Caribbean actors and actresses dominate new play in New York

Jamaican Co-Producer of Leonora, David Heron.

Several actors with Caribbean heritage have prominent roles in Leonora, a play by American David Stallings which has a staged reading at the Williams CME Institutional Church in Harlem, New York on June 3.

The reading is co-produced by New York Classical Theatre, Voza Rivers/New Heritage Theatre Group and Jamaican David Heron’s Sure Thing Productions. It is part of New York Classical’s “Diversifying the Classics” series.

Antonio Miniño is director for the reading.

Leonora is a Jamaican take on A Doll’s House, a 19th Century play by Henrik Ebsen of Denmark. Set in Kingston, Jamaica in 1951, the play focuses on Leonora Hartell, a black woman from working-class roots who is married to a white, well-to-do Englishman.

Their relationship is challenged when secrets from her past emerge.

Nehassaiu deGannes, who is of Dominican descent, plays Leonora. Her credits include the Off Broadway play Is God Is and The Balcony.

Heron, who has written plays such as Against His Will and Love and Marriage and New York, is Dr Mike Newell, a friend of the Hartells. He has previously worked with New York Classical in The Winter’s Tale.

Grenada-born Oneika Philips is Kalisa Williams, Leonora’s childhood friend. She has appeared on Broadway in SpongeBob SquarePants-The Musical.

Lisa Tharps, of Barbadian descent, is Vinisha, caregiver to the Hartell children. Her Broadway credits include in King Hedley 11 and Romeo andJuliet.

Aya Spence, who has Jamaican heritage, portrays Emma Hartell, Leonora’s daughter. She has appeared in the television series A Crime To Remember and modeled for Target, J.Crew and Little Marc Jacobs.

Brad Frazier, who is best known for his role in the television series, Luke Cage, plays Leonora’s husband Tristan Hartell. He also starred in The Winter’s Tale.

The New York Classical Theatre is celebrating its 20th year of free productions of classic works in indoor and outdoor locations in New York City. Voza Rivers is a respected figure in American theater, having produced a number of Broadway hits including the Tony and Grammy-nominated musical Sarafina!

Artistic director of New York Classical, Stephen Burdman, expects great things from Leonora.

“We are extremely pleased and very excited to have this entire cast onboard, to bring to life this incredible script by playwright David Stallings,” he said

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