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Authors Theatre:
Staged reading of Talkin' To This Chick Sippin' Magic Potion

Monday, March 25, 2019
7:30 p.m. -- Staged reading followed by a discussion with playwright James Anthony Tyler. Arena Theatre, UAlbany Performing Arts Center, 1400 Washington Avenue, Albany. See map.

James Anthony Tyler and Shaun Patrick Tubbs
James Anthony Tyler and Shaun Patrick Tubbs

Playwright James Anthony Tyler, and director Shaun Patrick Tubbs present a staged reading of Tyler's work-in-progress, Talkin’ to This Chick Sippin’ Magic Potion, a funny and provocative play set in a Harlem penthouse, where an African American lesbian couple must navigate the complexities of modern romance amidst an angry teenage daughter, a confused ex-husband, the pressures of academia, and the unconventional career challenges of a “professional cuddler.”

The play also features a deaf character, and the reading will incorporate sign language. The actors will be Donnetta Lavinia Grays, Darius McCall, and Portia Johnson, who was featured in last year’s Authors Theatre.

The event is part of the Writers Institute’s “Authors Theatre” series, which features staged readings of original plays-in-progress, and gives audiences an opportunity to share reactions and participate in the creative process.

James Anthony Tyler (Playwright) is the recipient of the 3rd Annual Horton Foote Playwriting Award, and is one of the inaugural playwrights to receive a commission from Audible’s emerging playwrights fund. His play Artney Jackson received an Edgerton Foundation New Play Award, and premiered last summer at Williamstown Theatre Festival. Other plays include Some Old Black Man, produced by the Berkshire Playwrights Lab at St. James Place in Great Barrington and at 59E59 Theaters in New York, and Dolphins and Sharks produced in New York by LAByrinth Theater Company. He is a recent graduate of the playwriting program at The Juilliard School.

Shaun Patrick Tubbs (Director) is a New York-based director and actor. His directing credits include Lost in the Stars (Union Avenue Opera), the world première of the opera Independence Eve (Signature Theatre DC), Well-Intentioned White People (Orlando Shakespeare Festival), and three works by James Anthony Tyler: hop tha A (Ars Nova), Artney Jackson (The Lark/New Black Festival), and Some Old Black Man (The Cell Theatre). Fellowships include the Drama League’s Fall Directing Fellowship (NYC), Asolo Repertory Theatre’s Directing Fellowship, the SDC Observers Program, and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival Fair Directing Fellowship. MFA from The University of Texas at Austin, and BFA from Wright State University. 

Donnetta Lavinia Grays, Darius McCall, and Portia Johnson
Donnetta Lavinia Grays, Darius McCall, and Portia Johnson


Donnetta Lavinia Grays (Jornay Nelson) is a Brooklyn-based playwright and actor. Acting credits include Broadway’s In The Next Room or The Vibrator Play and Well. Notable NY performance credits: Twelfth Night (The Public Theater/Mobile Unit); O, Earth (The Foundry Theatre); Men on Boats (Clubbed Thumb), Shipwrecked! (Primary Stages); and In the Footprint and Be the Death of Me (The Civilians/Associate Artist). Regionally she is a two-time Connecticut Critics Circle Award recipient, and has performed at such places as American Conservatory Theater, Portland Stage Company, Arena Stage, Centerstage, The Huntington Theatre, Barrington Stage, Oregon Shakespeare Festival and The Los Angeles Women’s Shakespeare Company.

Portia Johnson (Sheba Bathson) Theater credits include: Jackie Zinner in Artney Jackson by James Anthony Tyler (Williamstown Theatre Festival); Cynthia in SWEAT  (Mark Taper Forum); Mama Nadi in Ruined (MTC, Geffen Playhouse); Rose in Fences (McCarter Theater; Long Wharf Theater); Intimate Apparel (Bay Street Theatre); Our Lady of 121st St., In Arabia We’d All Be Kings, and The Way West (LAByrinth Theater Company); The Rose Tattoo (Williamstown Theatre Festival); the role of Stage Manager in Our Town (Fords Theatre); the London production of The Member of The Wedding; Zooman and the Sign (Signature Theater Company); McReele (Roundabout Theater Company); No Child… (TheaterWorks); Frankie & Johnny (Hartford Stage); Ride Down Mt. Morgan (Broadway).

Darius McCall (Steve Nelson) was nominated for Best Lead Actor for his role as Franco Wicks in Superior Donuts for the Washington-area WATCH Awards. He has performed in both contemporary and classical roles, including Thomas in The Shipment, Wil Parish in Flyin’ West, and Old King in The Bloody Banquet. Recent work in New York was in Twin Restaurants, Dibs!, and One Man Romeo, a solo show where he performed all of Romeo’s lines. Darius is fluent in American Sign Language (ASL), and is a former ASL-rapper who has traveled to Japan, South America, Canada, and the Caribbean Islands. He has trained in New York with Wynn Handman and at the Studio Theatre Conservatory in Washington, DC.

The cast will also feature two student actors from the UAlbany Theatre Program: Elijah Callahan and Tracee Herbert. A student playwright from our FRESH ACTS Festival will read stage directions, and the reading will be stage managed by FRESH ACTS stage manager Rio Namegaya.

This Authors Theatre reading kicks off the Theatre Program’s second annual FRESH ACTS festival featuring eight one-act plays, written, directed, staged managed, and performed by students, running April 10-13 (Wed, Thurs, Sat 7pm; Fri 3pm). This year’s festival also includes a Saturday 2pm Solo Showcase: excerpts from solo pieces, presented by the student playwrights.

For more information, please contact:
Kate Walat
Assistant Professor
Theatre Program
Department of Music and Theatre
[email protected]

Presented by the UAlbany Theatre Program and the Jarka and Grayce Burian Endowment in association with the NYS Writers Institute.

The late Jarka Burian taught in the Theatre Department at UAlbany from 1955 to 1993. He was the leading American scholar of Czech theatre and the author of the award-winning book The Scenography of Josef Svoboda, a seminal critical study of the work of one of the twentieth century's most influential theatrical designers. Grayce Susan Burian, who received her M.A. degree from UAlbany and also taught there, is best known for her long tenure as the director of the theatre program, which she founded, at Schenectady County Community College.