University of Pittsburgh
September 6, 2004

Pitt's Kuntu Repertory Theatre Seeks Actors, Tap and Modern Dancers, and Musicians for Upcoming Season


Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926

PITTSBURGH—The University of Pittsburgh's Kuntu Repertory Theatre is holding auditions for actors, dancers, and musicians for its upcoming series of Broadway musicals.

Auditions for Sophisticated Ladies will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 9, in the Seventh-Floor Auditorium of Alumni Hall, 4227 Fifth Ave., Oakland. Auditions for the other shows of the 2004-2005 season—Bubbling Brown Sugar, Jelly's Last Jam, and Sweet Thunder: The Billy Strayhorn Story—will be held at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 17, in the same location.

Participants are asked to bring a resume and head shot to the audition, be prepared to deliver a one-and-a-half to two-minute monologue, and sing a contemporary or show tune. Callbacks will begin the day following the auditions.

"Kuntu is looking for the best musical theater talent in this city," said Kuntu Founder and Artistic Director Vernell Lillie, associate professor in Pitt's Department of Africana Studies, noting that Duke Ellington's son Mercer included a notice in his score that the cast of Sophisticated Ladies should be "racially mixed, representing any and all who rock to the rhythm of the Duke."

Biographical sketches of the four directors follow:

Sophisticated Ladies

Directed by Elizabeth Van Dyke

A New York-based actress and director, Van Dyke directed Things of the Heart: Marian Anderson Story for the 2004 Bermuda Arts Festival, Pretty Fire at the St. Louis Black Repertory Theatre, and Great Men of Gospel at the New Federal Theatre and at the Paul Robeson Performing Arts Center in

Syracuse. Van Dyke is the artistic director of the Ensemble Studio Theatre's Going to the River, a program that supports and celebrates African American women playwrights. She serves on several New York and New Jersey theater boards, and has received a number of awards, including the President's Award from the Black Theatre Network.

Bubbling Brown Sugar

Directed by Keith Tyrone Williams

Williams' work as a director and choreographer has been seen at the Arena Stage, the Gem Theater, the Powell Symphony Hall, the Los Angeles Playhouse, and the Amas Repertory, St. Louis Repertory, and Cape Fear Regional Theaters. His choreography in Bubbling Brown Sugar and Raisin has won the Woodie King Jr. Award for Best Production. He has appeared in the off-Broadway productions of Mama I Want to Sing, Rabboni, Bingo Long, Home the Musical, and Damn Yankees, for which he won the Woodie King Jr. Award for Best Actor. An adjunct instructor in dance and theater at Washington University, Williams also is cofounder and director of Bridging the Gap, a program that provides theater workshops and mentoring to inner-city youth.

Jelly's Last Jam

Directed by Edward G. Smith

Smith's list of directorial credits includes Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Our Town, Trick the Devil, Wait Until Dark, A Raisin in the Sun, The Piano Lesson, and Fences. He directed From the Mississippi Delta for the Negro Ensemble Company. Founder and artistic director of the Buffalo Black Dinner Theatre and the Buffalo Black Drama Workshop, Smith also is cofounder of the film festival Black Canada. He has received the Black History Achievement Award and the Best Director Award for Soldier's Play. He has served as associate assistant director of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery.

Sweet Thunder: The Billy Strayhorn Story

Directed by Paul Carter Harrison

An award-winning playwright and director, Harrison has a long history as writer and director with the Negro Ensemble Company. He is the author of Kuntu Drama: Plays of the African Continuum (New York: Grove Press, 1974) and The Drama of Nommo (New York: Grove Press, 1973), a collection of essays on root of Black theater, which has been influential in the exploration of ritual stylization for many contemporary playwrights and directors. He conceived and directed the Phoenix Black Theatre Troupe's production of Sweet Thunder: The Billy Strayhorn Story earlier this year. Harrison is coeditor of Black Theatre: Ritual Performance in the African Diaspora (Temple University Press, 2002) and serves on the Board of Governors for the African Grove Institute of the Arts.