Official Selection of the 2023 BIPOC Playwrights Festival to be Co-Produced by Matthews Playhouse & African American Playwrights Group (AAPG) September 22-24, 2023
Matthews Playhouse of the Performing Arts and the African American Playwrights Group (AAPG) are bringing the 1970’s back as the two organizations co-produce Rory D. Sheriff’s Speakeasy September 22-24, 2023. The original play is the official selection of the 2023 BIPOC Playwrights Festival, a collaboration between the two organizations to promote Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Matthews as well as the Charlotte Theatre community by highlighting original works by Black, Indigenous, & People of Color (BIPOC).
Set in 1978 in Reading, PA, Speakeasy follows the story of Virgina, a young woman who decides to take control of her life by unlearning everything she was taught about how a woman should be. No sooner than deciding to dump her abusive husband’s belongings on the doorstep in trash bags, she’s presented with a foreclosure letter for back taxes on her childhood home. With more than a few reservations, she gives in to the idea of turning the house into a Speakeasy to raise money for the taxes - which is exactly when trouble ensues. Speakeasy will be performed at The Fullwood Theatre, located inside the Matthews Community Center and home to Matthews Playhouse. Please note, this production contains mature themes and situations, suggestive and adult language, depictions of stage violence, and alcohol consumption and will employ the use of theatrical weapons and gunshots. Recommended for ages 18+.
Meet the Cast!
Cecilia McNeill (Virginia)
Cecilia McNeill (Virginia) is excited to play Virginia. She was previously seen on stage in Be A Lion as a part of the ensemble, Black Nativity as a dancer and FixaPlate with Mixed Metaphors Production as Mildred aka Aunt Millie. You can also catch her in the web series North Cack on Plug Network. She hopes that you enjoy this production of Speakeasy.
K. Alana Jones (Marge) was born in Huntsville, Alabama and grew up in Columbia, South Carolina. Involved in the arts from a young age. She atended South Carolina State University and studied vocal performance and marched on the Marching 101. She has been a resident of Charlotte since 2010 and is an administrative assistant and certified group fitness instructor. Alana began acting in 2014. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, dancing, singing, cooking and creating art. Her moto is “The hardest decision in life is deciding which bridges to burn and which to cross, but while you debate, keep giving your magic."
K. Alana Jones (Marge)
K. Alana Jones (Marge) was born in Huntsville, Alabama and grew up in Columbia, South Carolina. Involved in the arts from a young age. She attended South Carolina State University and studied vocal performance and marched on the Marching 101. She has been a resident of Charlotte since 2010 and is an administrative assistant and certified group fitness instructor. Alana began acting in 2014. She enjoys spending time with family and friends, dancing, singing, cooking and creating art. Her motto is “The hardest decision in life is deciding which bridges to burn and which to cross, but while you debate, keep giving your magic."
Rory D. Sheriff, (Lloyd)
Rory D. Sheriff is an award-winning Director, Producer, Playwright, and Founding Artistic Director of Brand New Sheriff Productions (BNS Productions). Sheriff was awarded with the prestigious Metrolina Theatre Association ‘Theatre Person of the Year’ in October of 2022. BNS Productions is the only Black Repertory Theatre Company in Charlotte and has earned a reputation for creating memorable theater experiences with thought-provoking and inspiring works. Speakeasy is no exception. “This production has been years in the making and we cannot wait to bring it to Matthews this fall,” says Sheriff. “Speakeasy was inspired by the works of August Wilson, and I believe audiences will find its characters and story to be relatable and relevant to some of the issues our society is facing today, 45 years later.”
Jonathan Caldwell (Horse)
Jonathan Caldwell (Horse) is a Charlotte native whose passion for acting runs deep. It all started as a kid mocking his favorite character’s on tv shows, and now he is bringing that same passion and energy to the stage and film. He has been in numerous theatre performances and some of his most memorable roles include Youngblood in Rory Sheriff’s production of “August Wilson’s Jitney”, Carl Lee Hailey in Theater Charlotte's production of John Grisham’s “A Time To Kill” and Lord Marcellus Wallace in Shakespeare Carolina’s production of Bard Fiction. He most recently appeared in Mike Garcia’s “Stuff Inside My Head,” a play concerning men’s mental health in communities of color. Jonathan is thankful for every opportunity to share his talent and love for acting with the world and feels it is nothing short of a blessing.
Tim Bradley (Percy)
Tim Bradley (Percy) is a versatile actor and performer. Tim began singing as a young child and his talents have flourished over the years. His stage credits include roles in August Wilson’s Jitney, Two Trains Running, Fences, and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. He has done leading roles in Brand New Sheriff Productions' musical Be A Lion, Boys to Baghdad, and Purlie. A Walk In My Shoes, Unfinished Women Cry in No Man’s Land While a Bird Dies in A Gilded Cage, and The Bluest Eye are a few other notable plays he has performed in. He has held leading roles in the musicals Ain’t Misbehavin and For the Love of Harlem. His film credits include Athena: Goddess of War, Familiar Eyes, Innocent Victims, Case 26, and Dying To Live. There is so much more to come from his amazing talents. He is a native of South Carolina and a graduate of South Carolina State University.
James Lee Walker, II (Don Do)
James Lee Walker, II (Don Do) James moved to Charlotte in the summer of 2000 from Beaufort, South Carolina. He’s been doing theater since grade school and the theater community in Charlotte has been like family. He is an alumnus of The Charlotte Comedy Theater, an improv teacher, and a coach. He founded the improv troupe Crowded Monocle and is also known as Snackmeat, the lead singer of the local rock band Crackers and Snackmeat. James has spent many years heavily involved in local activism and the arts. He’s done many shows with BNS Productions, they are always a joy to work with. Last year he was nominated for a Metrolina Theater Award for his role as Miss Roj in the BNS production, The Colored Museum. James is also the concierge director at The VUE in uptown Charlotte, the tallest residential high-rise between New York and Miami.
Graham Williams (Roosevelt)
Graham Williams is thrilled to be returning to Brand New Sheriff’s production of Speakeasy. He has worked on numerous plays at many theatres over his career including the following shows at BNS Productions: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, Fences, Lyons, Jitney, Be a Lion and Boys to Baghdad. Audiences may also recognize Graham from Detroit 67 (Theatre Charlotte), Pipeline (Three Bone Theatre), Blood Ties (Legacy Theatre Productions) and as Malcolm X in The Meeting (W. Group Productions). Graham would like to thank his family for loving and supporting him. Motivational Quote: “Excellence must be pursued”- Vince Lombardi.
Dominic Weaver (Leon)
Dominic Weaver (Leon) is originally from Gary, IN. He started his acting journey at Winston-Salem State University. Dominic has studied his crat under professionals like Avis Gray, Faiger Blackwell, Todd Bridges, Ron Dortch and April Turner. Dominic has done some film/TV as well as independent film work and voiceover work. He's done theatre shows such as THE AMEN CORNER (Brother Boxer), THE LAST DAYS OF JUDAS ISCARIOT (Pontus Pilot), SWEAT(Brucie), RIPCORD (Derek), JOE TURNER’S COME AND GONE (Jeremy), FENCES (Gabriel), JITNEY(Doub), TWO TRAINS RUNNING(Hambone), PURLIE VICTORIOUS (Purlie) and WITCH(Frank). This is his fourth show with BNS productions. Dominic enjoys being a Dad, volunteering when possible to put smiles on the faces of people in need. He would like thank the cast, crew and YOU as the audience for supporting the Arts and this production... Without YOU none of it would be possible. YOU are the most important part of any production. "If you think you're too small to make a difference try sleeping in a small room with a mosquito."
Performance Dates: September 22-24, 2023 - There will be an Q & A session with the playwright and members of the cast immediately following the 2 p.m. performance on Saturday, September 23, 2023.
Where: 100 East McDowell Street, Matthews, NC 28105
Tickets: Tickets for Speakeasy are now on sale and range in price between $10-$19. Student, Senior and Military discounts are available. Information about the production and where to purchase tickets can be found by visiting matthewsplayhouse.com/speakeasyplay.
About the African American Playwrights Group
The African American Playwrights Group, founded by Vickie L. Evans, is a collaboration of African-American playwrights, whose mission is to produce quality and excellent theater works in our communities and abroad. It is a privilege to incorporate the Playwrights Festival into our season and establish new relationships with community members.
About the Matthews Playhouse
Matthews Playhouse of the Performing Arts is a community based non-profit theatre committed to enriching the lives of children, adults, and families by inviting them to participate
in the world of performing arts and education. We commit to this mission by ensuring the excellence of our cultural programs for the participation and enjoyment of the people in our community.