A Conversation with Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Juliana Canfield, Harriett D Foy, Marie Thomas, and Michelle Wilson
Written by Margarita Javier
Photography by Marielle Solan
August 14, 2018
Marcus Gardley’s The House That Will Not Stand is an adaptation from Federico García Lorca´s seminal The House of Bernarda Alba inspired by real life stories of Creole women of color in New Orleans in the early 19th century who had, for a time, freedom and status allowed due to their romantic relationships with powerful white men. While covering somber topics like the evils of slavery, racism, and the patriarchy, the play is a joyous celebration of black women. It is running through August 19 at New York Theatre Workshop. We sat down with five of the talented women who make up this all female cast–Joniece Abbott-Pratt, Juliana Canfield, Harriett D Foy, Marie Thomas, and Michelle Wilson–to talk about the play and its resonance to contemporary audiences.
Margarita Javier: At the beginning of this play, Beartrice Albans, a Creole woman of color, is facing the death of her wealthy white lover, and her inheritance and what will happen to her three daughters is in question. What can you tell us about the character you play?
Joniece Abbott-Pratt: I play Odette. She’s the youngest of the three sisters and she is identified as the romantic, all heart. At first, life is great and things are beautiful. Even though the father just died, I think that she is able to find the beauty and joy and love in everyone around her, until her identity is questioned, which makes her question how she feels about everyone else around her. And then you get to see her transform into this other person who’s trying to, in stages, reclaim herself.
Marie Thomas: I play La Veuve, who is in many ways an antagonist to Beartrice. Nobody that’s hateful or a villain thinks that they are, except sometimes this character does. Quite frankly, I find her an interesting person in that she’s so very confident, except she’s not, because she’s been hurt and she’s been talked badly about by Beartrice. We learn later in the script that she did a number on Beartrice too, but she still holds some kind of vendetta and wants to see her hurt. The one quality that I admire is that she likes the girls and she doesn’t want the girls to be hurt. I’m enjoying playing this person because I just finished playing a lady who was 103 years old, and she was a lot different to this character. I have many sides to me that a lot of people have not seen because I’ve not been out here for a while. I took a leave of absence doing other things, but I’m enjoying the energy that I have to find once again to play these kinds of forthright, direct, aggressive kinds of people. The thing that interests me most at the very end is when she’s having a conversation with Beartrice. I think LaVeuve has some sympathy to what she’s going through, but I don’t have an opportunity to show that except to soften my last line to her and hope for the best. One dimensional characters don’t exist in life, you know, so I’m always trying to find the one place where she is a decent human being.
Juliana Canfield: I play Maude Lynn, the middle daughter. She’s the most invested in her Catholic faith. I think she uses her religious piety as a framework for her tendency to nag and to tattle and to worry. Those personal tendencies are very enmeshed with her religious fervor.
Michelle Wilson: I play Marie Josephine, Beartrice’s crazy sister in the attic. I think the question quickly becomes: How crazy is she? She’s passion and freedom. What do you do with a woman who doesn’t behave or follow the rules? She’s haunted. She’s haunted by her own inability to really break free. Why doesn’t she leave the house? Because it’s terrifying there. And so this cat and mouse game is a lot more satisfying when you have so much fear.
Margarita: Have you read The Madwoman in the Attic? It’s a feminist literary text, the title is based on Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre. There’s a character who locks up his wife who was a Creole woman in the attic because she was supposedly insane, and it becomes a metaphor for men and the patriarchy trying to suppress women.
Michelle: It’s interesting because in this play, Beartrice does it. It’s hard at times to have empathy for her because she rules with such an iron fist. It feels like she’s just reinforcing the patriarchy when in truth, the play reveals that she’s just trying to protect everyone the only way she knows how.
Harriett D Foy: I play Makeda, the slave house servant to the house of Albans. She is the heartbeat of the house, she is caretaker, nurturer. She’s fighting with all her life to get her freedom; whatever she has to do, she’s going to get it. She’s a strong leader. She’s fun, she’s intense, she’s honest.
Margarita: Coming into this play, I knew that it was an adaptation of Federico García Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba, which is a play I know very well. All your characters have a counterpart in that play, the plot is similar, there are a lot of thematic links. I’m curious about your level of knowledge of that play. Did you know it coming into this project? Have you read it?
Harriett: Yeah, I read it. I did a reading of another adaptation of this play a long time ago. I think this was just starting anew with hints of Lorca’s play, and we touched on it, but after that we just created this piece on its own.
Margarita: One of the links between the two plays is the patriarchy and the treatment of women. What I find interesting about this play is how there are all these different things that are very much of the era: there’s slavery, racism, the patriarchy. But you could set this play today and it would feel very current. I was wondering if you could talk about the way this play speaks to modern audiences and our current political discourse.
Juliana: One thing I love about the play is that yes, it deals with all of those troubling aspects of our history and our present. But I think Marcus has done a really incredible job of making the spirit of the play one that’s ultimately positive, and that refuses to buckle under those historical realities. I think that feels very resonant today. The whole Mahalee Congo sequence with Makeda and Marie: Josephine and Odette reminds me of this instagram trend of, you know, #blackgirlmagic, which feels like this reclaiming of all the different ways in which blackness and femininity can be beautiful and how there’s not just one way to be a black woman. I think that there’s a real resurgence of support for that multitudinous representation. That’s my favorite resonance in the play.
Michelle: The idea that it’s so difficult to protect your children in this society, you know? We’re watching babies be snatched from their mothers. What do black mothers have to tell their children before they go out of the house? My daughter attends Smith. She’s staying up there this summer to work in a lab and one of her fellow RAs, the police came in like What are you doing here? What is the message? That you’re a suspect in white spaces? You’re always just renting space in this world, right? I mean, the rules can change. You can be of a certain caste or class now and still, there is no safety because our thinking is so fear driven and power driven, and it’s exhausting. But I do love that there’s a sense of triumph in this play, that in spite of all of these dynamics–they’ll deal with the consequences and there will be consequences–but in spite of all that, their sparks have not been extinguished.
Margarita: Yeah, I agree. It felt very much like a love letter to black women and you can tell the author loves black women.
Michelle: That’s it, Marcus, he just loves us so fiercely in our individuality, you know? We’re not just this one type of woman. It’s really quite profound.
Margarita: I read in the program that many of the actors collaborated with Marcus on the development of the text. Can you elaborate?
Harriett: I’ve been involved since the first reading. Marcus is always open to hear how things flow in your mouth, or if you get to a certain passage and you’re having trouble getting it, he talks to you, you’ll listen, maybe fine tune it. The Mahalee Congo piece that Juliana: mentioned earlier wasn’t in the original version. We were working at New Dramatists and he said it came to him at night and he thought Makeda needed to say something else to Odette. It wasn’t so easy to wrap it up, so he brought it in and it was like five pages and I was like What is this? He said Just read it! So that’s what I did. We’ve always been in synch in terms of his language. He has a great ear. He’s very specific about his text, because it flows. You can’t adlib. It would mess it up.
Michelle: You can’t even change a word. You have to ride the words and there’s freedom in that.
Juliana: It’s like Shakespeare, can’t have one too many syllables.
Joniece: He’s a poet top to bottom.
Harriett: It’s poetry. Lush, dense, beautiful, sexy poetry.
Michelle: And Lileana is like, And keep it moving! [laughs] Because you’re languishing.
Harriett: And you have to have great breath control.
Joniece: That is so true. There’s moments when I’m like, Oh girl, you got to hold on to the breath, just to make it work, to make it land the way it needs to.
Marie: Sometimes you might mess up a line because you’re trying to breathe somewhere along the line.
Margarita: You mentioned Lileana Blain-Cruz. How has it been working with her as a director?
Marie: I personally like it. I like her spirit, and I like the fact that she will tell you what’s good and then tell you what’s not in such a way so you don’t feel bad. An actor is a very sensitive human being. As much as we think we know things and we have great self esteem, there’s no such thing as paying your dues, or going “I got this now!”. Learning is continuous. On opening night, she was very complimentary, very kind, and we were walking up to the opening night party together, and I said I knew I had to learn the lines, but I had to learn them my way. I can’t just say words without some meaning behind them. So in the very early stages of our rehearsal, because my character opens the show, I felt uncomfortable a lot of times because I wasn’t sure where I was going. Lileana was very good at understanding and accepting that, and helping to bring it in. And then finally, you know, my organism stepped into it and then I could carry it from there. I like her spirit and I liked the fact that she will work until she gets it. And you might not like what you’re saying, you might not want to do it, but the director sees. We feel. And we have to go by what the director is doing.
Michelle: She’s sneaky like that though. She trusts the actor so much and she’ll almost let you wear yourself out with your idea.
Harriett: She creates a safe space–it’s fun, it’s open, you can try anything. She also loves music so that if we’re having a bad day, she’d put on some great music and we’ll just move about and we all come together spiritually and it’s like we’re on the same level.
Joniece: She has a very positive energy when she comes into the room. That’s always helpful and I appreciate it.
Margarita: Marcus also was inspired by stories from his family in New Orleans and the Plaçage system, which is not often spoken about. I was wondering if you could explain to our readers what that is.
Harriett: It was a common-law marriage between women of color and their white counterparts, who also had a household on the other side of town. It was a sort of business agreement, but yet there was love, at least in most cases. If the man had a lot of money, it was very beneficial to the woman of color. These women were pretty much money in this town, helping these men keep their businesses. But those arrangements were frowned upon by the Puritans when they started coming back. So it all was coming to a head at that night when the Louisiana Purchase was about to happen.
Michelle: It’s a caste system. And it’s an extra layer of caste system, because it was a contrast to the Puritans, who don’t own their sin. Do you know what I mean? They didn’t recognize their illegitimate children. They would sell them off.
Marie: A lot of the women from France couldn’t get to Louisiana because they were so delicate and many of them would die when they were traveling. The men would arrive, and here were these beautiful black women who were very attracted to these men. What was the thing Marcus said about the hair? White woman were very upset about the black women’s hair.
Michelle: It was so exotic.
Marie: So then they made them wear the hair wigs, they made it into a law. They even made the hair gear more exciting to look at.
Michelle: But everything has a cost. What I think is interesting about this and how it’s explored in the play is the question, what is freedom? If your freedom is dependent on how close you are to whiteness, is it really free? They’re free women of color, but they’re about to be stripped of their inheritance.
Margarita: And the play also explores internalized racism, like how the eldest daughter tells the younger sister that her darker skin is not attractive.
Michelle: We still have that.
Marie: We 100% really have that in the South. I grew up with that nonsense. My father used to say, when talking about hair “All hair is good as long as it covers the head”
Margarita: Luis Rafael Sánchez, a Puerto Rican author, wrote an essay about racism in Puerto Rico called Pelo malo or “bad hair” because there’s a lot of internalized racism in Puerto Rico despite our African heritage. In the essay he states that the only “bad” hair is hair that falls off.
Michelle: Yeah, and it’s talking about worth and how we as women are still dealing with all this worth placed on us outside of ourselves. What is valuable? What makes you valuable?
Harriett: I remember going to Puerto Rico because my boyfriend at the time was Puerto Rican, and we went to the museum and saw where Puerto Ricans were made from, a heritage of African and Spanish and Native. But I could see people judging us, because he was very fair, like you, and I was very brown. So we would drive down to Carolina and it was like, Oh, so this is where the brown people are. So yeah, it’s a little intense in Puerto Rico.
Margarita: Yeah, that idea resonated with me when I saw the play. I think it’s the evil of colonialism. Even though you’re a colonial subject, you’re still being led to believe that whiteness is the ideal.
Harriett: But then in the summer, why does everyone want to get tan and darken the skin?
Michelle: It’s a mind fuck. It’s so seeded. And they still have power.
Margarita: That’s why it’s so powerful when Makeda gives that speech about embracing the beauty of blackness. It’s a very empowering thing, and it’s a celebration of all black women, darker skin, lighter skin, it doesn’t matter. It’s all part of a shared heritage.
Harriett: Our young girls have it too. I saw a video on Facebook, it was a round table discussion with teenage girls, all around 11 or 12 years old. A brown girl was speaking, a very beautiful girl with long hair. And she was saying how she thought she was ugly because she was brown. There were kids of all colors there, and they were trying to encourage and tell her, No, you’re beautiful! I wish I had skin like that. I wish my eyes were like that. But she was hearing none of it. It was so sad to see that already built in. And where is that coming from?
Joniece: That’s interesting to me because I’m dark. But I didn’t experience dark being bad until I got to graduate school, when I was good and grown. And it was a shock to me. I went to a historically black college so I knew what the Brown Paper Bag Test was and all of the issues around color, but I had never experienced it directly. I remember calling my mother and saying How did you raise me? Because I don’t understand how I was able to avoid hearing things like You’re pretty for a dark skinned girl. I never experienced that. I had to call my friends and be like Did I miss something?
Juliana: It’s like Odette!
Joniece: I was also born in the north. I was raised in Philly and like Marie said, that’s something that I imagine maybe happened more in the South. I’m just just speaking to my experience growing up in like the eighties and the nineties.
Michelle: I think it was some class stuff too. I mean when I was growing up there was a lot of classism.
Marie: That gets ridiculous after awhile. I guess for all of us who’ve experienced these kinds of caste or color issues, it depends on our families and how strongly they were teaching us that we were okay. We all probably have many different complexions in our families because of slavery, because of segregation, because of all of that. So I never even thought about it too much. I knew it existed. I hated the thought of it. I don’t like being compared. I don’t like being in a situation where I have to be like everybody else. That’s so Southern, so middle class, and that’s so bourgeois. I had to get the hell out in order to be different. I couldn’t be different because everybody else had to do the same thing that everybody else knew. That irks me, down to my core. This play is wonderful and I’m excited to be in it and to translate any kind of message that will make somebody think about what’s going on now.
Margarita: When I saw the play, there were a lot of black people in the audience, and there was so much palpable energy.
Joniece: It’s a different play when it’s a majority white audience. When there are a lot of black people, every single line or moment that has some juice in it; they get it out, you know. It seems different when it’s…I don’t even want to say a black audience, but, like the culture.
Margarita: The energy changes.
Harriett: But as actors, we can’t judge the audience. You may be tempted to push when you’re not getting that response, but sometimes you have to live in the moment. Sometimes people are crying, they’re listening. We transported them to another place.
Margarita: Right, people respond differently to art, there’s no right or wrong way to appreciate it.
Juliana: It’s fun to have a raucous show where there’s a huge response, but there’s also something really powerful about feeling an audience that’s listening and working really hard to understand and absorb something new. And to feel like we’re giving certain audiences something they’ve never seen or heard before is really special.
Marie: Sometimes people rise to their feet after being quiet all this time. They’ve been enjoying it in their own way. Sometimes the raucous audiences annoy me. [laughs] You have to be careful when people are so involved, and so on every joke and line. They will take over the show. I’ve seen that happen and you have to stop, breathe and allow them to finish and realize it’s not their place to continue to laugh for 20 minutes.
Joniece: I think ultimately it’s a shared experience no matter who the audience is. They are in it, whether they’re just sitting here and listening and observing everything or having a very visceral vocal response to it. It’s a shared energy.
Marie: You don’t have theater until you have an audience.
Margarita: I agree. What I was trying to get to is that there’s something really great about being surrounded by people who are part of your tribe, and where you feel you can express yourself. I think for a long time, theater has felt like a very white space, and it’s important for theater to make all audiences feel welcome.
Harriett: We have had black people come to the show in a mostly white audience, and they wanted to cry out but they felt they couldn’t do it. And then you have the opposite, where they’re sitting there looking at us wondering Do I join in?
Margarita: I think that it’s important when we talk about wanting to diversify theater to not just focus on what’s being presented onstage, but to also talk about the audience. There’s a perception that most of the people who go to the theater are white, but I think a lot of it has to do with how welcoming it is or isn’t to non-white audiences.
Harriett: Theater has to be reaching out to everyone. You can’t just do one show of color and expect that people of color to just come. You have to already be engaging that.
Michelle: Dominique Morisseau has those Audience Rules of Engagement that she did for Pipeline and it’s like you can laugh, you can express yourself or not. The Public did a survey where they were asking people how they feel about the theater, their concerns, etc. And do you know what the number one question people had was? What do I wear? Yeah. People do not feel like they can just come and be. They feel like there are all these rules. But who cares what you wear? Somehow that’s not getting translated, and I think that doing more plays like Sugar in Our Wounds and this one, where you bring people in to have an experience together in time and space is really important. This is subversive. Putting this up on stage. Seven women of color who are speaking their truths.
Joniece: There’s something about black women telling a story about black women. We are making history and telling history at the same time.
Margarita: And it’s for black audiences. It invites an audience of any type, but it very much feels like this play is for black audiences in particular.
Joniece: And I’m excited about that.
Juliana: I think it’s pretty great. There are posters for the show all over the city in the subways and I feel like that’s a really groovy way to get people to come who aren’t just the old, blue haired crowd, and to make it feel like kids can come see this. It’s not just like, you know, whatever The Rock’s new movie is. It’s also Look at this other thing that’s a cultural event! And they did something really smart too, by putting all of our faces down at the bottom of the poster. At first I was like That’s kinda weird. But then I realized that if someone sees that and they take five seconds to look, they’re going to see that it’s all women of color, and that’s an invitation.
Marie: Vinnette Carroll was a wonderful director and she said that people like to see women on stage. Attractive women, as she kept saying. [laughs] What that meant to her, I don’t know. But I’m glad to see plays about women. Mr. Wilson was very wonderful. However, his plays had one woman, maybe two women. His plays are done all the time and it’s time for the #metoo generation or whatever you want to call it. It’s time. Wake up, ladies. It’s time to show up. Women directors, young women directors and playwrights. I had the privilege of meeting Lorraine Hansbury many years ago, and she of course was on Broadway with A Raisin in the Sun, but that was it. She said We need more writers. She said that then. And it’s happening now. I think it’s just extraordinary.
Margarita: And if you want to create new artists, you have to attract them in the first place.
Marie: And have some place for them to show their work. The National Endowment of the Arts around 20 years ago made it a rule that regional theater has to do at least one show that is African-American oriented. So then all of a sudden here they come looking for us because they knew they had to have at least one. And of course it was always done in February [laughs].
Joniece: One thing that’s been very exciting is seeing the reaction from my peers or colleagues, those other black actresses who see this show and they’re moved and affected and appreciate seeing us on stage, because we’re a reflection of them. It’s so rare to get this opportunity. Harriett and I made a list of all the plays that we could think of that just had black women in them. We might be working on an Anthology.
Juliana: How many could you think of?
Harriett: Was it fifteen?
Joniece: No, we came up with twelve. Just twelve plays with only black women in them.
Margarita: Do you know anything about the set designer Adam Rigg? The stage is stunning. In Lorca’s play the whiteness of the house is a big thematic element, and this design echoes that beautifully while still being very reminiscent of New Orleans.
Juliana: He went to the Yale School of drama with Lileana, so they’ve been collaborating for almost a decade. Lileana did Doctor Faustus Lights the Lights, the Gertrude Stein play. The fact that I know this reveals the extent to which I stalked her online. [laughs] He designed her thesis many years ago and they’ve worked together since.
Margarita: You have been extended through August 19th, congratulations. Why do you want people to come see this play?
Marie: Cause it’s good! And the acting is wonderful! [laughs] It’s got all the elements. Conflict, love and humor. Like life itself. You don’t have to sit and be scared to breathe because something tragic will happen any given moment. Then something happens to make you laugh. And then something happens to make you see the love. It’s got all the elements and it’s very well put together.
Michelle: Monica Williams who is a director and does some dramaturgy was saying that this is like the epitome of black theater, right? It’s got the spirituality and it’s got the lyricism. It’s dealing with literal issues and what’s oppressing us, but it’s us having this conversation, do you know what I mean? Not someone coming in and doing the oppressing. It’s got pageantry. It’s like a culmination of everything that we’ve been doing for ourselves at National Black Theater and these small theaters where we were trying to work out these themes. It’s all come together under the auspice, but with so many resources and talented women.
Joniece: I just had this thought. One thing I love about women, and black women in particular, is that I know that if I need nurturing and love and support and healing, that I can go to my sisters and they will cover me and take care of me. I think that audiences feel that when they come and see this. There is love and nurturing and support and they are welcome to be here.
Juliana: Someone said that to me at opening. She said, I’ve been going to the theater for 60 years and it’s rare to feel that quantity of love among the company, so much so that it spills out into the audience. I thought that was a very kind and beautiful observation.
Margarita: Yeah. Not that feminist theater has to be all women, but there is something about seeing only women on stage that’s so powerful just on its own.
Marie: We are powerful. Sometimes we don’t realize it. Because we live in a patriarchal society. I’ve never felt less than any man in my life, including my husband. I’ve never been anybody’s shrinking violet. I didn’t come from that kind of environment and I don’t intend to in my life, which is why I left a place where everybody had to be a shrinking violet. Can’t do it. I guess in my personal history, it’s right on for me to be able to do this play at this junction in my life and I feel very appreciative of it. I’m inspired by all of this talent around me. It’s very competitive. [laughs]
Michelle: But it’s ambitious as shit. There are a lot of moving parts. I feel like we’re trying to bake a cake and everybody’s got different ingredients.
Marie: Please understand what I mean about competitive. I’m talking about good competition. It makes you rise to the occasion. There’s not a moment when I’m like Ooh get off that stage!
Michelle: And that’s it. We’re all baking the same cake and we have different things to add to it. I remember when it started to come together, during previews and was like Oh shit, now that’s lovely!
Joniece Abbott-Pratt New York: The Good Negro (Public Theater). Regional: Sunset Baby (City Theatre), Seven Guitars (Actors Theater of Louisville), The Mountaintop (Geva Theatre), Seven Guitars (No Rules Theater Company), The House That Will Not Stand (Berkeley Repertory Theatre and Yale Repertory), Stick Fly (Arden Theatre), A Raisin in the Sun (Palm Beach Dramaworks), Slippery as Sin (Passage Theatre), Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Huntington Theatre Company), Gem of the Ocean (Hartford Stage), The Piano Lesson (Yale Rep and Delaware Theatre Company), The Good Negro (Dallas Theatre Center), Mama’s Gonna Buy You (William Inge Theatre Festival), Dirt Rich (NY Summer Stage), Stick Fly and The Overwhelming (Contemporary American Theatre Festival), False Creeds (Alliance Theatre Company), Breath, Boom (Synchronicity Performance Group) and The Doll Play’s (Actor’s Express). Television: “Instinct,” “Blindspot,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Orange Is the New Black,” “Show Me a Hero,” “Luke Cage.” Training: Clark Atlanta University; MFA–University of Iowa.
Juliana Canfield: Juliana recently starred in the Theater for a New Audience production of He Brought Her Heart Back in a Box, in what the The Hollywood Reporter called an “affecting performance,” New York Magazine lauded it as “luminous,” and The New York Times hailed as “perfect.” She followed that with a performance in the Fourth Street Theater’s production of Zürich, opposite Paul Wesley, that The New Yorker called “especially good.” Juliana recently shot a recurring role on the highly-anticipated upcoming HBO series “Succession,” opposite Brian Cox and Kieran Culkin, and directed by Adam McKay. She graduated with an MFA from the Yale School of Drama.
Harriett D Foy Broadway: Amelie, Amazing Grace, The American Plan, Mamma Mia and Once on This Island. Off-Broadway: X or Betty Shabazz vs The Nation, Rimbaud in New York (BAM), On the Levee (AUDELCO nomination) and Crowns (AUDELCO Award). Original Cast recordings: Amelie, Amazing Grace, Inside Out, Lone Star Love and Reunion. Regional: Nina Simone: Four Women (as Nina Simone – Arena Stage); Ella: First Lady of Song (DTC); MotherFreakingHood! (NYMF – Outstanding Individual Performance Award); The House That Will Not Stand (Yale Rep, Connecticut Critics Award Nomination; Berkeley Rep, Theatre Bay Award); dance of the holy ghosts (Yale Rep); Breath and Imagination (ArtsEmerson); LMNOP (Goodspeed); Ambassador Satch (Dubai); The Women of Brewster (Helen Hayes Nomination), Polk County (Helen Hayes Nomination) and The Piano Lesson (Arena Stage); Reunion (Ford’s Theater – Helen Hayes Nomination); and Seven Guitars (Center Stage). Film: Winter’s Tale, Collateral Beauty. Television: “Welcome to the Wayne,” “Orange Is the New Black,” “Rescue Me,” “Law & Order: SVU,” and “Law & Order.” BFA in Acting – Howard University “WGATAP!”
Marie Thomas recently returned from the Goodman Theatre in Chicago playing Sadie Delaney in Having Our Say. She played Nina Dubois in Charles Smith’s Knock Me a Kiss in New York at the New Federal Theater, the National Black Theater Festival in Winston Salem, NC, and at Crossroads Theater in New Brunswick, NJ. She received the Audelco Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance. Also at Crossroads Theater, she was Sister Moore in the Amen Corner and Dorabelle in The Disappearance with Ruby Dee. Other Theater credits include The Summer House at The Passage Theater in Trenton, NJ; Goneril in King Lear, starring Avery Brooks, at the Yale Repertory Theater in New Haven, Connecticut; Samm-Art William’s The Dance on Widow’s Row at the New Federal Theater in New York and The National Black Theater Festival. She was Pam in Richard Wesley’s, The Talented Tenth in New York and in Atlanta at the National Black Arts Festival. She received an Audelco Award for Best Actress for her performance of Pam and an Audelco nomination for her performance in An Evening with Josephine Baker Off-Broadway and at the National Black Arts Festival. She has appeared on Broadway in the musical Don’t Bother me I Can’t Cope and at Lincoln Center in The Duplex and Antigone. Television and film credits include “The Cosby Mysteries,” “L.A. Law,” “Knots Landing,” “Amen” and on the daytime dramas “The Doctors,” “One Life To Live,” “As The World Turns” and the film Hot Shots
Michelle Wilson is best known for her Tony-nominated performance in the Pulitzer-Prize winning play Sweat. Wilson played long-time factory worker Cynthia, a role she originated off-Broadway at the Public Theatre before the show transitioned to Broadway with incredible reviews. In 2017, Sweat received three Tony award nominations including Best Play, and Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role for Wilson. Wilson’s other notable theater credits include A Raisin in the Sun, Detroit ’67, Follow Me to Nellie’s, Fahrenheit 451, Two Trains Running, The People Before the Park and more. Wilson also had memorable turns on the small screen in “The Good Fight,” “Blue Bloods” and “E.R.,” as well as in indie films Nehemiah, Sink and The Bicycle. Wilson can be seen next in the indie film The True Adventures of Wolfboy alongside Jaeden Lieberher and John Turturro. The film is currently in production.