by Mama Yaa
Starring Suzzanne Douglas
In Development is a new multidisciplinary theatre piece starring award winning film, television and Broadway actress Suzzanne Douglas (Tap, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, The Parent ‘Hood and much more) exploring issues of identity and the human thread that connects us all and examines the struggle to find what is it that defines who we are as individuals all through the lens of a poetic text.

Suzzanne Douglas

Suzzanne Douglas (creator, star) Award-winning actress, singer and producer Suzzanne Douglas has won the hearts of all who have seen her perform. Suzzanne’s ability to explore characters seldom played by women of color has allowed her to create a canon of enigmatic and complex roles. Her desire to constantly grow as an artist reflects a pioneering spirit in her work. Through this she also hopes to encourage younger artists to do the same. Ms. Douglas most recently appeared in New York in the world premiere of Kara Lee Corthron’s post- modern play, Julius by Design. Douglas’ decision to working regionally has allowed Douglas to take theatrical risks seldom explored in the more commercial Broadway venue. Ms. Douglas has appeared in three of Regina Taylor’s plays: The Drowning Crow, at Chicago’s Goodman Theater, Night in Tunisia in New Brunswick at George Street Playhouse, and Crowns, winning an NAACP Image Award for Best Ensemble at the Pasadena Playhouse. Ms. Douglas also seeks works that explore the social arena. In the Alliance Theater production of Women of Brewster Place, Ms. Douglas explored issues of sexual orientation and acceptance. Douglas' lauded performance presented viewers with a non-stereotypical perspective of lesbianism. Suzzanne’s sense of justice was evident in her portrayal of Georgina, in Arthur Laurent’s, Hallelujah, Baby!, which Laurent’s re-wrote for Douglas. Ms. Douglas was the first African American to play the role of Dr. Bearing in the Pulitzer Prize winning play, Wit at the George Street Playhouse. On Broadway Ms. Douglas was in The Tap Dance Kid, It’s a Grand Night for Singing and in The Threepenny Opera opposite Sting. Working with some of the best in the industry has allowed Suzzanne to continually grow as an artist. Terrence McNally, Walter Bobbi, John Dexter, Vivian Matalon and Kevin Hooks have helped to shape her producing skills while informing her knowledge of the theatrical industry. The film, The Last Weekend, produced by Douglas won best Short film at the Hollywood Black Film Festival in 1998. Suzzanne also helped co-produce Theresa Rebeck’s Love on the Rocks starring Julie White. The talent of Suzzanne Douglas allows her to seamlessly move from stage to film. For her performance in Tap alongside legends Sammy Davis, Jr. and Gregory Hines she won her first NAACP Image Award. Co- Starring with Angela Bassett in How Stella Got Her Grove Back she received the Black Oscar. Working with Jada Pinkett-Smith in Inkwell, Douglas was later re-united with Ms. Pinkett-Smith in Jason’s Lyric co-starring opposite Forrest Whitaker. Her work on the long running Warner Brothers’ family sitcom Parent ‘Hood co-starring across from Robert Townsend, brought her into the homes and the hearts of viewers around the world. Douglas also had a recurring role in Mo'Nique’s comedy, The Parkers. Douglas has guest starred in a variety critically acclaimed shows such as: The Good Wife, NYPD Blue, Law and Order, Touched by an Angel, I’ll Fly Away and In the Shadow of Love. It was Suzzanne’s gentle work in the ABC made for TV film Sounder that garnered an Image Award nomination. Suzzanne’s musical talents have enabled her to perform with Stanley Turrentine, Gene Harris, Jon Faddis, Kenney Burrell, Kenny Barron, Nate Adderley, Don Braden, and T.S. Monk. Douglas is currently working on a bridge project that helps fine arts graduate students to better transition into the industry. Ms. Douglas is an Honorary member of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. and the honors society of Sigma Alpha Lambda.

Yorri J. Berry

Yorri J. Berry (playwright) A daughter of New Orleans, Louisiana, she grew up with an appreciation for unique Creole cuisine, art, and diverse cultures. Some have referred to her as a quiet storm, as her naturally shy and reticent personality often leaves folks speechless after witnessing the power birthed when she opens her mouth to speak. More than just an artistically gifted young woman and budding scholar, she is one who believes that every aspect of her life and being is an act of worship to the divine creator. An educator, a minister, a mentor, a motivational speaker, and an activist for social justice – one who proactively seeks to be the change she hopes to see in others and the world. She is a respected speaker and workshop facilitator, having been featured at numerous conferences, universities, churches, schools, and political, religious, & social events throughout the country. She has been writing poetry since the age of five and is the author of a collection of poetry written to raise awareness regarding social injustices impacting women domestically and internationally. Her other literary projects include The Backpack Monologues, a socially- conscious collection of monologues that tell the stories of youth living in underserved communities, a production in which all proceeds benefit a mentoring program for teen girls; and she served as the editor of Speaking Out Loud: Love, Life, Ludicrous, a youth poetry anthology. An Educational Administration, Policy and Leadership PhD candidate at Fordham University in New York City; she attended Spelman College and is a graduate of Loyola University New Orleans, Howard University School of Divinity, and Howard University Graduate School of Education. She was the youngest graduate of the Summer Leadership Institute at Harvard University for leaders involved in faith-based community and economic development initiatives. She has also served as Children’s Minister at Covenant Baptist United Church of Christ, where she founded the Youth Poetry Project, a creative writing and entrepreneurship program for middle and high school students in Southeast DC. She presently serves as the Program Officer for Jabo Industries, LLC, an Atlanta-based energy, information technology and healthcare consulting firm, overseeing the company’s Foundation and community outreach initiatives; and has worked with and managed educational and community development projects for organizations including Martha’s Table, Incorporated, KIPP Los Angeles Schools, Communities In Schools and the Children’s Defense Fund. Having been the recipient of a NeighborWorks America Innovations in Community Development award for contributing over a thousand hours in public service and leading a campaign to raise thousands of dollars to aid Hurricane Katrina victims, her mission is to use educational development and empowerment to practically minister to the everyday needs of God’s people across the globe. She is a member of the Federal City Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.

Alva Nelson

Alva Nelson (music) is a multi-faceted musician who performs and creates music that is diverse, sophisticated and exhilarating. As a producer his credits include two recent projects for Ms. Dorothy Leigh. Alva wrote three songs for Ms. Leigh's "A Second Chance" (Whitley Productions, Inc.), a compilation of ten original songs, all arranged for Nelson's 17-piece orchestra. In stark contrast, "Intimate Moments" is a beautiful collection of jazz standards featuring Nelson's piano and Leigh's vocals in ten duets. Alva Nelson has released two recordings as a jazz pianist/composer, "African Suite"(Pyramyd Records) and "Soul Eyes"(Kilosi Keys Music), both CDs showcasing Nelson's composing skills. Alva produced Juanita Flemings' "Redeemed"(BAKA Records), which is a Gospel/Jazz Hybrid highlighting Ms. Fleming's songwriting ability. Ms. Fleming also contributed five songs to Dorothy Leigh's "A Second Chance". Mr. Nelson's arrangement of Stevie Wonder's "Send One Your Love" on Robin Eubanks' "Karma" (Polydor Records), and the single, "Another Chance to Give" by Genie Swinson (for the New York City Organ Donor Foundation) are other examples of Alva Nelson's musical creativity. As a sideman, he has recorded with Lonnie Plaxico, Charley Gerard, Bubbha Thomas & the Lightmen. As a pianist, Nelson has performed with Lightnin' Hopkins, Kirk Whalum, David "Fathead" Newman, Arnett Cobb, Tramaine Hawkins, Phyllis Hyman, Regina Belle, Eddie Harris, Martha Wash, The Chantells, and Chuck Jackson. Alva has been musical director (and/or Asst MD) for regional theatre productions including "Ain't Misbehavin'", "Sam Cooke, Forever Mr. Soul," "Violet" "A Brief History of White Music" "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill", "...Love, Langston", "If This Hat Could Talk", "Black Broadway" and other shows as a pit musician.

Louise Robinson

Louise Robinson (music), a native New Yorker, studied concert bass for six years and attended the High School of Music and Art. A graduate of Howard University with a BFA, her professional career began at Washington, D.C.'s Arena Stage. Louise accepted Robert Hooks’ invitation to become a member of the new, D.C. Black Repertory Company Acting Ensemble. It was out of this theatre company that Louise, along with Carol Maillard. Bernice Johnson Reagon, and Mie, formed the a cappella quartet, Sweet Honey In The Rock. Louise's colorful career has taken her up many paths, including performances, both on and off-Broadway, and in film and studio recording. She has also worn the producer's hat as she, along with Maillard and Smokey Ronald Stevens, produced A Sho Nuff Variety Revue, a series of performances showcasing some of New York’s finest talent, including Adolph Casear, Sandra Reeves Phillips, and legendary tap dancers Gregory Hines, Avon Long, and Joe Attles. Louise was the founding director of the Bay Area a cappella quintet, Street Sounds, taking their music around the country and the world for 14 years. Louise returned to Sweet Honey In The Rock in 2004, and combines her experience in theatre and music to offer a workshop that explores the creative freedom in us all.

Carol Maillard

Carol Maillard (music) was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Although she originally attended Catholic University of America on scholarship as a Violin Performance major, she soon began writing music and performing with the Drama Department and eventually changed her major to Theater. This passion for the stage brought her to the D.C. Black Repertory Company and the beginnings of the vocal ensemble that was to become Sweet Honey In The Rock. Carol is an accomplished actress and has performed in film, television and on stage. Her theater credits encompass a wide range of styles from musical comedy and revues to drama and experimental. She has performed on and off Broadway (Eubie, Don't Get God Started, Comin' Uptown, Home, It's So Nice To Be Civilized, Beehive, Forever My Darling); with the Negro Ensemble Company (Home, Zooman and the Sign, Colored Peoples Time, The Great Mac Daddy); and the New York Shakespeare Festival (Spunk, Caucasian Chalk Circle, Under Fire, A Photograph…); also at the Actors Studio (Hunter). She can be seen in the feature films Beloved and Thirty Years to Life. On television, Carol has appeared in For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide and Halleluiah! ( PBS) ; Law and Order: SVU and Law and Order. Carol is a founding member of SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK. Her powerful rendition of Motherless Child arranged for Sweet Honey, is featured in the motion picture, THE VISIT and the Dorothy Height documentary, WE ARE NOT VANISHING. Carol was Conceptual Producer for the documentary film on PBS’ American Masters 2005 - SWEET HONEY IN THE ROCK: RAISE YOUR VOICE! Produced and directed by Stanley Nelson (Firelightmedia Films), the film chronicled Sweet Honey’s 30th Anniversary year (2003). As a vocalist, she has had the privilege to record with Horace Silver, Betty Buckley, and the SYDA Foundations inspirational recording Sounds of Light. In 2003, her poem H2O Flow was featured as the opening selection of Marjorie Reyersons photo/poetry book WATER MUSIC. And in 1998, she penned the HERSTORY for Sweet Honey’s first songbook, CONTINUUM.

Brandon Monokian

Brandon Monokian (co creator) Select acting credits include Love Is In The Air (dir. Jeremy Bloom, The Cell), Shlemiel the First (dir. David Gordon, NYC Skirball Center, Alexander Kasser Theatre), How to Build a Forest (PearlDamour, The Kitchen) and PastTENSE (dir. Robert Woodruff). As a director and producer Mr. Monokian created Revolutionary Readings, a touring theatrical protest of the Burlington County Public Library and Rancocas Valley Regional High School's decision to ban the book Revolutionary Voices: A Multicultural Queer Youth Anthology (performances at Rutgers University, Bluestocking Books, The Raconteur, NJLA Conference, and more). Along side librarian Janie Hermann, Monokian developed the Page to Stage series at the Princeton Public Library in which he directed various staged readings of plays adapted from literature. He is a three time director of The Vagina Monologues as a part of the V Day campaign. Productions of The Vagina Monologues he has directed have starred Amy Warren ("August: Osage County”), Briella Calafiore ("Jerseylicious"), Jessica Romano ("Glam Fairy"), Elaine Bromka ("Uncle Buck"), Suzzanne Douglas ("How Stella Got Her Groove Back," "The Parent 'Hood"), and Stephaine Roth Haberle ("Phaedra Backwards"). Other select directing credits include The Laramie Project (Montclair State University), and assistant director to Debbie Saivetz on the world premier of Kara Lee Corthron’s Julius By Design (Fulcrum Theatre Co. starring Suzzanne Douglas and Mike Hodge). As a writer his freelance theatre journalism work has appeared on Blog-O-Zines Insite, Culture Vultures, and Library as Incubator Project. Staged readings of his original plays Fuckin Breadcrumbs and Sticks, Stones & Other Weapons have been produced at New York’s TADA! Theater and Montclair State University respectively. twitter.com/brandonmonokian

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