The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts presents the Penumbra Theatre production of I Wish You Love written by Dominic Taylor and directed by Lou Bellamy. Following its world premiere at Penumbra Theatre in Saint Paul, Minnesota, the drama with music runs June 11 to 19, 2011 in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater. I Wish You Love is produced with the assistance of the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays. The press opening for I Wish You Love will take place on Saturday, June 11, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. The production features Dennis W. Spears as Nat -King? Cole, singing more than 20 of Cole's beloved songs. Additional casting includes Kevin D. West as Oliver Moore, Eric Berryman as Jeffrey Prince, and Michael Tezla as Bill Henry.
I Wish You Love captures a moment in the life of Nat -King? Cole. The play uses Cole's television show as a way to illustrate the man, the times, and the real life drama behind the sanitizing lens of the television camera. In 1957, President Eisenhower had the Civil Rights Act on his desk that he may or may not sign. Althea Gibson had won Wimbledon. Nine children were about to integrate Little Rock Central High School in Arkansas. And, Nat -King? Cole was the first black man that many in America let into their living room as they swooned to his tunes, including -Get Your Kicks on Route 66? and -Let There Be Love.? Cole came to the forefront of American life as the storm cloudsof the modern civil rights era grew. He believed that with enough talent and persistence he would be judged on the content of his character as opposed to the color of his skin. Relevant to all ages, this drama with music demonstrates the power of advocacy and how it can create change. Playwright Dominic Taylor is the associate artistic director of Penumbra Theatre, head of OKRA the Penumbra new play development program, and an assistant professor at the University of Minnesota. Select directing credits include Black Nativity: Now is the Time at Penumbra, Fresh Faust at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston, The Negroes Burial Ground at the Kitchen, N.Y.C., and Uppa Creek at Dixon Place. His published plays include Wedding Dance, Personal History, and UpCity Service(s). He has also worked with Crossroads Theatre, Rites and Reasons Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre, The Public Theatre, New York Theatre Workshop, Playwrights Horizons, and Ensemble Studio Theatre.
Director Lou Bellamy is the founder and artistic director of Penumbra Theatre, an Obie award-winning stage director, and an associate professor at the University of Minnesota. Select Penumbra directing credits include Two Old Black Guys Just Sitting Around Talking, Black Pearl Sings!, Radio Golf, Fences, The Piano Lesson, A Raisin in the Sun and Gem of the Ocean. Other credits include Two Trains Running at the Signature Theatre Company in New York, Jitney at Kansas City Repertory Theatre and Arizona Theatre Company, and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom at the Kennedy Center. Most recently, he directed the Penumbra and Arizona Theatre Company co-production of Ma Rainey's Black Bottom staged at Arizona Theatre Company in Phoenix and Tucson, and in Minneapolis at the Guthrie Theater.
The creative team includes set design by Lance Brockman, costume design by Mathew J. LeFebvre, lighting design by Don Darnutzer, sound and video design by Martin Gwinup, and music direction by Sanford Moore.
PENUMBRA THEATRE was founded in 1976 by Lou Bellamy to make socially responsible art - art that demanded a response, art with intent, art that could create change. At a time when roles for black artists were limited to stereotypes and comical representations, Penumbra produced theater that roared with authenticity through the unrestrained and rich voice of black artists and playwrights. This respect for cultural authenticity became Penumbra's signature style - and demand for it has reached new heights from theaters around the country fostering collaborations, new productions, tours and awards. For the latest news and updates, visit www.penumbratheatre.org.
OKRA, the Penumbra Theatre new play program was launched in 2008 - a rigorous culturally specific program where playwrights can develop their plays in a safe, nurturing environment without restriction or reservation. The program has three components dedicated to play development - the expansion of early ideas, the exploration of a play script, and a developmental workshop to share the script with an audience. The ultimate goal of OKRA is to move a new play onto the main stage. Each year, Penumbra conducts Word(s)Play!, an intense development workshop for playwrights to refine completed scripts with the help of actors, directors, designers and musicians - readying it for full production. Penumbra has nurtured three plays that have received further production opportunities at New York Theatre Workshop and LAByrinth Theatre Company in New York City; Providence Black Rep in Providence, Rhode Island; and American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco, California. The program receives generous support from the Jerome Foundation.
THE KENNEDY CENTER FUND FOR NEW AMERICAN PLAYS has awarded grants totaling nearly $4 million to more than 126 playwrights, 61 not-for-profit theaters across the country, and 135 new works throughout its history. The Fund awarded grants to Pulitzer Prize winners Tony Kushner for Angels in America, Robert Schenkkan for The Kentucky Cycle, and Wendy Wasserstein for The Heidi Chronicles. Recent grants include Don DeLillo's Love-Lies-Bleeding presented with The Steppenwolf Theatre Company; Emily Mann's Mrs. Packard, presented with the McCarter Theatre Company; Julie Marie Myatt's Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival; Michael John LaChiusa's Giant with Virginia's Signature Theatre; and Golden Age with Philadelphia Theatre Company.
Performances for I Wish You Love run in the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater from June 11 to 19, 2011 at 7:30 p.m. There are no performances on Monday, June 13. Matinee performances will take place on June 12, 18, and 19 at 2 p.m. Tickets range from $34-$40 and can be purchased online at kennedy-center.org or by calling Instant Charge at (202) 467-4600. Patrons living outside the Washington metropolitan area may dial toll-free at (800) 444-1324.