December 15, 2009
Philadelphia, PA - Arden Theatre Company begins 2010 with the Philadelphia premiere of Blue Door
written by Tanya Barfield and directed by Walter Dallas.
The legendary Philadelphia actor, Johnnie Hobbs, Jr. stars as Lewis, a successful mathematics professor whose wife has just left him. So begins Lewis' sleepless night where a series of ancestors, all played by Kes Khemnu, appear to reveal the hardships and victories that have shaped Lewis' existence. Lyrical, funny and poignant, Lewis' journey is thought-provoking window into the soul of one man grappling at the intersection of his own identity and his cultural history.
"We are thrilled to welcome Walter Dallas back to the Arden. It was Walter who suggested that he direct this play for us," says Terry Nolen, the Arden's Artistic Director. "Given the role of storytelling in Blue Door
and its exploration of the importance of storytelling in shaping and preserving family legacies, it is a perfect play for the Arden. I am also excited to welcome back actor Kes Khemnu who played Boy Willie in Walter's production of The Piano Lesson
and to have esteemed Philadelphia actor Johnnie Hobbs, Jr. play the role of Lewis. I first saw Johnnie in Walter's production of Two Trains Running
at the Philadelphia Drama Guild in 1994 and have wanted to have him work at the Arden ever since. With Blue Door
, it is finally becoming a reality."
Playwright Tanya Barfield is an African-American playwright and actress who has been commissioned by Playwrights Horizons, South Coast Repertory, Primary Stages, and Geva Theatre Center. She is a member of the New Dramatists and serves on the membership committee at The Dramatist Guild. Other plays include: Of Equal Measure
, The Quick
, The Houdini Act
and 121° WEST
. She is a two time finalist for the Princess Grace Award.
"In times of crisis (when our own self threatens to fragment), we might wonder if our ancestors could answer the basic question of identity," Barfield said about writing Blue Door
. "In this vast and complicated universe: who am I? It is only through memory that the soul of an ancestor is kept alive. If we forget our past, do we in some way forget ourselves?"
Walter Dallas returns to the Arden after directing the notable production of The Piano Lesson
in 2008. Dallas also directed the world premiere of Seven Guitars
at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago, which was named one of the Ten Best Theatre Events of the year by Newsweek
Johnnie Hobbs, Jr. has received critical acclaim for his work in Fences
, Two Trains Running
(directed by Dallas), and King Hedley II
(Barrymore nomination). Blue Door
marks Hobbs' Arden debut. Kes Khemnu was seen most recently at the Arden in Gee's Bend
and in the 2008 production of The Piano Lesson
, for which he received a Barrymore nomination.
The director and cast of Blue Door
are part of the legacy of Philadelphia's Freedom Theatre, Pennsylvania's first African-American theatre. Hobbs has been affiliated with Freedom Theatre for over 30 years, and Walter Dallas served as its Artistic Director from 1992-2008. Prior to his tenure at Freedom Theatre, Dallas created the University of the Arts' School of Theatre Arts in 1983, where Hobbs currently serves as the head of acting. Khemnu studied acting at both Freedom Theatre and the University of the Arts.
The final dress rehearsal of Blue Door
on Wednesday, January 13 at 8pm is open to the public as a Pay-What-You-Can performance, with all proceeds collected donated to Freedom Theatre, located on North Broad Street. All seats are general admission, first come, first served for this performance.
previews begin on Thursday, January 14. Preview performances run January 15, 16, 17, and 19. Opening night is set for 7 p.m. Wednesday, January 20.
Single ticket prices are $29- $48, with discounts available for seniors, students, military and educators. Groups of 10+ enjoy significant discounts; please inquire about group rates.
Three show subscriptions for the 2009/10 season are still available. Subscribers enjoy significant savings on tickets, the best choice of seats and a liberal ticket exchange policy. Call the Arden Box Office at 215.922.1122, order online at www.ardentheatre.org
, or visit the box office.
The Arden is wheelchair accessible and provides assisted listening devices and large-print programs at every performance. Reservations are required for accessible seating and may be made by calling the Arden's Box Office at 215.922.1122.
By Tanya Barfield
Directed by Walter Dallas
tells the story of one African American man grappling at the intersection of his own identity and his cultural history.
Recommended for 9th grade and older
Arden Theatre Company
40 N. 2nd Street, Old City Philadelphia 19106
January 14 – March 21
Preview performances: January 14-19
Opening night: 7pm Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Reviewing members of the press are invited to attend opening night and may reserve tickets by contacting Leigh Goldenberg at lgoldenberg@
$29-$48 for adults depending on the performance chosen
Group discounts available for 10+
Student Rush tickets at the door only five minutes before curtain for $5 cash, pending availability (must present valid student ID)
Call the Box Office at 215.922.1122 or visit www.ardentheatre.org
Johnnie Hobbs, Jr. (resident of Mt. Airy, PA) as Lewis
Kes Khemnu (resident of Roslyn, PA) as Simon/Rex/Jesse
Walter Dallas - Director
Dan Conway - Set Designer
Alison Roberts - Costume Designer
Thom Weaver - Lighting Designer
Robert Kaplowitz - Additional Music and Sound
Alec Ferrell - Stage Manager
Arden Theatre Company is located at 40 N. 2nd Street in the heart of historic Old City, Philadelphia