Caribbean actors are well represented in the announced cast of David Stallings’ new drama Leonora, which will be performed as a staged reading at The Williams CME Institutional Church in Harlem on Monday June 3 at 7pm.
The reading is presented by New York Classical Theatre in association with Voza Rivers/New Heritage Theatre Group and David Heron’s Sure Thing Productions, as part of New York Classical’s ‘Diversifying the Classics’ series.
The New York Classical Theatre is celebrating its twentieth year of providing free productions of classic works in indoor and outdoor locations throughout New York City, while Voza Rivers is the Broadway producer of the Tony and Grammy nominated musical Sarafina!
Leonora is inspired by Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and is based on a concept by Antonio Miniño, who also directs the reading.
The play is set in pre-independent Jamaica in late 1951, where Leonora Hartell–a Jamaican woman of color married to a white British banker–watches her world unravel when former acquaintances re-enter her life, threatening to expose secrets from her past.
The majority of Leonora’s seven member cast is Caribbean born or of Caribbean descent and includes actors whose resumes span the worlds of Broadway, Off Broadway, film and television. According to artistic Director of New York Classical, Stephen Burdman, “We are extremely pleased and very excited to have this entire cast onboard, to bring to life this incredible script by playwright David Stallings.”
Nehassaiu deGannes, who is of Dominican descent, will appear as Leonora Hartell. deGannes was most recently seen at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Romeo and Juliet and Our Town. She has also appeared Off Broadway in Is God Is (Soho Rep) and The Balcony (Red Bull), as well as regionally in Intimate Apparel (Shakespeare and Company) and Sweat (Cleveland Playhouse).
Jamaican born David Heron will play Dr Mike Newell, close friend to the Hartells. Heron’s Off Broadway credits include The Winter’s Tale (New York Classical), The Emperor Jones (Irish Rep) and his own play Love and Marriage and New York City (Billie Holiday Theatre). He has been seen regionally in Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare Festival St Louis) and Marley-The Musical (Baltimore Centerstage).
Grenadian born Oneika Philips appears as Kalisa Williams, childhood friend to Leonora , and has the distinction of being the first ever actress from her country to appear on Broadway. She was last seen onstage in the Broadway production of SpongeBob SquarePants-The Musical. Her additional Broadway credits include Amazing Grace and Fela! She has also appeared in national and international tours of Fela! and West Side Story, and portrayed Anita in West Side Story on London’s West End.
Lisa Tharps, of Barbadian descent, is cast as Vinisha, caregiver to the Hartell children. Tharps has appeared on Broadway in King Hedley 11 andRomeo and Juliet and was seen most recently in The Royale at Geva Theatre in Rochester New York. Her other regional credits include A Midsummernight’s Dream (Shakespeare Theatre of DC) and Medea (Boston Court). On television, she has appeared in Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Power and Elementary among others.
Aya Spence, a successful child actress and model of Jamaican descent, portrays Emma Hartell, Leonora’s daughter. She has appeared in the television series A Crime To Remember as well as in campaigns for Target, J.Crew and Little Marc Jacobs.
Completing the cast are Brad Fraizer (The Winter’s Tale Off Broadway, Marvel’s Luke Cage on television) as Leonora’s husband Tristan Hartell, and James Duke Walker (BRO at Manhattan Repertory Theater and television’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel ) as Tristan’s employee, Shamar Campbell.
This staged reading production of Leonora is sponsored by New York City Council Member Bill Perkins and the NYC Council Cultural Immigrant Initiative.
The Williams Institutional CME Church is located at 2239 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Boulevard at 132nd Street, New York, NY, 10027.
Admission to the reading is free.
Reservations can be made at nyclassical.org/Leonora.