January 19 - 30, 2022 at The Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake
Season Sponsorship by Pat Savadove
Show Sponsorship by Dr. Stephanie Creary
Malcolm X said in a speech that “I believe that there will ultimately be a clash between the oppressed and those that do the oppressing. I believe that there will be a clash between those who want freedom, justice and equality for everyone and those who want to continue the systems of exploitation.”
Childress’ Wine in the Wilderness immerses us into the middle of such a conflict as our backdrop. Our story takes place on the third day of a protest following the shooting of a Black teenage boy. The innocent boy was profiled, sprayed with a water hose, and ultimately shot and killed by an off duty NYC Police Officer. The African American teen’s murder was justified by the Police Officer, saying that the teen was presumed to be violent because he confronted the man for being doused with water.
Just as history repeats itself, the violent atmosphere that existed in 1964 comes full circle. In 2020, following the deaths of more innocent African Americans, we were provided with similar backdrops of our own protests and clashes against systemic oppression. Just as art imitates life, and vice versa, Childress uses these violent backdrops to highlight the dynamics between genders, specifically the mistreatment and objectification of women. Childress allows us to experience this treatment through Tommy, as Bill and his well-educated friends represent our misogynist society that women must continually confront and challenge.
As I first read the script, I immediately fell in love with Tommy. Her innocence, brassiness, vulnerability, autonomy, and desire for love spiritually endeared me to her. However, Tommy, unlike her mother, did not settle, she didn't believe, “every woman needs a man…even if it's a dead one." She refused to allow Bill or anyone else to define her. She recognized her beauty, power, and strength. She recognized her worth! As a result, it forced Bill and the others to also see her worth and recognize her value in their lives, and the positive impact she possesses.
Now, juxtapose this scenario with society and the world in which we live...
It’s my hope in directing this play that others leave with a similar experience as Cynthia, Sonny-Man, and - especially - Bill, recognizing that women matter. Not to be placed on a pedestal for a “by your leave” illustration, but rather, as a black diamond - a rare, precious jewel. It is also my hope, like the thousands of fearless demonstrators that clashed against their oppressors during those torrid nights of velvety fiery skies, the realization that, yes, Black Lives Matter!
-Damien J. Wallace
On March 29, 1960, a commercial producer sends Alice Childress' lawyer a rejection letter, passing on a play that premiered on Broadway last year. Said lawyer was told that it would "...make a very good Off-Broadway production" and that they "...question[ed] it for this rough commercial street." The play in question is Childress' other masterpiece, Trouble in Mind. After reading several Twitter threads about the play, I saw why it may have been rejected: Childress positioned herself in direct opposition to the machine that is racial capitalism. (She also refused to change the ending!) Black audiences were equally astounded and haunted by how immediate and relevant Childress' work is. Simultaneously confronted and validated, many Black folx believed that white audiences were not able or ready to handle the material and its subsequent discourse. I argue that the same rings true for Wine in the Wilderness. Taking place in 1964, published in 1969, Childress tackles a myriad of topics that honestly play out, in real-time, on my Twitter feed: racialized capitalism, misogynoir, respectability politics, intraracial violence against women, the cult of domesticity and the lack of class analysis from the Black academic and creative class.
Childress liked to think of herself as representing the everyday person in her writing. Having dropped out of high school to support herself and championing the first off-Broadway union for actors, one can assume that Childress put a lot of herself into the character that is Tommy. Tommy is overworked and underpaid, and like many Black women today, desires an unconditional love that is fortifying, safe and liberating. Unfortunately, Tommy is met with obstacles that are both systemic and interpersonal. Whether it is someone commenting on how brash and 'unfeminine' she is, or patronizing her because of her lack of knowledge/not having read certain books, or simply being denied the dignity to present the way she wants to for a portrait despite surviving the tragedy of the 1964 Harlem riots, poor Tommy cannot catch a break. One would like to assume that certainly, in 2022, Tommy would have some relief. But she wouldn't.
In 2022, she'd be recovering from the trauma of summer 2020 - between the Geroge Floyd marches and the Breonna Taylor verdict. She'd be tired from working multiple part-time jobs (most of which are understaffed due to the Great Resignation) to make rent, watching her status morph from essential to un-skilled. Dating apps would be a hellish nightmare, as she'd have to swipe through blatant sexism, racism and fetishism just to be gaslit and strung along under the guise of "going with the flow." She'd also roll her eyes as she scrolled Twitter and witnessed just how out of touch middle class Black academics are, and question why they get to serve as the voice for the majority of the Black community. I'd also like to think that she'd have a blast laughing at, and even trolling, some of these Black Masculinity/High Value dating coaches with podcasts that serve as public displays of insecurity. But then she stumbles across another nook of the internet - one that is soft, feminine and warm. This nook is filled holistic recipes for reproductive health, mantras to tap into her "Divine Feminine Energy", dances and poses to heal her womb, ways to dress, speak and act in order to get one of these "High Value Men'' and hours upon hours of footage depicting Black women in an old money aesthetic practicing hyper consumerism in the name of liberation. She'd be allured, tempted even - because her desire to be loved and her capacity to love is what humanizes her in a world that reinforces that she is less than that. But ultimately, and most importantly, Tommy would be absolutely and undeniably exhausted - emotionally, spiritually and existentially.
I'm still grappling with whether the immediacy of this play is a good thing or not, but I am grateful that Childress gave us this gem. The depth and scope of her work and the Black experience is one that transcends time and space. My hope is that everyone who has the privilege to see this piece interrogates what systems of oppression they participate in and how to divest from them in ways that are meaningful and tangible - particularly in their interpersonal relationships. I hope that Black non-men who experience the genius of this Ancestor feel seen, loved and heard. Lastly, I hope the work of Black creatives continues to be uplifted, supported and not lost in the wormhole of racism and 'producibility' - preferably during their lifetime.
(in order of appearance)
BILL..................................Andre G. Brown*
SONNY-MAN................Brennen S. Malone
TOMMY.....................Ontaria Kim Wilson*
*Actors appearing by permission of
Actors' Equity Association
Director...............................Damien J. Wallace
Set Designer..................................Marie Laster
Costume Designer.......................Tiffany Bacon
Lighting Designer...........................Tim Martin
Sound Design.............................Chris Sannino
Stage Manager......................Liandra Marcano
Covid Compliance Officer......Melody Marshall
Technical Director......................Peter Nicholls
Master Electrician............................Eric Baker
Scene Shop.........................Flannel & Hammer
Set Crew.......................................Reilly Walker
Scenic Charge......................Annemarie Branco
Production Manager.....................Dane Eissler
(in order of appearance)
André G. Brown (Bill Jamerson) is an actor and filmmaker living in Los Angeles. He’s thrilled to be making his EgoPo debut in a Childress masterpiece with such an incredibly talented and generous group of artists and designers. Selected credits: Ace of Spades in Hoodoo Love, Cassius in …And In This Corner Cassius Clay, Antwoine in Milk Like Sugar, Officer Borzoi in the West Coast premiere of Hooded; Or Being Black for Dummies, Butcher in F*cking A, Leroy Barksdale in By The Way Meet Vera Stark. Currently Andre is completing a feature-length documentary @asoulcleansing. To our phenomenal audience: “I’m glad you’re here, Black is beautiful, you’re beautiful…” - Alice Childress (he/him)
Monroe Barrick (Oldtimer) is excited to make his first appearance with EgoPo Classic Theater. A Philadelphia-based actor who has performed at a variety of venues throughout the region, his most recent performance was as Thomas Dunne in The Steward of Christendom (Irish Heritage Theatre). Prior roles include Donado in Tis Pity She’s a Whore (Phila. Artists Collective), Mister Marten/Ishmael in Maria Marten or The Murder in the Red Barn (Phila. Artists Collective), Wolf in V to X (Arden/Bob and Selma Horan Studio Theatre), Charley in Death of a Salesman (Plays and Players), and Chance Happening in Roost (PS 122/NYC). Heartfelt appreciation to John Allen who founded Freedom Theatre and Irene Baird whose nurturing and guidance put me on my journey. Much gratitude to everyone involved in this production. (he/him)
Brennen S. Malone (Sonny-Man) is super excited to finally be working with EgoPo and be a part of this project. Regional: Citizen: An American Lyric (New Light Theatre); Found (IGWBT Theatre Company); Silueta (Power Street); Fat Ham (Wilma Theater); FOURTEEN (National Constitution Center); Gay Mis (Jaffe St. Queer Productions); Bessie Smith: Empress of Blue (RoyalOne Productions); Basic Witches (Hager Productions); 5 by 5 (Arden Professional Apprenticeship - Class 25); Hunchback of Notre Dame (Upper Darby Summer Stage). Education: BA Bates College. (he/they)
Cynda Purnell (Cynthia), a graduate of Temple University, is a Philadelphia-based artist. Recent credits include: The Last Remains (Power Street Theatre), The West Philly Meeting (Theatre in the X) and They’ll Neglect to Tell You (Theatre Exile). In addition to theater, she enjoys commercial work (goPuff), film and modeling. She is thrilled to be making her EgoPo debut. (she/her)
Ontaria Kim Wilson (Tommy) is an actress, choreographer, playwright, and director based out of Philadelphia, PA. Training: Temple University's School of Theatre, Film, and TV. Dance: Rennie Harris Puremovement Hip Hop Theatre Company; R&B recording artist Gina Thompson; Hip Hop Recording Artist Eve: on the following TV appearances: “Soul Train”, “Show Time at The Apollo”, “NFL Under The Helmet”, “Motown Live”, and “The Conan O’Brien Show”; R&B Recording Artist Teddy Pendergast (Toured 1999-2002) recorded performance “From Teddy With Love.” Theatre: The Healing, Detox, and Beautiful Toxicity all written, produced, and directed by Ontaria. As You Like It, Temple Theater/Directed by Doug Wager; The Helen Project, Plays & Players/Revamp Collective; Trojan Women, The Phoenix Theater; Do You Trust Your Best Friend, Lawrence Theater Co, directed by Damien Wallace; and Alien Nation, Williamstown Theater Festival/Forest of Arden Company, directed by Michael Arden. TV & Film: “For My Man” Sheila Dates/TV ONE; “The Last Airbender” Earth Nation 4 Dancer/M. Knight Shyamalan; and “Detox” Writer/Director. Her mantra is “If God has downloaded a dream or vision into you it’s your responsibility to complete the assignment. Someone is depending on your "yes!” She IS...WINE IN THE WILDERNESS! (she/her)
Nicola Jean (Understudy) is very excited to be a part of Wine in the Wilderness at Louis Bluver Theatre. She’s previously worked with Ego Po Theatre in both Breath and Company a collection of Samuel Beckett works at the Provincetown Theatre Festival. Jean also studied Acting, Directing/New Media Communications at Rowan University, where she received a BA in 2019. She loves telling important stories through diverse characters and wants to thank her best friend Tai, and her family for always supporting her dreams. Look her up on YouTube & Instagram @thenicolajean for more content and upcoming projects! (she/her)
Dawn McCall (Understudy) is a freshman theatre major at Rowan University. They most recently appeared in Rowan’s production of Plum Bun as Anthony, and have also been in Matilda as Rudolpho and Singin’ in the Rain as Don Lockeood. They have a passion for writing along with acting, and are very excited for this opportunity to work with everyone. (they/them)
Damien J. Wallace (Director) holds a BFA degree in theatre from Arcadia University. Some of his most recent directorial credits include Headliner Entertainment’s production of Derrell Lawrence’s Life isn’t fair at The Met Philadelphia. Additionally, Damien co-directed Sasmuel Beckett’s Rockabye as part of EgoPo’s 2021 Isolations season.More of Damien’s directing credits include GoKash Productions mounting of August Wilson’s Fences. Andre Jones “Verbalized Ink”. Damien also serves as the Artistic Director of Lawrence Theatre Company, Damien's most notable credits include the World Premiere plays “The Funeral” and “Custody”. Damien also directed countless children productions as The Artistic Director for Strawberry Mansion High School’s Drama Guild, and served as the resident playwright and director for the St. Gabriel’s DeLaSalle High School for adjudicated youth drama program as a member of Interact Theatre’s educational program in conjunction with Philadelphia Young Playwrights. (he/him)
Marie Laster (Set Designer) is a set designer born and raised in Philly. Scenic design credits include Untitled (Inis Nua Theatre), A Boy and His Soul (Kitchen Theatre), Cry it Out, Natural Shocks (Simpatico Theatre), Donna Orbits the Moon (Tiny Dynamite), The Agitators (Theatre Horizon), Rachel (Quintessence Theatre). Marie received a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Philadelphia University and enjoys channeling her creative energy through the scenic design process. www.marielasterdesign.com (she/her)
Tim Martin (Lighting Designer) is thrilled to be back with Ego Po on this production. Tim has worked with dozens of companies including: Tribe of Fools, PearlDamour/People’s Light, Bristol Riverside Theater, InterAct, the Lantern, International Opera Theatre, Rebecca Davis Dance, Mum Puppettheatre, Enchantment Theater and sundry others. He is a company member at Curio Theatre. In the academic world, he has worked for Drexel University, West Chester University, Germantown Academy, The Shipley School and Swarthmore College. Tim works for Longwood Gardens, where he designs illuminated fountain shows. www.timothydanielmartin.com (he/him)
Tiffany Bacon (Costume Designer) is a known Philadelphia radio personality and actress who officially began her costume & fashion journey in 2003. Tiffany can be heard on WURD 96.1FM on Fridays from 10am to 1pm, where she also serves as the News and Program Director for the station. Ms. Bacon co-founded The Headline Theater Company, one of Philadelphia's few all black dinner theaters in the early 2000’s. This was a grassroots company with little to no budget for costumes so Tiffany taught herself how to sew as a solution to the dilemma. This skill, acquired out of necessity, soon became a hobby, a love and a business. After friends, family and cast members took an interest in purchasing Tiffany’s creations, the Mo’Tiff brand was officially born in late 2004. Mo’Tiff, named for “more things that Tiff does” and for it’s literal definition (a distinctive feature or dominant idea in an artistic or literary composition), represents costumes and fashion that are hip & urban with historically & culturally infused style. Mo’Tiff costume work appeared in “Gem of the Ocean,” The Arden Theatre (Understudy Run Only); “Purlie Victorious,” Allens Lane Theater; August Wilson's "The Piano Lesson,” The Steel River Playhouse; “The Colored Museum” and “The Prince of Nubia,” Theatre in the X; “Egoli” & “Master Harold & The Boys,” EgoPo Classic Theatre; “The Little Princess,” Quintessence Theatre; “Trouble in Mind,” Philadelphia Artists’ Collective (PAC) and “Dauphin Island,” Passage Theatre. (she/her)
Chris Sannino (Sound Designer) is a Barrymore nominated sound designer, composer, and engineer. Recent works include Is God Is (Wilma Theater/2X2L Programme), Inter Terrestrial (Die-Cast), and A Holy Show (Inis Nua Theatre, US premiere). His design work and music have been featured in part with Theatre Exile, Juniper Productions, Hedgerow Theatre, FringeArts, New Georges, Curio Theatre, BRAT Productions, Orbiter 3, 1812 Productions, and Team Sunshine Performance Corp. among many others. Proud member of TSDCA (Theatrical Sound Designers and Composers Association) and IATSE (International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees). Check out SoundCloud.com/ChrisSannino for more! (he/him)
Flannel & Hammer Scene Shop is a Philadelphia-based business. The company was founded by Lauren Tracy (Flannel) and Joe Daniels (Hammer). With over 10 years’ experience and 100 productions under their (tool) belts they have the knowledge and skills to bring any scenic construction to life. Their work can be seen onstage here and at Inis Nua, Shakespeare in Clark Park, and Azuka Theatre. Beyond the stage they also create custom furniture pieces for your home. See more of our work here at www.flannelhammer.com
Avista Custom Theatrical Services, LLC (Properties), owned by Jennifer Burkhart and Amanda Hatch, was founded in 2007. Avista specializes in prop construction, upholstery, drapery and other soft goods construction, and maintains a 10,000 square foot rental warehouse in Norristown. Avista’s prop master and design work has been seen locally at Opera Philadelphia, Azuka Theatre, Drexel and Temple Universities, Maukingbird Theatre, EgoPo Classic Theater, Theatre Exile, Inis Nua Theater, and Kimmel Center Education Department. Avista is especially grateful to be back in the theater scene this year, after 18 months of sewing face masks and dog accessories! Welcome back, Philly theater! www.avistacustom.com
Liandra Marcano (Production Stage Manager) is a Rowan University Alumni. She is very excited to work with EgoPo in this role for the first time. When she isn’t stage managing, she is the scenic charge at the Broadway Theatre of Pitman in New Jersey. Previous credits: Rent and Miracle on 34th Street at the Broadway Theatre of Pitman, Rider/Rowan Universities under various tech roles. She sends so much love to her family and friends, and thanks Dane Eissler for all of his support!
Alice Childress (Playwright), actress, novelist, and playwright, was born in Charleston, South Carolina, on October 12, 1912. Childress moved to Harlem when she was five and was raised by her grandmother, who encouraged her to write. At weekly church events, young Childress heard moving stories of personal and family struggles, which inspired her with a love of storytelling and served as fodder for stories about the plight of urban blacks. Childress became passionately interested in theater and attended the American Negro Theater School of Drama and Stagecraft. In 1944, she made her debut in Anna Lucasta, which became the longest running all-black play on Broadway. She wrote, directed, and starred in her first play in 1949, and in 1950, encouraged by actor and activist Paul Robeson, she founded her own theater. She wrote more than a dozen plays, including Trouble in Mind. The play was scheduled to move to Broadway in 1957, but Childress objected to changes requested in the script and canceled the production. Her 1966 play, Wedding Band, was produced again in 1972 by Joe Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival. Childress also wrote adult and children's novels. Like her plays, they dealt with the pressures on urban blacks. Her young-adult novel A Hero Ain't Nothing but a Sandwich (1973) recounts the rehabilitation of a 13-year-old heroin addict. The book became a bestseller and a movie in 1977. Her 1979 novel, A Short Walk, was nominated for a Pulitzer. Childress also collaborated with her husband, composer Nathan Woodard, on musical plays. She died in 1994 at age 81. (she/her)