Billy Porter

Meet Sharon Washington

Get to know actor Sharon Washington, who plays Eva in the Primary Stages production of Billy Porter’s While I Yet Live.

S. EPATHA MERKERSON and SHARON WASHINGTON in While I Yet Live. (c) 2014 James Leynse Primary Stages production of While I Yet Live by Billy Porter, directed by Sheryl Kaller at Primary Stages at The Duke on 42nd Street.

S. EPATHA MERKERSON and SHARON WASHINGTON in While I Yet Live. (c) 2014 James Leynse Primary Stages production of While I Yet Live by Billy Porter, directed by Sheryl Kaller at Primary Stages at The Duke on 42nd Street.

Tell us a little about your character, Eva.

I’ve based my character Eva’s relationship with Maxine (played by S. Epatha Merkerson) on the relationship between my mom and her sister, my Aunt Millie. Even though Eva and Maxine are not sisters, the dynamic is similar.

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving tradition?

Cooking two turkeys so everyone gets to have their favorite part. And even though I never really liked the taste, I loved the look on the table of the glazed ham covered with pineapple rings and maraschino cherries in the center. There was a prop ham made for this production that we had in rehearsal. It looked exactly like that but got cut during tech week. I miss it. I’m hoping to take it home as a souvenir.

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A Chat with Sheria Irving

Get to know actor Sheria Irving, who plays Tonya in the Primary Stages production of Billy Porter’s While I Yet Live.

SHERIA IRVING in While I Yet Live. (c) 2014 James Leynse Primary Stages production of While I Yet Live by Billy Porter, directed by Sheryl Kaller at Primary Stages at The Duke on 42nd Street.

SHERIA IRVING in While I Yet Live. (c) 2014 James Leynse. Primary Stages production of While I Yet Live by Billy Porter, directed by Sheryl Kaller at Primary Stages at The Duke on 42nd Street.

Tell us a little about your character, Tonya.

In While I Yet Live, Tonya is the unrestricted raconteur. She’s the only player that fosters a relationship with the audience, with whom she divulges her truth and takes on a trip down memory lane. Tonya’s memories aren’t all pleasant and become weapons that constantly assault, enrage, disappoint and empower her throughout the life of the play. She’s like so many of us trying to reconcile the past in order to press forward to our future.

What’s your favorite Thanksgiving tradition?

Since my undergraduate years at Florida State University, my dearest friends and I have created our own thanksgiving tradition. Each year I make my special slow-baked turkey and gather with my best buddies to share what we are thankful for, eat, drink and laugh the day away.

How did you approach the play and your character? Were there any surprising discoveries about your character during the rehearsal process?

What surprised me most about working on Tonya was how similar her religious upbringing is to my own. Like Tonya, I was raised never to question God. Tonya’s family believe in God and the Bible unequivocally, which leaves no room for her to explore her own beliefs. Tonya, however, decides to make room and as she matures develops her own understanding of the world and determines her relationship with God on her own terms.

Performances run through October 31st at The Duke on 42nd Street.  To order tickets online, click here.  Or you can call the box office at (646) 223-3010.

MEET THE WIG DESIGNERS OF WHILE I YET LIVE

We caught up with Wig and Hair Designers Rob Greene and J. Jared Janas on their process and inspiration behind some of their designs for While I Yet Live.

WIYL Wig Design 2

Jared Janas and Rob Greene fit Kevyn Morrow for a beard wig.

We got some great pictures of you measuring cast members for their wigs. What is that process like?

The process of measuring an actor’s head for a wig involves only a few simple items; a heavy duty clear plastic bag, heavy clear tape, a Sharpie and a measuring tape.

After the actor’s hair has been prepped as it would be for the actual performance, the plastic bag is placed on the head and held down by the actor.  The clear tape is then used to tape the bag so that it forms to the actor’s head.  The actor’s hairline is then traced onto the bag, and finally multiple measurements are taken.  Once the bag is removed from the actor’s head, it is in the shape of the head, and combined with the measurements, the mold can been used to stuff out a block (a canvas head) so that it is the exact shape and size of the performer’s head. A wig can now be built or fit for that specific person on that block.

WIYL Wig Design 1

Tell us a little bit about how you went about designing the wigs for this show?

To begin designing this show, first we read the script. This is one of the few scripts we’ve read that has so many specific wig notes in the actual script – not just in the line notes, but in the actual dialog as well. In some sense, [Playwright] Billy Porter made our jobs a little easier by being so specific.

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First Casting Announcement of 2014/15!

We are pleased to announce the casts for the first two shows of our 30th Anniversary Season! Title Treatment copy copyWIYLTitleTreatments Our first show, the New York premiere of Theresa Rebeck’s new comedy, Poor Behavior, is directed by Evan Cabnet (The Model Apartment, A Kid Like Jake) features a cast of faces new to our stage including Heidi Armbruster, Brian Avers, Jeff Biehl and Katie Kreisler.   PoorBehaviorHeadshotStripB&W Heidi Armbruster has been seen in Lincoln Center Theater’s production of Disgraced and the film “My Man is a Loser”. Her play Dairyland was also developed in ESPA Drills 2012 Series. Brian Avers appeared in The Explorers Club at MTC and The Lieutenant of Inishmore and Rock N Roll on Broadway. Jeff Biehl was a part of Roundabout’s recent production of Machinal on Broadway and previously appeared in the film, “A Master Builder” and Katie Kreisler recently appeared in Lincoln Center Theater’s premiere of Nikolai and The Others and The House of Blue Leaves on Broadway. We are excited to bring you these talented actors and to welcome them into our Primary Stages family.

For our second production, we will present the World Premiere of While I Yet Live by the Tony-winning star of Kinky Boots and Angels in America, Billy Porter, and directed by Tony Award nominee Sheryl Kaller (Mothers and Sons, Next Fall, Adrift in Macao). This new work will feature Elain Graham (The Picture Box, “Smash”), Emmy Award winner S. Epatha Merkerson (Come Back, Little Sheba; “Law & Order”)  Kevyn Morrow (The Scarlet Pimpernel, Dreamgirls), Sharon Washington (The Scottsboro Boys, Wild With Happy), Larry Powell (Broke-ology, Dutchman) and Tony Award winner Lillias White (The LifeFela!).

Poor Behavior runs July 29 -September 7, CLICK HERE to get tickets! While I Yet Live runs September 23 – October 31. Both shows will take place at Primary Stages new home, The Duke on 42nd Street.

Creating a Season with Associate Artistic Director Michelle Bossy

Get a glimpse of the artistic production process from Primary Stages Associate Artistic Director Michelle Bossy as she walks us through the steps of assembling a season.

Associate Artistic Director Michelle Bossy

Associate Artistic Director Michelle Bossy

Even though we recently announced our 2014/15 season, in our administrative offices on 38th Street, our minds are already on 2015/16! We are still reading plays. Lots of them. Season planning doesn’t happen the month before we announce; we do it all year long. It is an ongoing process – creating relationships, talking with playwrights, agents, directors, actors, literary managers and artistic directors; attending readings, hosting readings, and stealing away quiet office afternoons to read the plays that are in our inboxes – that sometimes takes months or years. (more…)

A letter from our Executive Producer and Artistic Director

Andrew Leynse and Casey Childs

Andrew Leynse, Artistic Director and Casey Childs, Founder and Executive Producer

Dear Friends,

Believe it or not, our 30th Anniversary is almost here and we have some very exciting announcements about this upcoming season.

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