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Original Research by V. Yalewa Sparrowhawk Ferguson. When Victoria sets out to learn more of her family's history, she opens a portal to a past full of loss, pain and indomitable perseverance. Her mother reluctantly joins her, and the two women uncover old wounds - a scandalous affair in segregated Virginia, a stolen child, a lost parent, a horrific accident - that linger unhealed in the present. Based on true events.
Happy Allen (Lighting Design) is from Tullahoma where he works in the ER for Vanderbilt Hospital, and as a surgical tech for Bedford County's Middle Tennessee Spay/Neuter Clinic. Happy has an advanced degree in Theatre from Washington State University and enjoys freelance directing and design, most recently Assassins at the Dark Horse. Thanks to Shawn for another project together, and apologies to my 8 Miniature Pinchers -- I'll be home soon.
Tanya Crandall Anderson (Mary, Nurses, Mrs. Lugar, Mrs. Halloway) has just returned to Nashville after 25 years living in Central Virginia. She previously lived in the Nashville area in the 1990s, from fourth grade through high school graduation. Tanya has 30+ years of acting experience in all kinds of spaces. Some of her favorite credits include: Othello, King Lear, The Taming of the Shrew, Romeo and Juliet, Much Ado About Nothing, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Twelfth Night, Hamlet, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Little Shop of Horrors, The Rocky Horror Show, The Full Monty, Steel Magnolias, Chicago, The Mousetrap, Noises Off!, I Hate Hamlet, Blithe Spirit, Fiddler on the Roof, The Fantasticks, The Miracle Worker, My Fair Lady, Dial M for Murder, The Crucible, Murder on the Orient Express, Doubt: A Parable and 1776 (portraying Abigail Adams for 8 years at Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest). Tanya has worked at several historic sites in Virginia and Tennessee and visited many more across the globe. She enjoys reading, classic movies, drawing, and being a “dog mom” to Scarlett.
Dee Benn (Costume Design) is a native of Knoxville, Tennessee where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Music Education from Carson-Newman University. She started costuming while performing in college musicals and fell in love! You can catch her tye dying vintage clothes and interning with The Nashville Repertory Theatre in their design program! You may have also seen her designs in “The Naughty Tree” presented by Oz Arts earlier this summer! This will be one of her last projects as she is heading to Brooklyn, NY this October to peruse her dreams! Wish her well and enjoy the show!”
Jonah Burch (Sound Design)
Credits include: Sound Designer, Love’s Labor’s Lost (Nashville Shakespeare Festival); Lead Audio Engineer, Shrek: The Musical (Williamson County PAC); Lead Audio Engineer, The Diary of Anne Frank (Williamson County PAC); Sound Designer, Aviator (Belmont University); Assistant Sound Designer, The Good Times are Killing Me (Belmont University); Assistant Theatrical Technician, Wolf Trap Performing Arts Center: Children’s-Theatre-in-the-Woods. Jonah currently works freelance sound for theatres throughout the Nashville-Area, including work with Belmont University, the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, the Nashville Children’s Theatre, and Williamson County Performing Arts Center. He is also pursuing a degree in Audio Engineering Technology, with a minor in Video Production, at Belmont University.
Briana Celeste Finley (Young Catherine) is thrilled to be making her Tennessee Playwrights Studio debut. She currently resides in Clarksville, TN, where she graduated from Austin Peay State University with a BFA in Acting/Directing. Some of her favorite credits include: The Uninvited (Pamela Fitzgerald), The Taming of the Shrew (Kate), The Cripple of Inishmaan (Helen), and Buried Child (Shelly). After a lengthy hiatus, she is grateful to be back on the stage and eager to see what the future holds for her. Briana would like to thank the audience, as well as her family and friends for their continued love, support and guidance throughout her journey.
DaJuana “Dee” Hammonds (Catherine), a proud alumna of Fisk University (B.S.) and David Lipscomb University (M.Ed), is an arts educator and advocate. She is currently the music specialist at Hull Jackson Montessori Magnet School. Most recently, she was selected by the Country Music Association Foundation as a Music Teacher of Excellence. Dee is also the founder, owner, and director of Acting Up, a children’s musical theater program. DaJuana credits her drive for music and theater to her teachers from Chattanooga High School Center for Creative Arts, where she graduated valedictorian and landed her first lead roles. Her two most memorable musical performances after high school are performing live background vocals for Grammy Award winner Natalie Cole and recording background vocals on the number one hit song, Believe, from the Grammy Award winning Brooks and Dunn’s platinum album, Hillybilly Deluxe. Nashville stage performances include Caroline or Change in the role of Dottie, Crowns in the role of Velma, Ragtime as Sarah’s Friend, singing “Til We Reach That Day,” and The Wedding Singer, playing a Tina Turner impersonator. The most amazing part of her life is sharing it with the man of her dreams, Chad Hammonds. Together they have seven beautiful children, Leslie (14), Chloe (12), Carter (9), Ellington-Renee (7), and Grant (6), Dawson Rose (4), and Taye (27). DaJuana would like to thank her family and God for his unfailing love and the immeasurable blessings and gifts he has freely given to her. Dee is excited to share this story, as there are so many parallels to her own personal story. The highlight of this experience is being in the same show with her amazing daughter, Leslie, for the first time! She is also honored to work with Shawn Whitsell and this amazing cast. She dedicates her performances to her mother-in-love, Ada Hammonds.
Leslie Hammonds (Little Catherine/Little Victoria) is a 14 year old budding actress who started her career last summer with The Theater Bug, starring as Mary in their original play, Snowderella. Since then, Leslie has continued performing in Theater Bug originals such as, Seven Ways to Sunday, My Favorite Season, and A Holiday Mixtape Winter Concert 2022. She is now set to perform in their newest original play, Shadow.
Leslie is a middle school graduate of F. H. Jenkins Prepatory School. Along with graduating Salutatorian of her class, she is also a second place winner of the annual oratorical contest of 2022, and a two time champion of the 2022 and 2023 Black History Bowl. She also received recognition for making a perfect score on WrAP, a national writing assessment. She is looking forward to being a Theater Conservatory Student at Nashville School of the Arts next fall for high school.
In her spare time, she plays volleyball with her little sister Chloe, enjoys writing and recording her own original music in her room, and learning dances by choreographers such as Sean Bankhead. She also enjoys occasionally learning a new K-Pop dance by Lisa Rhee on youtube. Along with learning choreography, she also enjoys choreographing herself. She dabbles in poetry and essays quite a bit, and enjoys recording her own video essays and also editing videos and pictures. One day, she hopes to continue her career in film and build on her writing through poetry, and writing and directing her own shows, movies, and plays.
Tony Insignares (John Persinger) Tony first caught the acting bug at his alumni Tennessee State University. Some of his theatre credits from college and regional include Oedipus Rex, Les Negres, Romeo and Juliet, and The Dance on Widow’s Row. His other experiences include film, TV, web series, music videos, and radio. Before Covid, the last production he performed in was The Motherfucker With The Hat. During the pandemic, he has since then been involved with his spiritual home The Infinity Fellowship working both behind the scenes and doing live music performances during service. This is his first time working with Tennessee Playwrights Studio and is much honored to be amongst talented individuals.
Myah Jackson, MJ, (Phoebe) is a writer, actor, dancer, and singer from the southside of Chicago, IL where she has been performing since was 3 years old. Beginning as a dancer at the historic Mayfair Dance Academy, she eventually found theatre in high school and continued to study dance, voice, acting, and writing in college. She is currently a second semester MBA graduate student at Tennessee State University, where she also received two Bachelor degrees in English (History Minor) and Communications (Theatre Performance focus). She began working in Nashville with Sistastyle Productions in 2019 as Tracy Ada in Steal Away and has continued to be active in local community theatre as a house/stage manager, playwright, intern, actor, director, and more! She creates with the mission of working with love and not against hate. She is very excited to return to live theatre and to have the opportunity to share in some magic with you all enjoy tonight.
Ethan H. Jones (Cobbler/Joseph Church) is making his debut with Tennessee Playwrights Studio. A prolific actor strongly influenced by the teachings of Konstantin Stanislavsky and Stella Adler, he is originally from St. Louis, Missouri. His repertoire includes: “Polonius” in Hamlet (Nashville Shakespeare Festival), “Wining Boy” in The Piano Lesson (The Black Rep), “Duke Solinus” in Comedy of Errors (St. Louis Shakespeare), “Henry Brown” in Race (Murfreesboro Little Theatre) for which he received a Best Supporting Actor award, “Don Pedro” in Much Ado About Nothing (Riverside Shakespeare Company), “Paul Beigler” in Anatomy of a Murder (Bravo Boro), “Deacon” in The Dance on Widow’s Row (Kennie Playhouse Theatre), and many, many others. He also directed productions of The Odd Couple and Master Harold and the boys for Centerstage Theatre and a staged reading of Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens for The Nashville Shakespeare Festival. And he has appeared in many print ads, commercials and independent films. He thanks God for the opportunities he has received to express his creative side and a special thanks to his wife Jacqueline for her love and support. And thank you for supporting live theatre!
Josh Kiev (County Man/Doctor) has worked on many projects with Tennessee Playwright Studio. He is excited to be involved with this latest one. His most recent time on stage was as a French Musician, with the Nashville Symphony, in the world premiere opera, The Jonah People. He has worked with Columbia, TN, Watershed Public Theatre, Pride and Prejudice, (Mr. Bennett), A Victorian Christmas Carol, (Marley’s Ghost, Ghost of Christmas Present) and Charlotte’s Web (Homer, Sheep, Avery). He was on stage at Chaffin’s Barn Dinner Theatre right before it’s saddened closing (Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure Continues (King of Bohemia). He has also worked with local theatre company, Woven Theatre, (Paul Paton) in Uncanny, and as (Opus) in Opus. He has worked with Nashville Shakespeare Festival in many pop-up performances around Nashville. He also appeared in the ACT 1 Theatre production of The Little Foxes as Mr. Marshall. Some of his other credits while studying at Belmont include, A Streetcar Named Desire (Mitch), Our Town (Doc Gibbs), and (Vershinin), with Belmont/Verge Theater in their production of Three Sisters. He has his BFA/Performance from Belmont University. He also holds a Psychology degree from Brown University as well as a culinary degree from the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts. He is represented by The McCray Agency.
J.R. Knowles (James/Policeman) is a Nashville-native actor who received his Bachelor’s in Theatre at Middle Tennessee State University. Over the years, you may have seen J.R. onstage with Watershed Public Theatre, Inebriated Shakespeare, at the Darkhorse in Sofia Tosches' White Elephant, Actors Bridge Ensemble, the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, and more. He is deeply grateful for the opportunity to serve the community with his craft and to tell this story . Thank you for supporting your local arts.
E. Roy Lee (Scenic Artist) has spent almost as much time working on sets as he has performing on stage. He has designed, built, and painted a number of theatres across the Middle Tennessee area, including The Nashville Children's Theatre, ACT 1, Studio Tenn, and The Nashville Shakespeare Company.
Roy is also a prolific artist. His work can be found on Instagram (@the.e.roy.lee) and his website (www.eroylee.com).
LaTia L Lewis (Stage Manager) is a native of Nashville, TN. She graduated from Middle Tennessee State University in 2004. She has been in several stage plays with DTE, TPS, and Sista Style Productions.
Angela Martin (Louisa/Liza) is a native of Memphis, TN., but has been a Nashvillian since December of 2016. Her thespian performances started at Carver high school where she played various roles under Georgette Seymour. However, as a Senior in high school, she garnered more leading roles honing her thespian skills. College, marriage, and life changes halted her from participating in plays until 2012 when she landed a lead role as "Jackie" in the SAG actress Sharon Levette Coleman's "From Wrags to Riches Cycles". This book which can also be purchased on Amazon was adapted into a play by Mrs. Coleman. Fan Me With a Brick is her first role in 11 years, but she has never lost the "acting bug." It is often said that she is very dramatic in her dancing when she dances with her dance group the Hadley Park Line Dancers.
Native Nashvillian Kysa Siovan (Victoria) is an award-winning screenwriter, filmmaker and actress. She is the creator of Nashville's first and only urban soap opera, Stirred Not Shaken and has served as creative director of commercials for local businesses shown on television in the Southeastern region.
Kenley Smith (Playwright) co-founded and co-directs TPS. He came to Nashville in 2011 as an Ingram New Works playwright, and he facilitated the Writing Room at Nashville Rep from 2015 to 2017. Earlier, Kenley founded Studio Roanoke, a new-works venue in Virginia that put up some 30 first or second productions from 2009 to 2012. His plays, including DEVIL SEDAN, EMPIRES OF ETERNAL VOID and MAIDENS, have been produced in Chicago, Nashville, Memphis and Omaha; AKUMA-SHIN received its world premiere in 2018 at Sacred Fools Theatre in Los Angeles. His plays have been MainStage selections three times at the Great Plains Theatre Conference in Omaha. Learn more about Kenley and his work here.
Kinston Smith (Darnell/Brother) is a 15-year-old actor who started his career at age 5 and has performed in over 15 theatrical productions, commercials and short films. He played Mowgli in the School Based Disney production of The Jungle Book, Young Bugg in Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing with The Theater Bug and Mitch Mahoney in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Kinston is a Theater Conservatory student at Nashville School of the Arts and studies dance at TM Productions. He is a talented percussionist, budding pianist and music producer, and a Music Theory student with perfect pitch. He looks forward to bringing his multiple talents to more short films, commercials, and theatrical productions and one day adding TV and major films to the list.
Lauren Wilson (Graphic Designer) is a full-time art director and graphic designer based in Nashville, TN. A native New Yorker, she fell in love with theater and performing at a young age and performed in many New York productions over the years before attending C.W. Post University to study art and design. Lauren moved to Nashville back in 2012 and immediately felt at home in Nashville’s growing theater and art scene. She loves being able to work and collaborate with other Nashville creatives and local organizations, and continues to provide design services and creative direction for theater companies, independent businesses, and artists all over the city. (www.lwilsondesign.com)
Shawn Whitsell (Director) is a playwright, actor, director, producer, poet and founder of the Destiny Theatre Experience. He has worked with Nashville Children’s Theatre, Nashville Repertory Theatre, Dream 7 Productions, Monument Theatre Company, SistaStyle Productions and a number of theatre production companies. Shawn tours "23/1," his one-man show about solitary confinement, which the Nashville Scene called "The Best Blend of Theatre and Activism." When he isn't doing theatre, Shawn facilitates a variety of workshops, ranging from drama to spoken word to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion with local nonprofit Southern Word. He serves as a member of Metro Nashville Community Oversight Board and as a leader with Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (NOAH). He is a board member for Rooftop Nashville and is an elder at the Village Church. Shawn is also the proud father of Destiny and Zayn.
Up next for Shawn is his original piece "Papa Was..." which will run at the Darkhorse Theater August 18-20 & 24-26th. For updates, follow him on IG: @shawn_whitsell and @destinytheatreexperience
V. Yalewa Sparrowhawk Ferguson (Original Research) is from a long line of storytellers. From early childhood, under the tutelage of family, she learned traditional gardening methods and utilization of natural resources for survival. A graduate of Marshall University, with a background in science and research methodology, she has spent 25 years seeking first-person documentation and archaeological information to help explain and support theories on the daily living habits of the Eastern Siouan population up through the early European colonization period. Victoria has written and presented work for Virginia Tech’s Indigenous Ecology class, has presented at the Middle Atlantic Archaeological conference on the subject of gardening practices within SW Virginia Indian Tribes, and has presented at a teachers conference at Sweetbriar College. She has participated in two PBS documentaries: Virginia Indians: Reclaiming Our Heritage and Pocahontas Revealed. She is the author of the children’s book, Dark Moon to Rising Sun and continues to research and write historical works, including the recently completed nonfiction book, Fan Me with a Brick.