Thursday, October 13, 2011

The World Premiere of "Pity the Proud Ones" By Kurt Dana Maxey

Kurt Maxey's "Pity the Proud Ones" was developed through Robey Theatre Company's Playwrights Program. Since the play was so well received at its public reading this January, it was decided that it would become a part of the fall production. Now, nine months later, the world premiere is here. Kurt Maxey's "Pity the Proud Ones" will run from October 22nd - November 13th at the Robey Theatre Company. There are two preview performances, one on October 20th and another on the 21st.

Location: 514 S. Spring St. in Los Angeles, Theater #4

Purchase Tickets Online:
Make reservations: (866) 811-4111
  • General Admission Tickets: $30
  • Seniors: $20
  • Groups of 20 or more: $10

October 22nd - November 13th
  • Thursday, October 20th, 8pm Preview Performance
  • Friday, October 21st, 8pm Preview Performance
  • Saturday, October 22nd, 8pm World Premiere
  • Sunday, October 23rd, 3pm Matinee
  • Thursday, October 27th, 8pm
  • Friday, October 28th, 8pm
  • Saturday, October 29th, 8pm
  • Sunday, October 30th, 3pm Matinee
  • Thursday, November 3rd, 8pm
  • Friday, November 4th, 8pm
  • Saturday, November 5th, 8pm
  • Sunday, November 6th, 3pm Matinee
  • Thursday, November 10th, 8pm
  • Friday, November 11th, 8pm
  • Saturday, November 12th, 8pm
  • Sunday, November 13th, 3pm Matinee

Friday, September 9, 2011


Robey Honored receives 5 NAACP Theatre Awards


On August 30th the Robey Theatre Company was presented with 5 NAACP Beverly Hills Hollywood branch Theatre Awards! Robey for the past 17 years has been dedicated to bringing thought provoking theatre about the global Black experience to the Los Angeles community and is deeply honored too receive these awards. Robey would like to take this moment to Thank the NAACP Beverly Hills Hollywood Branch, their Theatre Committee who are dedicated to maintain the high standards to which we all strive and who tirelessly throughout the year attend the many productions that our community presents. The recognition and continued support is appreciated by our entire creative team; Playwrights, Producers, Directors, Actors, Designers, and Technicians who work for an aesthetic that represents the Black experience and the genuine satisfaction of the creative spirit.

It would be incomplete to end without standing and applauding our audience and expressing our most sincere gratitude to All who have continually supported the Robey Theatre Company.


Ben Guillory

Producing Artistic Director

The Robey Theatre Company


Best Sound - Local

The Emperor's Last Performance - Eric Butler

Best Playwright - Local

Transitions - Kellie Roberts

Best Supporting Male - Local

The Emperor's Last Performance - Robert Clements

Best Ensemble Cast - Local


Best Producer - Local

The Reckoning - The Robey Theatre Company and Ben Guillory in Assn. with Latino Theatre Company

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Journey of Transitions by Kellie Roberts

Best Playwright Local - Kellie Roberts (WINNER)

Best Ensemble - Amentha Dymally, Joyce Lee, Kellie Roberts, Kenyetta Lethridge, Lamont Thompson, and Rosie Lee Hooks. (WINNERS)

About a month ago, Ben Guillory the Artistic Director of the Robey Theatre Company asked me to write a blog about the play that I wrote, Transitions: A Trilogy of One-Act Plays. I was certainly happy to do it but was a little daunted by the task and I procrastinated about writing it. Quite honestly, I wasn’t sure what to say or how to begin. It has been such a world wind of a year for Transitions, and a lot has happened in my life both personally and professionally. However, after a lot of pondering (procrastinating), I felt settle to write a blog about the Robey Theatre Company’s Playwrights Program, and howTransitions was written through its process. I also wanted to illuminate and give credit where credit is well overdue to the many unsung heroes at the Robey, who have helped make my stage play, and the plays of other fellow Robey writers, a living breathing reality.

For starters, I would have to acknowledge and thank Levy Lee Simon whose award winning trilogy on the Haitian revolution, For the Love of Freedom, was produced by the Robey.

Levy Lee Simon and me at the 2011 National Black Theatre Festival.

Levy was the person who introduced me to the Robey Theatre Company upon learning I was leaving New York to move to Los Angeles back in 2005. At that time, I was more comfortable as an actress than a writer and initially joined the Robey’s Advance Scene Study Class. Ben encouraged me to go ahead and submit to him 10 pages of my play, which was about all I had at the time, and after some trepidation I finally did. Those 10 pages I gave to him was what would later morph into the last of my one acts inTransitions, Why Elaine Miller Became A Photographer.

I was accepted into the morning session of the playwrights program for the newer playwrights. (The morning session has now become reserved for the more advance writers.) It was there I met Aaron Henne who changed the whole way I approach my writing process, and he still remains instrumental in my evolution as a writer. During those 10-week sessions, I was instructed to surrender all judgment, to just write, and write, and write, and trust the process; the story would be revealed. Aaron once shared with me he contemplated becoming a Rabbi and because of this I have secretly and affectionately been calling Aaron my Rabbi for years. The dictionary defines Rabbi as one who is an ordained chief religious official of a Synagogue; a Jewish scholar or teacher. Much of what Aaron gives us and what goes on at the Robey on Saturdays, to me, feels like we are in a place of worship. Although, the appearance of our work space at the Robey is far cry from looking anything like Synagogue. We sit huddled around a rather haggard-looking wooden table, eating doughnuts and cheese, drinking coffee, while constantly kicking props from Robey shows that have come and gone and are now housed underneath our work table - certainly not any one’s idea of a Synagogue for sure. And no, Aaron isn’t an ordained Rabbi. But he is a teacher who does lead us through writing exercises that feels much like “passages” into that ineffable netherworld of creation. He will often stand and move around the room of his congregation, us, the writers, as we attempt to tune our inner ear and deeply listen to our muses, seeking to access that nontangible, thrilling space of Magic and Now

A Saturday morning writing session at the Robey.

Transitions came from this Magic. It started out as one and only one, one-act play, about a woman who was being called by Spirit to take some rather interesting photos. The question for Elaine was would she heed to the call from Spirit or not, no matter how ridiculous it may seem, and in spite of what her husband or anyone else may think or say.

Lamont Thompson and me in Why Elaine Miller Became A Photographer.

Upon the completion of Why Elaine Miller Became A photographer, I rejoiced, I thought, Whew! I finally finished a play! I showed my work to, two fellow creative friends of mine Bill Robertson and Skip Jennings, and they both loved it. It was Skip who then made the suggestion that I make a trilogy of one-act plays. I thought Skip lost his mind when he said that to me because it took me four years to complete one, 25 page script. Skip assured me the other one-acts would come to me and he was right, they did. Thanks to Aaron and his “passages,” I had written so much. I had scenes from previous writing exercises I liked and abandoned because at the time they were written, I didn’t know what to do with them. One of those scenes came from an exercise asking for us to take an object from the room and write a scene about it. Along with each writing assignment Aaron assigns, he gives us a few parameters to adhere to, none of which I can recall at the moment for that particular assignment, but I do remember choosing to write about a picture frame that I spotted in the Robey space. This brief writing scene ending up morphing into what is now the second of the trilogy of one-acts called, The Picture Frame. A play about two cantankerous elderly sisters who are arguing over the whereabouts of a missing solid gold picture frame, but in the end as with so many ridiculous family arguments, it turns out their quarrel really isn’t about the picture frame at all, but about something deeper.

: Amentha Dymally and Rosie Lee Hooks in The Picture Frame

The last of the three one-acts called, The Voice of Hope, started out as a modern day story of Job featuring two women; it evolved into a very different piece. The Voice of Hopewas by far the most challenging of the three one-acts to write and for a hot minute I thought I was not going to have a trilogy. But thanks to our dramaturge Dylan Southard, I was able to salvage The Voice of Hope, and shape it into a cohesive one-act. Dylan has what I consider an arduous task of keeping us playwrights on point by widening back and challenging us by asking the tough questions: What’s the significance of this character or this part of the play? What is this story about? What are you trying to show the audience?A running joke at the Robey is Aaron is the “nice guy” and Dylan is the “heavy.” It is an extreme exaggeration of the two, after all, both Aaron and Dylan ask hard questions and both want our plays to be successful. But it is Dylan who has the job of objectively analyzing our plays, and poses questions to help us really think about our pieces and the reasons behind the choices we are making as the writer, thereby helping us to shape our work without losing our voice.

After a dramaturge session with Dylan, it is advised and extremely helpful to take his notes back to class with Aaron, who will then give you writing exercises to attempt to remedy the concerns that speak to the storytelling of the play.

Dylan Southard (left) and Aaron Henne (right) bookend Kurt Maxey, another Robey Theatre Company playwright participant. The Robey will be producing, Pity The Proud Ones, written by Kurt this Fall 2011.

How Dylan finds the time to read all of our plays, often only having a few days to read them, and then by Saturday afternoon able to give you thoughtful notes amazes me. Dylan’s notes gave me the awareness that I needed to sculpt The Voice of Hope into a one-act about a gospel singer who was being serenaded from the netherworld by her decease finance, and her having to make the choice of letting him go or not.

Joyce Lee and Kenyetta Lethridge in The Voice of Hope )

In general, Transitions is a trilogy of one-act plays featuring women who find themselves at the crossroads of their lives. As these women attempt to navigate through the vicissitudes of the crossroads, Spirit uses the medium of sound, sometimes unbeknownst to them, to prompt and support their life changes. The question that each woman face in Transitions: Will they take heed to God’s call or not?

Transitionswould never had the success that it has had without the actors who have been with this project from the very beginning. Joyce Lee, Kenyetta Lethridge, Rosie Lee Hooks, Amentha Dymally, and Lamont Thompson. Without these actors, their talents, insights into the characters, and their self-less efforts, Transitions is just words on paper.

Cast and crew ofTransitions: Upper Row: Kenyetta Lethridge, Joyce Lee, Debra Ann Morris, Kellie Roberts, Lamont Thompson. Lower row: Amentha Dymally, Dwain A. Perry, Rosie Lee Hooks.

I feel so blessed to have had such wonderful, talented people that worked on Transitionswhich would include: Cydney Davis and Earl Buffington who were the singing voices used in The Voice of Hope, Harry Lennix who did our sound design, and our director Dwain A. Perry. It was Dwain’s insight that made me change the ending to The Picture Frame. After one reading, Dwain came up to me and said, “You know Kellie, what message did you want to leave the audience with at the end? What if….”

Dwain A. Perry and me after a performance of Transitions

I also owe the success of Transitions, to my fellow playwrights whose thoughtful comments and questions allowed me the space to ponder why I had certain elements in my play, and helped me decide what to leave in and what to take out, who have helped me find my writing voice. I treasure my time with my colleagues, the gathering, and sharing of our musings and our frustrations with each other. We get to know each other, our writing style, our characters. Even our characters in our plays can feel just as real as any one of us as they, too, sit about the table chattering with us. There is a definite camaraderie and fellowship that occurs within the playwrights program. When I found out the Robey planned on producing the Reckoning by Kimba Henderson, I went up to Kimba and said,“Kimba! They are producing our play!” And when the Robey produced Melvin Ishmael Johnson’s The Emperor‘s Last Performance, I had the wonderful opportunity to work as an actress in that production and I remember feeling so protective over Melvin’s words, knowing how long it had taken Melvin to cultivate that play, to find just the right words. It took Melvin close to 20 years to write his play about Charles Gilpin. What a blessing for all of us that he was able to finally finish it and have it produced by the Robey.

Jah Shams as Paul Robeson, Kellie Roberts as Anita Bush, and Dwain A. Perry as Charles Gilpin in The Emperor’s Last Performance. )

I am so delighted to be sharing my nomination from the NAACP Theatre Awards for Best Playwright Local with both Kimba Henderson and Melvin Ishmael Johnson. I don’t feel competition but an alliance. Whomever receives the award I think we all will feel like a victor, knowing that we were part of the process which made our plays a success, all of which would not have been possible if it wasn‘t for Ben Guillory and the Robey Theatre Company.

Since the first production of Transitions, with only a two week run in June 2010,Transitions went on to be one of the featured main stage productions at the 2010 NAACP Theatre Festival. It has since been accepted and performed at the 2011 National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and it has garnered 5 NAACP Theatre Nominations:

Best Ensemble

Best Director

Best Producer

Best Playwright

Best Set Design

(The Robey Theatre Company has received a total of 12 NAACP Theatre Award Nominations for 2011.)

I am grateful to call the Robey Theatre Company my artistic home. Part of the Robey’s mission is to give artists who are relatively unknown, like myself, an opportunity to work. It certainly has given me so much more than just work. It has been a place of refuge, and has given me and so many other artists a place to grow as actors, writers, and directors.

Artistic Director of the Robey Theatre Company Ben Guillory and me doing radio promo for Transitions. )

I owe a great heap of thanks to Ben Guillory, Danny Glover, Judith Bowman, Aaron Henne, Dylan Southard, Erin Devine, Debra Ann Morris, Dwain Perry, Harry Lennix, the Robey Summer Interns, Anthony Phillips, Tony Roberts, Bill Robertson, and Skip Jennings. I also would like to thank my parents Timothy and Pearlethel Henderson for all their love and support, and for allowing me to bear witness to 54 years of marriage. And last but certainly not least, I would like to thank God, the Creator for it all, for the breathe of Life, for my transition.

Me and my parents Timothy and Pearlethel Henderson.

I often have my moments of doubt whenever I sit down to write, but the Robey Theatre Company’s Playwrights Program has helped me become better equipped to work through those areas of apprehension. It also helps me to remember this quote:

“Whatever you do may seem insignificant to you, but it is most important that you do it” -Mahatma Mohondas Karamchand Gandhi.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


For the Love of Freedom

For years Levy Lee Simon and I have talked about adapting Levy’s trilogy about the Haitian Revolution of 1793. The telling of the story of how enslaved Africans freed themselves from French colonial slavery is the stuff of myth based in fact and makes for epic theatre that is ultimately truth. The rise of the Haitian Triumphrate Toussaint L’Overture, Jean Jacques Dessalines, and Henri Christophe and there subsequent taking of the island, liberating the enslaved Africans, establishing a constitution, and ultimately defeating the French is a captivating story.

Robey’s production of the Trilogy over a 4 year period is a high point and we felt that the intial draft could be adapted to less than the original 11 hours running time. To that end Levy has been working on the adaptation and on July 24th a company of 36 actors many who had been in the original productions along with Musical Director Leon Mobley and percussionist Malik with the original Production Stage Manager John Freeland Jr. read Lee’s adaptation for an audience of 150 plus. There was a break where Haitian food was served to the actors and audience and with almost 3 decades of history to cover our audience rotated and new members came and joined in to hear the powerful tale of how Africans now Haitian took their country back.

Next reading New York City.

Ben Guillory
Producing Artistic Director


Based on the 1917 Court- martial and execution of 19 Black soldiers of the 24th Infantry the play Camp Logan by Celeste Bedford Walker was read on Sunday May 29th in Theatre 2 of LATC. Directed by Alex Morris with Kirk Bovill, Sammie Wayne IV, Dorian C. Baucum, Bill Lee Brown, Dwain Perry, Lee Stansberry, and Kaylon Hunt the audience of one hundred plus that attended the Camp Logan reading recieved a glimpse of what will be a Spring production in Robey’s LATC 2012 season. The reception that followed and open conversations prompted much excitement and anticipation about the up coming season and seeing a fully mounted production of Celeste Bedford Walker’s award winning play. Look for Camp Logan in April.

The Audience

The Cast!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Bronzeville at Manzanar: Breakdown

2007 June: Tim Toyama caught me in the hallway one day to talk about his idea for a play, and his feeling that partnering with an Afro-American playwright would bring authenticity to the story.

2007 July: I introduced Aaron Woolfolk to Tim, and we went to work, meeting once, sometimes more, a month to bring the story of Japanese-American Tahara, and the African American Goodwin families to the Robey stage. The James Irvine Foundation provided funding support for this commissioned piece. The fit between Tim and Aaron was good. The collaboration worked.

Rehearsal at LATC

2009 July: As a result, the Los Angeles Theatre Community was presented with the World Premiere of Bronzeville. The five week run went well. Audiences responded enthusiastically, critics approved, houses were sold out from the first preview to the last added performance. The Japanese American community, some of whom had been interred at Manzanar, were tremendously moved by the performances and responded by returning bringing friends, relatives and even purchasing entire houses. The Robey Artists, staff, designers, and technicians were extremely proud of this work, and Judith Bowman, Robey’s Development Director, had an idea. Take the play to Manzanar!


Manzanar is a National Historic Site. In the early months of 1942, following America’s entry into World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt authorized the U.S. Army to remove nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry from their homes and communities on the west coast; two-thirds were American citizens. Manzanar was one of ten remote war relocation centers to which they were sent. Enclosed by barbed wire, the square-mile camp area contained barracks, mess halls, and other buildings, and was home to more than 11,000 internees between March 1942 and November 1945.

Today, the Manzanar National Historic Site, as a unit of the National Park Service, preserves and interprets the many stories of Manzanar’s past.

Robey felt it was an appropriate setting to present Bronzeville to the Inyo County population, especially the students of that area. The story of the Tahara and Goodwin families in Bronzeville is inspired by the experience of a young Japanese-American student, Robert Hirahara and a Black family of Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo, who respected his efforts to avoid internment. Bronzeville tells the story of the families’ interaction, the relationships that develop, the choices made, and the ultimate consequences of their actions.

Again, The James Irvine Foundation’s Rick Noguchi pledged support. The schedule was set, and Tim & Aaron set out to work on the adaptation of the play for the Bronzeville @ Manzanar dates.

Richard Potashin, a member of the Manzanar Interpretative Staff, was our initial contact at Manzanar and introduced us to Les Inafuku, Manzanar Site Superintendent and plans were laid out. Much of 2010 and 2011 were spent putting the pieces together for Robey’s first off-site production. Manzanar is located on U.S. Highway 395 in Inyo County, between the very small towns of Lone Pine (population 2035) and Independence (population 660), 225 miles north of Los Angeles.

Manzanar meeting - l to r Liz McAteer, Les Inofuku, Tom Meleck, Judith Bowman

Lynn Cooper, Inyo Council for the Arts Executive Director, along with Liz McAteer, the Council’s School Arts Coordinator, and husband, Terry McAteer, Inyo County Superintendent of Schools, were brought on. Judith and I met each of them several times along the way, and with many emails and phone conference calls in between, the plans were laid.

The five ton

May 15th 2011: Sunday, early afternoon, the first 5-ton truck, loaded with steeldeck platforms that would become the stage rolled out of Los Angeles. Inside: the set designed by Tom Meleck and built by Vision Scenery; costumes designed by Naila Alladdin Sanders; set furniture, once again, generously provided by Cal State LA’s Tech Director Elizabeth Pietrzak, and props acquired by Prop Master Robert Clements. With Ben Guillory at the wheel, and actor Larry Luv Powell in the passenger seat, the four hour drive to Manzanar began.

5:30 pm: We arrived at Lone Pine none the worst for wear, and parked the truck at the Whitney Portal Hostel, where the actors, crew, and technicians would reside for the nine-day stay.

Entering the museum

Museum playing area before the build

Tony Brockliss, our Master Carpenter, had driven in from LA and was already there, awaiting the load-in that would begin Monday morning, with the arrival of the second 3-ton truck, loaded with lighting equipment and accessories, driven by Production Stage Manager, Sammie Wayne with actor/director Dwain A. Perry escorting him in his trusty pickup truck.

8:00 pm:Tom Meleck, the set and lighting designer, and his son, Michael, arrived and awaited the Monday load-in. Judith Bowman and her shotgun passenger, actor Robert Clements, arrive and settle in.

May 16th: Monday, 7am load-in begins: The steeldeck is put in place and the set is assembled. Sammie and Dwain arrive late morning. With our work crew fourteen strong, plus the generous help of the Manzanar Ranger staff, and an electrcian or two brought into make sure all is well with the museum’s power source, we unload the three ton of equipment and the theatre inside the museum begins to take shape. The remaining cast members arrive throughout the day. Judith, our Road Manager, makes certain all are accommodated and settled into the hostel. Over the next four days we work fast and furiously.

The build begins

The build continues

The set is complete

May 18th: By Wednesday we succeeded in transforming the Manzanar space into a 120 seat theatre, complete with a smoke machine. Preparations go forward for our first on-site rehearsal. Tech/dress rehearsals commence under the watchful eye of the Director, PSA Sammie, and designer Tom Meleck.

Throughout it all, the veteran cast remain excited, focused, poised, and reverent, deeply conscious of the value of what we were doing and about to accomplish, mounting five performances of Bronzeville on the Manzanar site.

May 19th: Thursday, 7pm, evening preview: This had its share of hiccups. The audience, noting they were viewing a preview, was sincerely moved by the actors work and the content of the play.

May 20th: Friday morning, 11am: Our first student matinee began with busloads of young people from various schools in the county, many who had never been to Manzanar, arriving excitedly, anticipating the performance. Teachers had been given study guides prepared by Robey, and the students were familiar with the circumstances surrounding the play. They were very impressed with the company and story, and said so during the Q & A following the performance.

7:00 pm: The Friday evening performance for the general public played to a full house and we welcomed Robey Board member Karen Chappelle, accompanied by several supporters, who made the drive from Los Angeles to attend performances.

Purchasing tickets for opening night

Karren Chappelle and Judith Bowman prepare to distribute programs

Student matinee audience

The Audience

May 21st: Saturday’s 7pm performance: Again, there was an enthusiastic and receptive audience. Staunch arts advocate, Irving Meyer and wife, artist Kathy Lyn Foley, also made the drive, mentioning they’d been in the audience of the original LATC World Premiere performance of Bronzeville in 2009. Friends of the cast also came and appreciated the work, and the fact that we’d mounted the play on hallowed ground of the Manzanar Camp. The company was delighted to see that playwright Tim Toyama, and Naomi were able to make the drive and attend this performance.

Performance in progress

A poignant moment

A standing ovation

Curtain Call

Standing l to r: Sammie Wayne, Larry Powell, Tim Toyama, Ben Guillory, and Robert Clements Sitting l to r: Dana Lee, Adenrele Ojo, Dwain Perry, Iman Milner, Jeff Manabat, CeCe Antoinette

Iman Milner and Jeff Manabat

May 22nd: Sunday 3pm: The matinee was sold out, with the help of word of mouth endorsements from local residents and a radio interview of the play’s Director Ben Guillory, by Sierra Wave CEO, Benett Kessler. Local city administrators attended this performance and expressed an interest in future performances of Bronzeville in Inyo County.

May 23rd: Monday morning, 11am: The student matinee, again, played to a full house of students from local schools who, after being prepped by their teachers armed with the Robey study guide, were well prepared and aware of the circumstances which set the sequence of events in motion resulting in camps like Manzanar. The Q&A that followed included the actors answering questions about the preparation for the work presented.

He had interred there almost 50 years ago

The Inafuku family, Dawn, Les, and Nikki

Naomi and Tim Toyama

Later that day, the majority of the company of actors left to make the trip home, while the crew remained to strike the set. Seven hours later, the set, stage, and lights, were loaded into the two trucks and all that remained were goodbyes to the Manzanar staff and other crew members, along with sincere expressions of appreciation as to what had been accomplished there and the drive home the following morning.

It should be said the experience of bringing Bronzeville to Manzanar and the dramatic presentation of some of what happened there to the students and local residents, many of whom had not been to Manzanar and knew little of what had occurred there, was of great value. The circumstances leading to the displacement of tens of thousands of Japanese-Americans and its grim and despicable consequences, is something that should be viewed as a tremendous telling of one more chapter in the history of the United States’ rush to judgment and condemnation based in fear of a specific people, without due process and apparently, little remorse once called to make reparations for these acts of injustice. The work of the Robey Theatre Company has always been to present socially conscience productions that enlighten, as well as entertain. We are hopefully providing our audiences with revelations that provoke thought sometimes in areas uncomfortable, but are in dire need of being examined if we are to continue to mature as humane beings.

Bronzeville at Manzanar, the work done by playwrights Tim Toyama, Aaron Woolfolk, the gifted cast of the production, Judith Bowman’s vision of setting the play on the ground from which the story was cultivated, the entire creative team, and the collaboration of all the parties in Inyo County with Robey, has been a profound experience, and we are honored to tell the story.

Larry Powell

Sammie Wayne

Dana Lee

Dwain Perry

Judith Bowman and Ben Guillory

l to r: CeCe Antoinette, Jeff Manabat, Larry Powell, Adenrele Ojo and Dwain Perry

Thank You for Your Support.

Ben Guillory
Producing Artistic Director
Robey Theatre Company