With the air conditioner busted and temperatures in the triple digits, the only thing keeping Ebony Hemmings cool is counting down the days to the end of her eight year sentence at Lehigh Penitentiary. She and the other incarcerated women on the “Liberty Unit” sew American flags for a private prison contractor in exchange for recommendations for early release. But when the woman she loves joins a worker’s strike against unfair and inhumane treatment of the women of Liberty, it ignites a powder keg of decades of hidden abuse. With tempers & temperatures boiling and her freedom on the line, Ebony knows the red stripes on the flags she sews could very easily turn to blood.
Stage Directions Mikayla Bartholomew
Editor Justin Smusz, founder of Unmuted Productions
with Ashley Ayanna, Stephanie Berry, Christopher Casserino, Katherine George, Bria Samoné Henderson, DeAnna Reed-Foster, Carolyn Michelle Smith, Andrea Syglowski
FOR WHICH IT STANDS will stream from February 19–22 on NYTW.org. This reading is offered for free to the entire NYTW community. If you are in the position to do so, we hope you’ll consider making a donation in honor of this reading to the following organizations:
⭐ A NEW WAY OF LIFE REENTRY PROJECT
A New Way of Life Reentry Project provides housing, case management, pro bono legal services, advocacy and leadership development for women rebuilding their lives after prison
Make a donation
⭐ REHABILITATION THROUGH THE ARTS
RTA helps people in prison develop critical life skills through the arts, modeling an approach to the justice system based on human dignity rather than punishment.
Make a donation
Ashley Ayanna is absolutely delighted and humbled to be working with such brilliant artists on this powerful and incredibly relevant work of art, For Which It Stands. Recent credits include featured work in Hustlers, and a staged reading of For Which it Stands at the IAMA New Play Festival. She has a BFA from Temple University and is also a recent graduate of William Esper Studio.
Just wrapping production for King Richard with Warner Bros. Pictures in Los Angeles, Mikayla Bartholomew is an actress and activist based in California and New York City. Some credits include Blanks (Roundabout Theatre), Bayano (National Black Theatre), A Doll’s House: Part 2 (Maltz Jupiter Theatre), Trojan Women, Babes in the Wood (Signature Theatre), LORDES (New Ohio Theatre), Pure (Toronto LGBT Film Fest), CBS’ “The Code” and more. Dedicated to fighting for all Black lives and marginalized communities, Mikayla is also a change agent on staff at the Broadway Advocacy Coalition. Additionally, she’s on the team of warriors and legends who organized, launched and facilitated the Broadway for Black Lives Matter Again forums, the BwayforBLM: The Miseducation forum, has facilitated at Columbia Law School with the Theatre of Change and co-facilitated And Still I Write: A Writing Workshop Dedicated to Black Womxn in support of a new BAC partnership with Exodus Transitional Community. Here is to being black, to being womxn and to taking up space, so that others may do the same. BFA in Theatre, minors in pre-nursing and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies from Virginia Commonwealth University. To her family, friends, God, A3 Artists, AEA, SAG, thank you endlessly.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, Stephanie has been blessed to continue creating and bringing the arts to our communities at large with virtual readings. Her projects include: 24 Hour Plays Viral Monologues: Fist Up; Compassion When Warranted with Evolve – The Red Door Project, Having Our Say and Who Recited Poetry When the Quarantine Got 2B2 Much with New Jersey City Theater. In response to the pandemic, she co-produced four storytelling shows for families running on YouTube. She appears in Episode 4 of “Storytime From the Village of Harlem” called “Trust Yours Friends” on YouTube. Stephanie appeared in Frankenstein where she played both the Monster and the Doctor at the Classic Stage Company in New York. This past season she appeared in for all the women who thought they were mad (Elder) at Soho Repertory Theatre and Gloria: A Life at the Daryl Roth Theatre (dir. Diane Paulus). She was nominated for a 2019 Lucille Lortel and Outer Critics Award for Best Featured Actress for her role in Sugar In Our Wounds at Manhattan Theatre Club and a Helen Hayes Award for Best Lead Actress for her role in Gem of the Ocean at the Round House Theater. She appears in “Before You Know It” and the HBO movie O.G. with Jeffrey Wright. Other film credits include: Delivery Man, Invasion, No Reservations and Finding Forrester. Television credits include “Luke Cage,” “The Last OG,” “Bull,” “Blue Bloods,” “Blacklist” and all of the “Law & Order” shows.
Off-Off-Broadway: Last Days of Judas Iscariot. Regional: Williamstown Theatre Festival: Curse of the Starving Class, Blue Ridge. Watertower Theatre: All My Sons. TV: “New Amsterdam,” “The Right Stuff,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “Blue Bloods,” “NCIS: NOLA,” “The Code,” “Mercy Street,” “Army Wives.” MFA: NYU Grad Acting.
Katherine George is an Afro-Latina performer, director, writer and educator from the Bronx, NY by way of the Dominican Republic. She received a BA in Theater from Brooklyn College and is currently getting her MFA in Acting at Columbia University. Recent acting credits include: Locked Up B*tches (Flea Theater) and The Unusual Tale of Mary and Joseph’s Baby (NYC Fringe Festival). She is also starring in the Amazon Prime Video digital-series, #LoveMyRoomie, for which she received a nomination for Best Performance in a Series at the Newark International Film Festival. She’s also an acting alumni of the 24-Hour Plays: Nationals program. She has been blessed with the opportunity of performing in various venues around the country including the Apollo Theater, Bowery Poetry Club, Carnegie Hall, the New Amsterdam Theater on Broadway, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and Radio City Music Hall. She debuted her one-woman show, Tundra and Other Dry Lands (directed by award-winning director Nicco Annan) at New York Live Arts, as well as Wild Project Theater’s, Poetic License Festival. As a spokenword poet, she represented New York in national and international competitions on the youth, collegiate, and professional adult levels. She was a proud member of the first-ever all-female slam team representing the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. As a director, she was a member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Foundation Observership class of 2016-2017. Consequently, she has assisted directors Liesl Tommy in the Public Theater’s production of Party People and Niegel Smith in the Flea Theater’s production of Synching Ink, and recently made her debut with This Is How We Heal (Wild Project). She also served as a background vocalist for Jennifer Lopez at her NBC Fourth of July performance and Live Spotify Studio Session. She is one of the founding members of Storytellers in Motion, which is an artistic community that focuses on cultivating artists while also strengthening their faith. She is also a proud member of the Dominican Artist Collective with whom she collaborated to develop, The Cooking Project, which was produced by the New York Theatre Workshop and premiered this past November. She is thankful to Lee, Bianca, and NYTW for the opportunity to bring this powerful story to life.
Bria Samoné Henderson is known for her work on “The Good Doctor.” She recently appeared as Margaret Sloan in FX’s critically acclaimed limited series “Mrs. America,” opposite Cate Blanchett, Uzo Aduba, Rose Byrne, and Sarah Paulson. She is also a spoken artist, writer and director. She previously starred in the National Black Theatre’s production of The First Deep Breath and was selected for the NBC Spotlight Diversity Showcase.
Deanna Reed-Foster is thrilled to be working with Lee Edward Colston II again. She performed in his inaugural production of The First Deep Breath for which she won a Joseph Jefferson Award for Best Supporting Actor. She is an ensemble member of Shattered Globe Theater (SGT) and her SGT credits include: Be Here Now, Mill Fire and Marvin’s Room. Other Chicago credits include: Nina Simone: Four Women (Northlight Theatre), HeLa (SideShow Theatre), The Watson’s Go To Birmingham 1963 (Chicago Children’s Theatre), Barbecue (Strawdog Theatre) and Even Longer And Farther Away (The New Colony Theatre). Regional credits include: Fences (Judy Bayley Theatre/UNLV), Nina Simone: Four Women (Merrimack Rep). Deanna can be seen in films like, Last Flag Flying, Widows and Southside With You. You can also see her as her recurring character on NBC’s “Chicago Fire.” Deanna completed the Gately Poole Acting Conservatory where she studied the Meisner technique. She is a proud member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA. She is represented by DDO Artists Agency.
Broadway: Romeo and Juliet directed by David Leveaux. Off-Broadway: Soldier X directed by Lucie Tiberghien. Williamstown Theatre Festival: Whaddabloodclottt!!! by Katori Hall. Regional: Paradise Blue directed by Awoye Timpo (Long Wharf Theatre), Rich Girl (Old Globe Theatre, San Diego). Television: “House of Cards,” “Law & Order: SVU,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” “Luke Cage,” “Colony,” “Cherish the Day,” “Notorious.” Film: Sunny Daze written and directed by Jason Wiles (Amazon), Proof of Loss (Berlin Film Festival), Reboot Camp (Austin Film Festival) and Tankhouse (2021). Special Thanks to Lee, and Bianca for this wonderful opportunity.
Andrea was last seen onstage in Labyrinth Theatre Company and the Atlantic’s co-pro of Halfway Bitches Go Straight to Heaven by Stephen Adly Guirgis. Other select theatre includes queens by Martyna Majok (Lincoln Center, LCT3), DIG written and Directed by Theresa Rebeck (Dorset Theatre Festival), Theo (Two River Theatre), The Understudy (Westport), Cry It Out (Dorset Theatre Festival/Humana), Dolls House (Huntington Theatre Company, IRNE award nom), The May Queen (Playmaker’s Rep), Dear Elizabeth (Dorset), The Nest (The Denver Center), Of Good Stock (South Coast Rep), Venus in Fur (Huntington, winner of the Elliot Norton Award and IRNE award, Best Actress). TV: “New Amsterdam,” “Blue Bloods,” “How to Get Away with Murder,” “Elementary,” “The Good Wife,” “My Russian Cousin.” Upcoming: “Evil” Season 2 on CBS ALL ACCESS. Training: USC/Juilliard-Robin Williams scholar- THANK YOU LEE, BIANCA, JUSTIN and this BEAUTIFUL CAST. I’m fortunate to be among you. For my family in Philly, and especially my brother in-law, Khalil Abdar-Rashid. You are an inspiration each and every day. Black Lives Matter.
Lee Edward Colston II is a Philly native, former prison guard turned actor, playwright, director, acting and writing coach, and author. Selected acting credits include: Intimate Apparel, The Color Purple (Nat’l tour), Seven Guitars, Hoodoo Love, In Arabia We’d All Be Kings, Hadestown (New York Theatre Workshop), The Sign in Sydney Brustein’s Window, The Winter’s Tale, Uncle Vanya, Merchant of Venice, Othello, Avenue X and Sweat (The Public Theater, reading). Television credits include: “The Black List: Redemption” (NBC), “Mr. Robot” (USA). Playwriting: Roost, Solitary and The First Deep Breath. His new plays currently in development include: For Which It Stands, This Is My America and Station. His play Solitary was winner of the 2008 Philadelphia Theater Workshop. His play Roost won the 2010 Life Media Award in the Philadelphia Urban Theater Festival and the 2013 Hidden River Arts Award for Best New Play. He was a 2017 Finalist for the Shonda Rhimes ‘Unsung Voices’ Playwriting Commission and a 2017 recipient of the National Black Theatre ‘I Am Soul’ playwriting fellowship. In 2018, Lee’s play The First Deep Breath was selected to be a part of the Victory Gardens IGNITION Festival of New Plays as well as being a semifinalist for the Page 73 playwriting fellowship and a finalist for Barrington Stage Company’s Burman New Play Award. As a teaching artist he trains actors and writers in both one on one and classroom settings with a special focus on classical training and preparing actors and writers for the industry as well as undergrad and grad school audition preparation. MFA: The Juilliard School.
REGIONAL: Glorious World of the Crowns, Kinks and Curls (Baltimore Center Stage); The Gift of the Mad Guys (Pittsburgh Public Theater/Pittsburgh); Othello. OPERA: 5 Aspects for Bass and Chamber Orchestra (Newark Veterans Park/Newark,NJ). OFF-BROADWAY: Feast: A Yoruba Tale (HERE Arts, Dream Center Harlem); Armed (Amoralist Theater Company Teatro LATEA); London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts showcase (Playwrights Horizons). NEW MEDIA: For Which It Stands (NYTW); Proclamation, Dare to Dream (FLUGELMAN/Australia); Covered (NYCSEEING2020/New York); Oh, This is Rich (Miles Square Theater/Hoboken,NJ); Spunk (Hedgepig and Classical Theater of Harlem,NYC); Choices, Sermon I Wish I’d Heard, Oldest Town in Texas (BOLD/NYC); Take Yo Shit, Do You Really Wanna Know (WHILE WE BREATHE/NYC); Uhuru (AYE DEFY/NYC); Don’t Call Me Brother (Hill Productions/Austin, TX). ASSOCIATE/ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: Thoughts of a Colored Man (Syracuse Stages; Baltimore Center Stage); A Small Oak Tree Runs Red (Billie Holiday Theater/Brooklyn); BLKS (MCC/NYC); The First Noel (Classical Theater of Harlem, Apollo Theater/NYC). FILM: The Gaze (a film quilt) Episodes 108 & 109 (Tell Me a Story Productions/Los Angeles); Mother’s Milk (Tell Me a Story Productions/NYC); Undercover Sidechick (Afro Goddess Productions/NYC), Storkers (Script Supervisor/London). LONDON: Partners (Carne Theater); LAMDA showcase (Ambassador Theater/West End). TRAINING: NCSA (diploma), SUNY Purchase (BFA-Acting), Yale, London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (MA-Directing). AWARDS: DC Black Theater Festival for Best One Act Play 2013, 2019 Best Actress Broadway World, AUDELCO for Best Ensemble 2018. Unions: SDC, AEA, SAG-AFTRA.
A New Way of Life Reentry Project (ANWOL) is a grassroots, nonprofit organization founded in 1998 by Susan Burton. After Susan’s five-year-old son was accidentally hit and killed by a car, Susan numbed her grief through alcohol and drugs. She was not offered help to address her pain. As a result, she became enmeshed in the criminal justice system for nearly two decades before finding freedom and sobriety in 1997. She has since made it her life’s mission to help others adversely affected by the problems of incarceration and addiction by providing them with support and resources. Susan has earned numerous awards and honors for her work. In 2010, she was named a CNN Top Ten Hero and received the prestigious Citizen Activist Award from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. She is a recipient of both the Encore Purpose Prize (2012) and the James Irvine Foundation Leadership Award (2014). In 2015, on the 50th Anniversary of Selma and the Voting Rights Act, Susan Burton was named by the Los Angeles Times as one of eighteen new civil rights leaders in the nation. In 2019, she received an honorary doctorate from California State University, Riverside.
A New Way of Life advances multi-dimensional solutions to the effects of incarceration. We provide housing and support to formerly incarcerated women for successful community reentry, family reunification and individual healing. We work to restore the civil rights of formerly incarcerated people and to empower, organize and mobilize formerly incarcerated people as advocates for social change and personal transformation. We envision a world where every person can make decisions for their own life, one in which they are accountable for those decisions and are valued as a contributing member of the community.
The U.S. prison system is based on punishment. Do your time, learn your lesson. The problem is, it doesn’t work – more than half of people released from prison are back within three years. This revolving door breaks down families and communities and costs taxpayers billions.
RTA offers a better approach. Founded at Sing Sing in 1996, RTA works with the New York State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and professional teaching artists to lead year-round workshops in theatre, dance, music, creative writing, and visual arts. The RTA model is to provide an intensive, comprehensive arts program that builds community and develops critical life skills so people can meet the challenges they will face when released.
RTA demonstrates that an approach based on human dignity is vastly more successful than one based on punishment. Less than 5% of RTA members return to prison, compared to the national recidivism rate of 60%.
RTA is part of several national and international coalitions and advocates for a shift in the justice system toward positive prison programming including the arts and higher education. Your support will expand RTA’s life-changing work, breaking the generational cycle of incarceration.
To learn more, visit rta-arts.org.
WPA is the nation’s first organization for women impacted by incarceration.
Our approach is personal. We address the root causes of systems involvement, know the data, and are focused on the needs and nuances of individuals. We envision a society where our reliance on incarceration has been replaced by constructive, community-driven responses.
WPA offers programs for all stages, tailored for each woman. We recognize that men and women take different paths to the criminal legal system and have diverse experiences before, during, and after incarceration. Our programs are designed specifically for women.
At WPA, we listen first. Women are the experts in their own lives and know what they need. Some women need short-term solutions while others need long-term support. Caring and committed staff listen to each woman and co-create a vision for her future.
Women come to WPA to achieve what is most important to them. Together we:
– find safe, affordable housing
– develop workplace skills and build careers
– reunify families
– plan for release while incarcerated
– achieve stability in the community rather than behind bars
– access healthcare
– work toward personal goals
– avoid additional systems involvement
WPA operates two shelters for women experiencing homelessness: one for single women and one for mothers and their children. Residents access a broad range of programs, defined by their individual goals, focused on education, employment, safe housing, health and mental health care, substance use support, and family reunification. Our shelter for single women, Hopper Home, has operated from New York’s East Village since 1857. On December 5, 2020, a fire destroyed Hopper Home’s next door neighbor, Middle Collegiate Church, resulting in extensive damage to WPA’s landmarked home and displacing 20 residents. Those women were immediately relocated and are currently in residence in Brooklyn, with WPA’s continued partnership. Recovery efforts are underway and WPA plans to return to its home on Second Avenue as soon as possible.