What I Learned in Paris Bios

CAST

Cycerli Ash
(She/Her)

Eve Madison

Cycerli (@Cycerli) was last seen at Portland Playhouse as Ebenezer Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, and before that as Director of Chicken & Biscuits. She is truly humbled and honored to reprise her role of Scrooge in this year's rendition of A Christmas Carol. She portrayed Cynthia in Sweat at Profile theater and all four ghosts of A Christmas Carol at Portland Playhouse before the pandemic. She was rehearsing as Vera in Seven Guitars at Passin Arts when they were forced to close because of the pandemic. She played multiple roles in A Life at Portland Center Stage and Risa in Two Trains Running at Passin Arts. She is the CEO of the faith-based theater company called DAE productions and is currently a professor at Portland State University. She has been seen on TVone, BET, Amazon prime  and Freeform. She has worked for The Red Door Project, Kenny Leon True Colors, The Alliance theater, Dominion, Clarence Brown theater, and the Denver Center. She gives all glory to God and is very blessed to do what she loves for a living. Cycerli went to Rutgers University on a track scholarship while majoring in theater and received her master’s in acting from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville.

Vinecia Coleman (She/Her)

Lena Jefferson

Vinecia Coleman is excited to make her Portland Playhouse debut. She is an actor and playwright based in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area since 2018. As an actor, she has worked at Penumbra Theatre (Weathering), Oregon Shakespeare Festival (The Odyssey), Jungle Theater (Georgiana & Kitty: Christmas at Pemberley), Pillsbury House Theatre (Jimmy & Lorraine: A Musing), Frank Theatre (The Visit), Transatlantic Love Affair (After The Fires), Black Ensemble Players (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and more. Her own plays have been developed at Boise Contemporary Theater’s BIPOC Festival, Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Black Swan Lab, Seven Devils Playwrights Conference, and several others. She holds an MFA in Theatre Arts from the University of Idaho and a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology from Iowa State University. You can find her plays on New Play Exchange.

La 'Tevin Alexander*
(He/Him)

John Nelson

All glory to God for this and everyday
Thankful to get another chance to play
As I tackle the role of John Nelson
I'm reminded of my people's sacrifices
They fought the good fight for all their loved ones
Which Pearl Cleage so greatly dramatizes 
Donning the Victorian apparel
I was last seen in A Christmas Carol
And before then it was Chad Deity
A rich and flashy wrestling champion
True love is full of spontaneity
Moments when feelings expand and deepen
This play shows this and more so please enjoy
This love sick lawyer known as Johnny Boy

Lester Purry* (He/Him)

J.P. Madison

Lester Purry most recently performed the role of August Wilson in his one man show How I Learned What I Learned at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival, he has performed in regional theatre across the country including a national tour as Othello in Othello, and as Augustus Newcastle in The Darker Face of the Earth and Lester Mason in The Big White Fog, all with The Guthrie Theatre. A long time company member with Penumbra Theatre where August Wilson was discovered, Purry has played the roles of Cory in Fences, Clay in Dutchman, Hambone in Two Trains Running, Lymon in The Piano Lesson (the production that Wilson said was the best he’d ever seen), Hedley in King Hedley II, and Booster in Jitney, to name a few. At Baltimore Center Stage Purry was Marvell Thunder in Thunder Knocking on the Door, as well as King of the Hill in You Can Stop On a Dime. He played Lymon in The Piano Lesson, Scarus in Antony and Cleopatra, and Mordred in Camelot at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Purry performed at Philadelphia Theatre Company as Floyd Barton in Seven Guitars, Arizona Theatre Company as Wolf in Two Trains Running, and as Troy Maxson in Fences at Portland Playhouse, Palm Beach Dramaworks and Los Angeles Performing Arts Center. He also played the role of Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at Children’s Theatre Company,  Most recently he performed the role of Charles Grace in Fireflies at South Coast Repertory Theatre Lester also captivated audiences in the one man show Thurgood to as Thurgood Marshall at Portland Playhouse and to consistently sold out houses a Geva Theatre Center both directed by Lou Bellamy.

Lauren Steele*(She/Her)

Ann Madison

Lauren Steele is a multidisciplinary artist from Portland, Oregon with a BFA in Theatre from Southern Methodist University. Lauren is happy to be returning to Portland Playhouse after her role in Bella: An American Tall Tale earlier this season. You may have recently seen her at Portland Center Stage in Tick… Tick… Boom,  the ripple, the wave that carried me home, or in the first two installments of the Queen’s Girl Trilogy at Clackamas Repertory Theatre. Featured in Willammette Week’s 2022 list of  “Best New Bands”, Lauren also performs locally under the name Lo Steele at venues and festivals around town including 1905, Mississippi Studios, The Waterfront Blues Festival and Cathedral Park Jazz Festival. Check out @losteele on social media and any streaming platform to keep up with her upcoming performances!

Andrea Vernae*^

Understudy - Eve, Lena & Ann

Andrea Vernae is ecstatic to return home to the Portland Playhouse. She is honored to be apart of a story that uplifts and gives life to Black Love. You might have seen her last in August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean at Portland Center Stage. She is glad to uplift and support such an incredible cast, crew, and production team.  

Eric Island

Understudy J.P. & John

Eric holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Southern Arkansas University and is a veteran of the US Army. This is Eric’s second contracted performance at Portland Playhouse (his first was as Understudy for Chicken & Biscuits). Eric was featured in the award winning play The Measure of Innocence (as Barnadine) in 2020 at Bag&Baggage theater, as well as their most recent production of TROY USA in 2022 where he took lead as Paris/Troy Lee. You can find him on YouTube in the Sequestered Soliloquies series or onstage at Helium Comedy Club performing in Portland's Funniest Person competition, helping people laugh their blues away. Other companies Eric has worked for include Oregon Children’s Theater, WorldStage Theater, and PassinArt. Other favorite roles include: Sheriff Hastie Lanyon in The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde; Frederick Douglass in Crossroads at Chambersburg; Dr. Martin Luther King in Who I Am: Celebrating Me and Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction~The Musical Parody. Eric is a father of three, Stand-Up Comedian, Hip-Hop Artist and all around Jack of all trades! He's native to southern Arkansas but currently resides in Portland, Oregon. Eric’s love for people, storytelling, and entertainment led him to a theatrical audition in 2012…and let’s say he’s never looked back. Eric would like to thank his family and friends for all their prayers and support.

IG: @eisland7

Facebook: Eric L Island

CREATIVE TEAM

Pearl Cleage

Playwright

Pearl Cleage (Playwright) is an Atlanta-based writer whose works include three novels, What Looks Like Crazy On An Ordinary DayI Wish I Had A Red Dress and Some Things I Never Thought I’d Do; a dozen plays, including Flyin’ WestBlues for an Alabama Sky, Hospice and Bourbon at the Border; two books of essays, Mad at Miles: A Blackwoman’s Guide to Truth and Deals With the Devil and Other Reasons to Riot; and a book of short fiction, The Brass Bed and Other Stories. She is also a performance artist, collaborating frequently with her husband, Zaron W. Burnett, Jr., under the title Live at Club Zebra. The two have performed sold out shows at both the National Black Theatre Festival in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and The National Black Arts Festival in Atlanta, Georgia. She is a frequent contributor to anthologies and has been featured recently in Proverbs for the PeopleContemporary African American Fiction and in Mending the WorldStories of Family by Contemporary Black Writers. She is a Contributing Writer to Essence magazine, and in 1998, her novel, What Looks Like Crazy On An Ordinary Day was an Oprah Book Club pick and spent nine weeks on The New York Times bestseller list.

Lou Bellamy '(SDC)

Director

Lou Bellamy, last seen at Portland Playhouse as Director of Thurgood,is the founder and artistic director emeritus of Penumbra Theatre. During his 40 year tenure, Penumbra evolved into one of America’s premier theaters dedicated to dramatic exploration of the African American experience. Under his leadership, Penumbra has grown to be the largest theater of its kind in America and has produced over 40 world premieres, including August Wilson’s first professional production. Mr Bellamy and Penumbra are proud to have produced more of Mr. Wilson’s plays than any theater in the world. Mr Bellamy is an OBIE Award-winning director, an accomplished actor, and for 38 years was appointed as an Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota in the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance. Mr. Bellamy most recently directed Penumbra’s productions of Pipeline and Brothers Paranormal. Directing credits outside of Penumbra include plays at Indiana Repertory Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, South Coast Repertory, Arizona Theatre Company, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Penumbra Theatre Company, Signature Theatre, Cleveland Playhouse, Guthrie Theater, Kennedy Center for Performing Arts, Geva Theatre, Kansas City Repertory, Gem Theater, Round House, and Hartford Stage.

Vicki Smith~

Scenic Design

PORTLAND PLAYHOUSE:  Debut. REGIONAL THEATRES:  Children’s Theatre Company Minneapolis, South Coast Repertory Theatre, Penumbra Theatre Company, Arizona Theatre Company, Denver Center Theatre Company, Geva Theatre Center, Cleveland Playhouse, Indiana Repertory Theatre, Cincinnati Playhouse, Milwaukee Repertory Theatre, Utah Shakespeare Festival, Geva Theatre Center,  Guthrie Theatre, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Seattle Repertory Theatre, Repertory Theatre  of St. Louis, Actors Theatre Louisville, Vigszinhas and Nemseti Szinhas (Hungary), Anchorage Opera, Minnesota Opera, Seattle Repertory Theatre.  AWARDS:  Bay Area Critics Award – Kite Runner, Execution of Justice;  Dramalogue Award– Cyrano; Colorado Theatre Guild Henry Awards – Mariela in the Desert, Plainsong, Pierre; Denver Post Ovation Awards – Mariela in the Desert, Pierre, I’m Not Rapaport; Times Newspaper (Cleveland) Theatre Tribute – Raisin in the Sun; Prague Quadrennial Design Exposition 2007.  MUSEUM EXHIBITIONS:  “Penumbra Theatre at 40” – Minnesota Historical Center; “No Small Parts, the Role of Scale Models in Theatre Set Design” – Mini Time Machine Museum of Miniatures, Tucson. WEBSITE:  vickismithsetdesign.com

Dana Rebecca Woods~

Costume Designer

Dana is happy to reprise What I Learned in Paris with Lou Bellamy and the design team for the Portland Playhouse! Dana’s theater designs include The Story of Biddy Mason at UC Irvine; Miss Maude for The AD Players at the George Theatre; The Color Purple at Sacramento Music Circus; What I Learned in Paris at South Coast Repertory Theater; Intimate Apparel at Orlando Shakes; A Medusa Thread and In the Red and Brown Water at UC Santa Barbara; Tiny Beautiful Things and Pipeline, at Ensemble Theater Cincinnati; The Reclamation of Madison Hemings, at Indiana Repertory Theater; Blues in the Night at the Laguna Playhouse; Shout Sister Shout, Fences, and others for The Pasadena Playhouse. Film & TV design work includes John Sayles’ Go For Sisters; and telenovela Watch Over Me. Dana has taught at UCF, UCLA, and has been guest speaker at LA Trade Tech College.

Miranda Hardy

Lighting Designer

Miranda k Hardy is a multidisciplinary designer. Previously for Portland Playhouse she designed lights for The Piano Lesson and No Candy. In the Playhouse space she also lit A Kaddish for Bernie Maddof and Fronteriza.  Other work in Portland has been with Artists Repertory Theater, Oregon Children’s Theater, Profile Theater, Theatre Diaspora, Kate Duffly, Hand2Mouth, Reed College, the August Wilson Red Door Project and she is an associate company member with the Portland Experimental Theater Ensemble PETE.  She is currently adjunct faculty at Lewis & Clark College teaching scenography.  Her work has been seen nationally and internationally focusing on the New and Experimental while staying grounded in the generally possible impossible. CalArts/NYC/PDX. 

Ryann St Julien
(They/He)

Prop Manager/Run Crew

Ryann is a theatre technician based in Portland, Oregon.  They recently received a B.A. in theater from Lewis and Clark College, where their credits include props master for The Secretaries, (Lewis and Clark College); and Medea (Lewis and Clark College).  They were a member of the scene shop crew for Lewis and Clark productions of Medea, Passion Play, The Secretaries, Cabaret, The Christians, Stupid Fucking Bird, and Sweeney Todd.  They have worked around Portland on productions such as King of the Yees (Profile Theater), The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (Profile Theater), Chicken and Biscuits (Portland Playhouse), and Home/Land (Hand2Mouth). They are excited to work with the Portland Playhouse community on this production of What I Learned in Paris.

David Levine*

Stage Manager

David Levine is a lifelong Portlander and former teacher who comes from a long line of educators-turned-actors, dating back to 1950's summer camp in the Catskills. Recent stage manager credits include: In the Name of Forgotten Women at CoHo; Evolve with The Red Door Project; and Thurgood at Portland Playhouse.

Keela Johnson MS (She/Her)

Cultural Competency and Creative Consultant

Keela works as a Cultural Competency Consultant for Portland Playhouse. She began her work in this role during the 21/22 production season and is continuing in her role for the 22/23 season. Keela also works as a private consultant for non-profit and other organizations, as well as an educator at Portland State University. She specializes in institutional, structural, and inter/intrapersonal oppressive ideologies, frameworks, policies, and narratives with an emphasis on healing spaces for all.  Her work over the past 7 years with Portland Playhouse has consisted of providing workshops and other facilitations for staff, critical dialogic spaces for the greater community and critical dialogic spaces for affinity groups. She is moving into her second production year in this role and is so happy, honored and humbled to be on this wonderful journey.

Imani Henry+

Assistant Stage Manager

Imani Rae Henry, is a Senior, Technical Theater major at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, she hails from Atlanta, Georgia. This is her first professional show as an Assistant Stage Manager, however, she has worked several shows as the Stage Manager within the FAMU Essential Theater. As a member of the Essential Theatre program, Imani has achieved two back to back Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival nominations. She has also received the KCACTF Heart of the Art Award (2021) and the Recognition of Achievement in Stage Management (2022), along with an additional special recognition in Stage Management (2022).

Dayna Lucas (She/Her)

Costume Assistant

Dayna’s past credits include A Christmas Carol at Portland Playhouse, in addition to:  A Noise Within Theater (Pasadena, CA): Argonautika (2019),  FILM/TV: Bilal's Stand (Film), Babysitter's Black Book (TV) among others. EDUCATION: BA, Communication/Film—University of Michigan; Fashion Design—FIDM,  Dayna is very honored and thrilled to be the Costumer for Portland Playhouse’s production of A Christmas Carol, and she appreciates the love and support from her family and friends.

 

May Mahala

Dramaturg

Cassie Greer (She/Her)

Covid Compliance Officer

Cassie received her training in the MFA Acting program at Florida Atlantic University; the BA Theatre, History, and Music programs at Goshen College; and in the 9th Certification group of Fitzmaurice Voicework® teachers. She has worked professionally around the country as an actor, director, designer, stage manager, administrator, educator, and facilitator. In the Portland area, she spent 11 years with Bag&Baggage Productions, working on more than 30 projects and serving as Artistic Director from 2019-2022; she is honored and grateful to now be playing with and supporting the incredible teams here at Portland Playhouse! Find details on her various interests and projects past, present, and future at cassiegreer.com. Huge love and thanks to her family and friends around the country for their continual love, support, and energy. @cassiegreer

Brent Hall

Head Carpenter

Allison Blaine
(She/Her)

Head Electrician

Allison is a lighting designer around the Portland area, in theatre, dance, and performance art. Recent designs include The Winter's Tale with the Portland Shakespeare Project, Camelot with the Lakewood Center for the Arts, and Open Space Dance's first company performance, Sheen. In addition to design work, Allison is the Playhouse's lead electrician, and this fall was the lighting lead for the 2022 Time Based Art Festival at the Portland Institute for Contemporary Art.

David Pritchard

Scenic Artist

Natalie Scott

Sound Engineer

Jim Lykins

Furniture Carpenter

Lance Woolen

Welder

Recobe Scott+

Production Apprentice

Recobe, a Georgia native and a new Apprentice for the Portland Playhouse, is a staple of the arts. His first exposure to theatre came from his high school, Martha Ellen Stilwell School of the Arts, in which he began his first main stage production in the musical, A Chorus Line, as Mark. His education further continued at the illustrious Florida A&M University, where he began to dive deeper into technical production. While being the lead Sound Operator and Designer for FAMU's Essential Theatre Recobe has performed for several shows which include: Chicken & Biscuits, A Cool Drink A Water, Letter from Birmingham Jail, Sweet Mama String bean, and more. He has also been the Sound Operator and Performer for the FAMU Connection, the Presidential Tour. During Recobe‘s spare time, he DJs all types of events; from birthday parties to school functions. You can find him on Instagram: @recobeeeee
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