Ryan Jamaal Swain, Donnell E. Smith, Clinton Lowe and Sidiki Fofana will star in the award-winning playwright James Ijames’ “Kill Move Paradise,” opening at Dr. Barbara Ann Teer’s National Black Theatre (NBT) this spring. The world premiere production is also the New York City debut of Ijames, a Whiting Award winner. Saheem Ali (“Nollywood,” “The Booty Call,” and “The Erlkings”) will direct. The provocative production closes the historic theater’s 48th season, “In Pursuit of Black Joy,” and runs from May 31 through June 25.
Set in an otherworldly place, the supremely timely “Kill Move Paradise” follows four Black males—Swain (“Six Degrees of Separation,” “Black Nativity,” “Spring Awakening”) as Isa, Smith (Spike TV’s six-part series “Time: The Kalief Browder Story”) as Grif, Lowe (“Bamboo Bushwick,” “The Brothers Size” and Fuse TV’s “The Hustle”) as Daz, and Fofana (“Most Dangerous Man In America,” “Children of Killers” and “The People”) as Tiny. Ripped prematurely from Earth by police brutality, vigilante “justice” and racist acts, they confront the reality of their pasts and scramble to make sense of their new world. Inspired by recent events, “Kill Move Paradise” is an expressionistic buzz saw through the contemporary myth that “all lives matter,” a portrait of the slain, not as degenerates deserving death but as heroes demanding we see them for the glorious beings they are.
“We wanted to flip the narrative surrounding the oppressive tropes that keep us feeling helpless and stuck as a community,” said National Black Theatre Theatre Arts Director Jonathan McCrory. “With ‘Kill Move Paradise,’ we are seeking to inspire our community to remember the power of joy as a tool of resistance, a mechanism forged as our sacred birthright to gain freedom in the midst of oppression.”
Scenic design is by Maruti Evans, lighting design by Alan Edwards, sound design by Palmer Hefferan and costume design by Ntokozo Fuzunina Kunene. Darrell Moultrie will serve as movement coach. Christina Franklin is production stage manager.
Previews are 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 31, through Friday, June 2; preview tickets are $20. The production officially opens on Saturday, June 3, with an Opening Night Gala that includes a 7:30 p.m. show followed by a reception. Performances will run Sundays at 4 p.m.; Mondays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.; with a Saturday matinee at 2 p.m. Tickets are $35 general admission with the following exceptions: All seats during the final week are $40, and an Opening Night Gala ticket is $50. A discounted ticket price of $25 is available for groups of 10 or more, senior citizens, students, active military members and veterans. Tickets can be purchased online at www.nationalblacktheatre.org, by calling NBT directly at (212) 722-3800 or at NBT’s box office, open from 1 to 6 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. National Black Theatre is located at 2031 Fifth Avenue between 125th and 126th Streets in Harlem. (Take the 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 subway to 125th Street.)
Follow NBT on Facebook (www.facebook.com/NationalBlackTheatre) and Twitter/Instagram (@NatBlackTheatre).
ABOUT THE CAST:
Ryan Jamaal Swain (Isa) is truly excited to be making his New York City debut! Swain’s regional credits include Keegan Theatre’s “Six Degrees of Separation,” Signature Theatre’s “295N,” Theatre Alliance’s “Black Nativity,” Gala Hispanic’s “Thoughts of a Colored Man,” City Equity Theatre’s “Spring Awakening” and “Stage Door.” Swain is a graduate of Howard University. Special thanks to God, my team, family, cast/crew of “Kill Move Paradise” and NBT. Dedicating this show to my brothers and sisters who were martyrs for the revolution. Stay beamin’. Matthew 5:14-16. Instagram: @rj.swain Twitter: @RyanJamaal
A creative force, with unprecedented passion, Donnell E. Smith (Grif) began cultivating his artistic journey while growing up in Baltimore, MD. First pursuing a career as a solo recording artist, he eventually found his way to acting, which ultimately claimed a rightful home in his soul. From theatre to film, Smith has been fortunate to showcase his prowess with some of the industry’s most talented and legendary artists. He will appear in the title role of “TIME: The Kalief Browder Story,” a six-part Spike TV docuseries, coming soon to Netflix. Smith is honored to officially debut with NBT and is grateful to James Ijames, Saheem Ali and the NBT family for nurturing and ensuring that unsung voices are heard. Instagram/Twitter: @hesyngs4u
Clinton Lowe (Daz), a Bronx native and Harlem resident, is so excited, delighted and honored to finally be working on a full production with the National Black Theatre of Harlem (NBT)! NBC just named Lowe a 2017 Star Project finalist. Lowe was a series regular on “The Hustle” (Fuse TV’s award-winning comedy series) and appeared on the television programs “Law & Order: SVU,” “Blue Bloods,” “Louie,” “Rescue Me”; in the film “American Gangster,” and in numerous commercials. Recently he worked on motion pictures with Golden Globe winner Richard Gere on “Time Out of Mind” and with Oscar nominee Jesse Eisenberg on “Louder than Bombs.” On stage, he’s appeared in the off-Broadway play “Bamboo in Bushwick” (Working Theater) and “The Lake Effect” (Geva Theatre Center). Last year — alongside Shamsuddin Abdul-Hamid and Brandon Carter — he starred in one of “The 10 Best New Jersey Theater Productions of 2016,” “The Brothers Size” by the Oscar-winning co-writer of “Moonlight” Tarell Alvin McCraney (Luna Stage). Clinton’s also the co-founder of Artists 4 Change NYC (a volunteer group, incubated at NBT, promoting community activism). R.I.P. Shamsuddin Abdul-Hamid, forever my Brother, always my Oshoosi, I Love & Miss You!!! This is for you. . . Instagram/Twitter: @clinton_lowe
Sidiki Fofana (Tiny) is originally from Coyah, Guinea. He is the recipient of the 2012 AUDELCO Rising Star Award. Fofano’s theater credits include the world premiere of Amiri Baraka’s last play New Federal Theatre’s “Most Dangerous Man in America,” Castillo Theatre’s “Children of Killers,” the Billie Holiday Theatre’s “The Legend of Buster Neal” and “Finding Home,” American Bard Theatre Company’s “The People,” T. Schreiber Studio’s “Promised Land,” FringeNYC’s “The Theatre Made in Paradise” and Metropolitan Playhouse/Transcendental Festival’s “The Poll Tax Matter.” Other credits include the OBIE award-winning Fire This Time Festival plays “The Fucking World and Everything in It” and “Love and Happiness: Ada’s Story.” He will soon appear in the feature film “The Garden Left Behind” starring Michael Madsen and Ed Asner. Twitter/Instagram: @sidiki_fofana
ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT:
James Ijames is a Philadelphia-based actor, playwright and director. He has appeared regionally in productions at the Arden Theatre Company, the Philadelphia Theatre Company, the Wilma Theatre, Baltimore Center Stage, Mauckingbird Theatre Company, People’s Light and Theatre and Interact Theatre Company. Ijames’ plays have been produced at Flashpoint Theater Company, Orbiter 3, and Theater Horizon and have received development with PlayPenn New Play Conference, The Gulfshore Playhouse, the Wilma Theater, Azuka Theatre, Interact Theatre and Victory Garden. Ijames was the 2011 F. Otto Haas Award for an Emerging Artist recipient, and he also won two Barrymores for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play for Superior Donuts and Angels in America and one Barrymore for Outstanding Direction of a Play for The Brothers Size with Simpatico Theatre Company. Ijames is a 2011 Independence Foundation Fellow, a 2015 Pew Fellow and the 2015 winner of the Terrence McNally New Play Award for “White” and the 2015 Kesselring Honorable Mention Prize winner for “…Miz Martha.” Ijames is an alumnus of the InterAct Core Writers Group, a mentor for The Foundry and a Founding Member of Orbiter 3, Philadelphia’s first playwright producing collective. He received a B.A. in Drama from Morehouse College and an M.F.A. in Acting from Temple University. Ijames is Assistant Professor of Theatre at Villanova University. Instagram: @jwijames Twitter: @jwilli1867
ABOUT THE DIRECTOR:
Originally from Nairobi, Kenya, Saheem Ali is a director of plays and musicals with an emphasis on new work. Recent credits include “Twelfth Night” (The Public), “Nollywood Dreams” (Cherry Lane), “Dot” (Detroit Public Theater), “The Booty Call” (Inner Voices) and “A Lesson From Aloes” (Juilliard). He has workshopped new plays by Donja Love, Jocelyn Bioh, Jen Silverman, Nathaniel Shapiro, Phillip Howze, Eric Micha Holmes and James Ijames at Playwrights Realm, MCC, New York Stage & Film, National Black Theatre and PEN World Voices. He has co-written two musicals with composer Michael Thurber: “The Booty Call” (Roundabout Underground Reading Series) and “Goddess” (O’Neill Musical Theater Conference). Ali was the associate director of “The Tempest” at The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park. He is a Usual Suspect and former Directing Fellow at New York Theater Workshop. Facebook: @saheemscene
ABOUT THE PRODUCER:
Founded by visionary Dr. Barbara Ann Teer in 1968, National Black Theatre (NBT) is a nationally recognized cultural and educational institution. Dr. Teer pioneered “the healing art of black theatre as an instrument for wholeness in urban communities where entrepreneurial artists of African descent live and work.” In 1983, Dr. Teer expanded the vision of NBT by purchasing a 64,000-square-foot building on 125th Street and Fifth Avenue (renamed “National Black Theatre Way” by local law in 1994). This was the first revenue-generating Black arts complex in the country, an innovative arrangement through which for-profit businesses who shared NBT’s spiritual and aesthetic values rented retail space to subsidize the arts. Out of her vision, NBT houses the largest collection of Nigerian new sacred art in the Western hemisphere and is considered the authentic representation of a model whose time has come. NBT is partially supported by grants from the City Council of New York, City of New York Department of Cultural Affairs, Ford Foundation, Columbia Service Society and private donations. Visit www.nationalblacktheatre.org or follow NBT on Facebook (@NationalBlackTheatre) and Twitter/Instagram (@NatBlackTheatre).