ASF Insights presents
ASF invites friends to get closer to the artistry of playwrights through Play Club, part of ASF Insights. ASF recorded insightful online seminars with expert (actor/director) and a scholar on the playwright and material.
ASF’s first Play Club featured works from Alice Childress, Horton Foote, Tennessee Williams, and August Wilson.
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Horton Foote, The Trip to Bountiful
Led by Greta Lambert & Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder
August Wilson, Jitney
Led by Ron OJ Parson & Ethan Henry
Alice Childress, Trouble in Mind
Led by Donnetta Lavinia Grays & Joy Vandervort-Cobb
Meet the Play Club Leaders
The Trip to Bountiful
Greta Lambert has been an ASF company member for 35 years, playing most of Shakespeare’s women, Ivy Rowe (Fair and Tender Ladies), Amanda (The Glass Menagerie), Shirley Valentine, Dottie (The Furniture of Home), Truvy (Steel Magnolias), Linda (Death of a Salesman), Blanche DuBois, Hedda Gabler, Sarah Bernhardt, and Eliza Dolittle. ASF directing: Much Ado About Nothing, Two Gentlemen of Verona, Comedy of Errors, As You Like It, Romeo & Juliet, Twelfth Night, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth, Proof, Relative Values, Beauty & the Beast, Cinderella, and The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.
Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder
The Trip to Bountiful
Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder’s plays include Gee’s Bend, Fresh Kills, The Flagmaker of Market Street, The Furniture of Home, White Lightning, Provenance, and Everything That’s Beautiful. Her plays have been produced at the Royal Court (London), Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Denver Center, Cleveland Play House, KC Rep, Northlight, the Arden, B Street Theatre, and Hartford Stage, among others.
Her one act, Santa Doesn’t Come to the Holiday Inn was featured in the Marathon of One Act Plays at the Ensemble Studio Theatre. Elyzabeth is the recipient of the Osborn Award given by the American Theatre Critics Association and is a graduate of the dramatic writing program at New York University.
In 2018, Elyzabeth traveled with Alabama Shakespeare Festival on their State of the South tour where they hosted town hall discussions in 12 cities throughout the South as they explored the changing face of Southern identity. The project culminated in a documentary and was featured in the New York Times. Elyzabeth is the current Tennessee Williams Playwright-in-Residence at Sewanee: The University of the South where she teaches playwriting.
Ron OJ Parson
Ron OJ Parson hails from Buffalo, New York, and is a graduate of The University of Michigan’s professional theatre program. He is a resident artist at Court Theatre, former co-founder and artistic director of Onyx Theatre. Recent Directing credits include Gem of the Ocean, by August Wilson, at Court Theatre, Sunset Baby by Dominique Morisseau, Timeline Theatre, The Who & The What by Ayad Akhtar (Victory Gardens Theater); Seven Guitars by August Wilson, The Mountaintop by Katori Hall, and Waiting For Godot by Samuel Beckett (Court Theatre); Detroit 67 by Dominic Morisseau (Northlight Theatre); A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry (TimeLine Theatre, associate artist).
Other Chicagoland theatres Ron has worked with include Black Ensemble Theatre, eta, Congo Square Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Writers Theatre (associate artist), Victory Gardens, Teatro Vista (associate artist), Chicago Dramatists, Urban Theatre Company, Steppenwolf Theatre, Chicago Theatre Company, and City Lit Theatre.
Regional theatres Ron OJ has worked with include Virginia Stage Company, Portland Stage, Studio Theatre, Studio Arena Theatre, Roundabout Theatre, Mechanic Theatre, Center Stage Baltimore, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Milwaukee Rep, St. Louis Black Rep, Pittsburgh Public Theatre, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theatre, Geva Theatre, Signature Theatre (New York), Alliance Theatre, South Coast Rep, and Pasadena Playhouse. In Canada, Ron directed the world premiere of Palmer Park by Joanna McClelland Glass at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. Ron is a proud member of AEA, SAG-AFTRA, and SDC.
Ethan Henry is a Chicago Native who currently lives in Los Angeles. MFA in Acting: University of Iowa (2009). TV Credits include Martin Luther King in Genius: Aretha (National Geographic Channel), Criminal Minds (CBS), Bloodline (Netflix), Sleepy Hollow (Fox), Graceland (USA). Theatre credits include Pipeline – Xavier (ASF) 2019, The Meeting – MLK, The Piano Lesson – Boy Willie (M Ensemble Theater.), Fences – Troy (M ensemble Theater), A Raisin In The Sun – Walter (Palm Beach Dramaworks), King Hedley II (M Ensemble Theater), and Motherfucker With the Hat – Ralph D (Gablestage Theater). SAG-AFTRA/AEA.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Chase Bringardner is a professor in the Department of Theatre and head of the Bachelor of Arts (BA) Program at Auburn University. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a Ph.D. At Auburn, Dr. Bringardner teaches a wide range of courses including Introduction to Theatre for majors and non-majors, Dramaturgy, Senior Capstone, Musical Theatre History, as well as a selection of junior and senior-level seminars with topics ranging from Performance Theory/Performance Art, Southern Drama, Dreamscapes, Docudramas, and Disney: Popular Entertainments and the Construction of Meaning.
Dr. Bringardner specializes in the study of popular entertainments (such as medicine shows and musical theatre), regional identity construction, and intersections of race, gender, and class in popular performance forms. His current book-length project details the socio-cultural history of the Fabulous Fox Theatre in Atlanta and both its complicated relationship with the city and its role in larger narratives of regional and national theatrical/performance histories.
Additionally, he has directed and acted in many musicals at Auburn and beyond, including Assassins, 9 to 5, Cabaret, Hair, and Jesus Christ Superstar. He is originally from Atlanta, Georgia, and attended Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina, as an undergrad. In his spare time, he enjoys all elements of popular culture and is often found in front of a screen or stage of some sort or engaging in conversation on a wide variety of subjects from The Simpsons to Friday Night Lights to Alfred Hitchcock or Disney.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Mississippi native Topher Payne has been working in Atlanta theatre as an actor, director, and playwright since 1999. He is the author of over 20 plays, including Perfect Arrangement, which premiered Off-Broadway in 2015. Topher is a seven-time nominee and three-time winner of The Gene-Gabriel Moore Playwriting Award and was the recipient of the 2016 Suzi Bass Award for Best World Premiere for Let Nothing You Dismay. Readers of Creative Loafing have named him Atlanta’s Best Local Playwright for the past eight years, and he was selected as one of “Ten Playwrights You Should Know” by Southern Theatre magazine.
Stage directing credits include The Glass Menagerie (Stage Door Players, 2020), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Springer Opera House, 2019), Morningside (New Stage Theatre, 2018), The Foreigner (Hangar Theatre, 2017), The House of Yes (Out of Box Theatre, 2015), and the world premiere of Joanie Drago’s Trash (Process Theatre, 2013.)
He began writing for television in 2016, and has scripted five films for The Hallmark Channel. Topher is a proud member of the Dramatist’s Guild of America, and both the Canadian and American Writer’s Guilds. He is a founding board member of The Jo Howarth Noonan Foundation for the Performing Arts, which provides continuing professional development for female theatre artists over the age of 40. In 2018, Topher was inducted into The Georgia Theatre Hall of Fame.
Donnetta Lavinia Grays
Trouble in Mind
Donnetta Lavinia Grays proudly hails from Columbia, SC, and is based in Brooklyn, NY. Her plays include Where We Stand (2020 Lucille Lortel Nominee – Outstanding Solo Show, 3X AUDELCO Award Nominee, and Drama League Award Nominee – Distinguished Performance. World Premiere Co-production – WP Theater and Baltimore Centerstage. O’Neill Center National Playwrights Conference Semifinalist), Warriors Don’t Cry (Theaterworks USA/Bushnell commission), and Last Night and the Night Before (World Premiere – Denver Center for the Performing Arts. Kilroys List. Colorado New Play Summit. National New Play Network New Play Showcase. Todd McNerney National Playwriting Contest Winner. Eugene O’Neill Theater Center National Playwrights Conference Semifinalist).
Donnetta is a 2020 Helen Merrill Playwright Award recipient, a 2020 Lilly Award recipient, is the 2019 National Theater Conference Barrie and Bernice Stavis Playwright Award recipient, and is the inaugural recipient of the Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award. Currently, she is developing work at Hedgebrook (*Covid Class).
Donnetta is currently under commission from Steppenwolf, The Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and WP Theater. Donnetta is also an accomplished and award-winning actor.
Trouble in Mind
Joy Vandervort-Cobb, currently Associate Artistic Director at PURE Theater in Charleston, SC, was the Associate Professor of African American Theatre and Performance at the College of Charleston for 25 years. Joy began her career in theatre more than 50 years ago as an actress with the Freedom Theatre in upstate New York. Her directing credits include national tours of Jackie, Vi, & Lena; My Soul is a Witness; Black Broadway; MAHALIA; From the Mississippi Delta (first national); Dreamgirls; Purlie and for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf.
Regionally, her work has included productions of the world premiere of Boston based playwright Patrick Gabridge’s Chore Monkeys; OIL; Airline Highway; King Hedley II; Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, and Fences. She has served as Assistant Director on national tours of Little Shop of Horrors and One Mo’ Time and as production stage manager on national touring productions of Sophisticated Ladies (where she met her husband) and Ain’t Misbehavin’.
Joy, a Core Ensemble member with PURE Theatre in Charleston, SC, for the past nine years, recently performed the role of Esther in Randy Neale’s beautifully wrought take on the Detroit riots in 1967 in Last Rites, Cynthia in Lynn Nottage’s Sweat, and the cantankerous but wise Scottie in Steven Dietz’s This Random World. Other roles include Polonius in Hamlet, the Soothsayer in Antony and Cleopatra, the melancholy Jaques in As You Like It, and Prospero in The Tempest as part of the Shakespeare Project in residence at the College of Charleston. A true lover of language, Joy waxed dramatic as Hecabe in Euripdes’ The Trojan Women on the mainstage at the College of Charleston and also in the inaugural V-DAY Celebration of The Vagina Monologues. On television, she guest-starred in the Emmy Award-winning CBS series “The Inspectors” and played multiple characters over the years in the very popular Lifetime Channel/Touchstone Television series “Army Wives.”
Joy presently makes her home on James Island, SC. She has two adult children, one grandchild, and the same husband she met on a national touring bus in 1984.