THURGOOD BIOS

CAST

Lester Purry returns to Portland Playhouse after appearing as the volatile Troy Maxson in August Wilson’s Fences. He has performed in regional theatre across the country. He was  Othello in Othello, 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, Purry has played the roles of Cory in Fences, Clay in Dutchman, Hambone in Two Trains Running, Lymon in The Piano Lesson, 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 the 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, and as Justice Thurgood Marshall in Thurgood at Geva Theatre Center. Most recently as Charles at South Coast Repertory in Fireflies.

CREATIVE TEAM

George Stevens, Jr’s interest in Thurgood Marshall began with a miniseries he wrote and directed, Separate But Equal, the story of the Brown vs. Board of Education school desegregation case on which Marshall was the lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. Thurgood is his first play. Stevens is the founder of the American Film Institute and a writer, director, and producer. Motion pictures: The Thin Red Line; George Stevens: A Filmmaker’s Journey; John F. Kennedy: Years of Lightning, Day of Drums; The Diary of Anne Frank. Television: Separate But Equal (Sidney Poitier , Burt Lancaster), The Murder of Mary Phagan (Jack Lemmon, Peter Gallagher, Kevin Spacey), The Kennedy Center Honors (1978 – 2007), The American Film Institute Life Achievement Awards (1973 – 1998), America’s Millennium, D-Day to Berlin. Alfred A. Knopf recently published his book, Conversations With the Great Moviemakers of Hollywood’s Golden Age. Awards include eight awards from the Writers Guild of America, two George Foster Peabody Awards, and two Emmys.

Lou Bellamy (Director) 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. Bellamy and Penumbra are proud to have produced more of Mr. Wilson’s plays than any theater in the world. 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.        

photo of Vicki

VICKI SMITH ~

Scenic and Prop Designer

This is Vicki Smith’s Portland Playhouse debut. Her work with other regional theathers includes:  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.  Vicki has won a number of awards, including:  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.  Her mumseum exhibitions include: “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. For more information, please visit her website.

RASEAN DAVONTÉ JOHNSON

Production Designer

Rasean Davonté Johnson is excited to be working with Portland  Playhouse. A Chicago-based video artist and theatrical designer, he has had the opportunity to work  with institutions such as Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Seattle Rep, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Lookingglass Theatre Company, Court Theatre, Teatro Vista, Yale Repertory Theatre, McCarter Theatre Center, Long Wharf Theatre, Berkshire Theatre Group, Alliance Theatre, Olney Theatre Center, The  Studio Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Manual Cinema, and internationally with the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Scotland), B-Floor Theatre (Thailand), and the Ningbo Song and Dance Company  (China). MFA: DGSD at Yale. For more information please visit Rasean’s website.

DAVID LEVINE

Stage Manager

David 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 Crowns, The Wolves, and Women of Will at Portland Playhouse; and Evolve with The Red Door Project.

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