About THE ARTISTS
TALVIN WILKS (playwright), also a director and dramaturg, is no stranger to the Pioneer Valley, having both taught at UMASS/Amherst and having served as the Interim Director of New WORLD Theater (2002-2004). At Ko, he co-led the Ping Chong & Company Summer Training Institute in the summer of 2012. Last year at UMASS he co-conceived, wrote and directed COLLIDESCOPE 2.0: Adventures In Pre And Post Racial America
His plays include Tod, the boy, Tod, The Trial of Uncle S&M, Bread of Heaven, and An American Triptych. Directorial projects include the world premiere productions of by Sekou Sundiata (651Arts/BAM), Ntozake Shange (Crossroads), Carl Hancock Rux (Joe’s Pub/The Kitchen), Lynn Nottage, (Going to the River Festival), and other Obie Award/ AUDELCO Award winning projects.
He has served as co-writer/dramaturg for ten productions in Ping Chong’s ongoing series of Undesirable Elements, and dramaturg for collaborations with the Bebe Miller Company, Carmen DeLavallade, and Ping Chong (The Civil War Project). He is currently writing a book on black theater, Testament: 40 Years of Black Theatre History in the Making, 1964-2004, and recently curated The Aunt Ester Cycle, a theatre festival at the August Wilson Center for African American Culture in Pittsburgh.
HARTBEAT ENSEMBLE was founded by Steven Raider-Ginsburg, Julia B. Rosenblatt and Gregory R. Tate (1952-2012), HartBeat Ensemble creates provocative theater that connects their community beyond traditional barriers of class, race, geography and gender.
Since 2001, HartBeat Ensemble has been producing plays that tell extraordinary stories of ordinary people. Drawn from styles ranging from commedia dell’arte to hip-hop theater to realism, they create their own work as well as present original works from nationally known playwrights. Mainstage productions include: Graves (2001), News to Me (2004); Ebeneeza– A Hartford Holiday Carol (2006); The Pueblo (2007); Rich Clown, Poor Clown, Beggar Clown, Thief (2008); Flipside (2011); Riding the Turnpike (2013); and Gross Domestic Product (2016). Their plays have been seen throughout the Northeast, including the NY International Fringe Festival (2012 Best Ensemble), Boston University and Yale University.
HartBeat’s Education Program, inspired by Augusto Boal’s Theater of the Oppressed, explores ways to alter situations, external and internal, which adversely affect our lives. Through conflict resolution workshops and play-building residencies, participants learn to express their joy and air their grievances creatively. Programs include Youth Play Institute (YPI), Startin’ Drama (Bullying Prevention) and Arts-Based Curriculum Integration (ABCi).
HartBeat has been developing a unique system for gathering and organizing large sets of narratives that enables communities to put their own stories into context. Through their Neighborhood Investigative Project (NIP), they use theater to bring authentic individual voices to the stage in an effort to help their partner communities seek societal and systemic change. HartBeat’s Carriage House Theater is located in Hartford, CT.
BRIAN JENNINGS (Director) has been part of HartBeat Ensemble since 2006. He developed and performed the role of Nick Carter Flipside and directed multiple productions of Ebeneeza: A Hartford Holiday Carol. He collaborated with Talvin Wilks to create Harlem on my Mind at the Wadsworth Atheneum. A Hartford-based theater artist and teacher, he serves on the faculty at the Greater Hartford Academy of the Arts and the Hartt School Theatre Division. His adaptation, RAVE: The Bacchae of Euripides – Remixed was performed at the 2005 Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland. From 1993-2001, he worked with the National Theater of the Deaf as a voicing actor and playwright. He performed on the national tours of Under Milk Wood, An Italian Straw Hat and Curiouser and Curiouser. Other acting credits include productions for major regional theaters, Off Broadway, and television. He has played the roles of Oberon, Malvolio and Macbeth as part of Artfarm’s Shakespeare in the Grove. He has participated as a teaching artist in exchange programs in Cape Verde and South Africa. He holds degrees from Princeton University and the National Theater Conservatory. In 2004, Brian was named Teacher of the Year by the International Network of Performing and Visual Arts Schools. He was the recipient of a National Teaching Artist Fellowship in 2005 and the Gordon C. Ramsay Award for Sustained Creative Achievement at the University of Hartford in 2012. He lives in Bolton, CT, with his wife, Eileen, and their border collie, Hannah.
CHINAZA UCHE (James Baldwin) is a New York-based, Nigerian American, actor/performer/writer. He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, and lived in London, England, until he immigrated to the US at the age of 14. He has a BFA in Drama from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. While at Tisch, he studied at the Experimental Theatre Wing and the Classical Studio. His film and TV credits include: Ricki and the Flash (starring Meryl Streep), Mother Of George (Sundance, starring Isaach De Bankole and Danai Gurira), Terry Richardson’s Last Hours (Cannes) and episodes on Golden Boy (CBS), Deception (NBC) and Blue Bloods (CBS). In New York he has worked with The Transport Group, Playwright’s Realm, LAByrinth Theater Company, La MaMa, The National Black Theatre and New York Theatre Workshop. He has also worked regionally at Seattle Repertory Theatre () and the Everyman Theatre in Baltimore, MD. He also hosts wild dance shows with The Dance Cartel, and is a member of HartBeat Ensemble and Flux Theatre Ensemble. www.chinazauche.com
VANESSA BUTLER (Lorraine Hansberry) received her actor training from California Institute of the Arts, where she graduated in 2012 with an MFA. She has performed roles from Shakespeare to Suzan-Lori Parks in Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Connecticut. A few of her most recent credits are: Romeo & Juliet (Juliet) with Capitol Classics Theater, Freedom: in 3 Acts with Bated Breath Theater Company, Higgins In Harlem (Clara Hill), 2 Theater Uncut Festivals with Playhouse on Park, Khalas (Sierra) with Collective Consciousness Theater, Queens for a Day at Hartford Stage, and multiple HartBeat Ensemble original performances for social change.
Vanessa is honored to be a part of this production and gives special thanks to HartBeat Ensemble, this cast, Brian Jennings and Talvin Wilkes for creating, producing and telling such a beautiful and vital piece of theater.
NEAL MOELLER (Bobby Kennedy, etc.) made his Hartbeat Ensemble debut with Jimmy & Lorraine. While living in the midwest he played Orsino in Twelfth Night (Chicago Shakespeare Theater); the title role in Macbeth (Illinois Shakespeare Festival); and Prince Henry in Henry IV Part 1 & 2 (Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival). New York credits include Prospero in The Tempest (Theater 54); Pinocchio’s Ashes (Theater for the New City) and Macheath in Threepenny Opera (Riverside Theater). Other notable roles include Brick in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; Cheviot Hill in Engaged; Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest (LA and NY); and Ned Weeks in Normal Heart. Film credits include Manna From Heaven. Neal received a MFA in Acting from University of Illinois.