New York- May 24, 2019 – Full casting has been announced for the staged reading of David Stallings’ new drama Leonora, which will be performed at The Williams CME Institutional Church in Harlem on Monday June 3 at 7pm.

The reading is presented by New York Classical Theatre in association with Voza Rovers/New Heritage Theatre Group and David Heron’s Sure Thing Productions, as part of New York Classical’s ‘Diversifying the Classics’ series.

Leonora is inspired by Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and is based on a concept by Antonio Miniño, who also directs the reading.

The play is set in pre-independent Jamaica in late 1951, where Leonora Hartell--a Jamaican woman of color married to a white British banker--watches  her world unravel when former acquaintances re-enter her life, threatening to expose secrets from her past.

According to New York Classical Artistic Director Stephen Burdman, “The cast assembled for Leonora is an accomplished ensemble of actors whose resumes span the worlds of Broadway, Off Broadway, film and television. We are extremely pleased and very excited to have them onboard, to bring to life this incredible script by David Stallings.”

Nehassaiu deGannes will appear as Leonora Hartell. deGannes was most recently seen at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Romeo and Juliet and Our Town. She has also appeared Off Broadway in Is God Is (Soho Rep) and The Balcony

(Red Bull) as well as regionally in Intimate Apparel (Shakespeare and Company) and Sweat (Cleveland Playhouse).

Brad Fraizer will portray Tristan Hartell, husband to Leonora. Fraizer has appeared Off Broadway in New York Classical’s The Winter’s Tale and in Three on A Couch (Soho Playhouse) as well as in the Kennedy Center national tour of Alice. His television credits include Marvel’s Luke Cage, Quantico, and Shades of Blue.

David Heron will play Dr Mike Newell, close friend to the Hartells. Heron’s Off Broadway credits include The Winter’s Tale (New York Classical), The Emperor Jones (Irish Rep) and his own play Love and Marriage and New York City (Billie Holiday Theatre). He has been seen regionally in Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare Festival St Louis) and Marley-The Musical (Baltimore Centerstage).

Oneika Philips appears as Kalisa Williams, childhood friend to Leonora. Philips was last seen on Broadway in SpongeBob SquarePants-The Musical. Her additional Broadway credits include Amazing Grace and Fela! She has also appeared in national and international tours of Fela!  and West Side Story, and portrayed Anita in West Side Story on London’s West End.

Lisa Tharps is cast as Vinisha, caregiver to the Hartell children. Tharps last appeared onstage in The Royale at Geva Theatre in Rochester New York. She has also appeared in New York Classical’s The Winter’s Tale and on Broadway in King Hedley 11 andRomeo and Juliet. Her other regional credits include A Midsummernight’s Dream (Shakespeare Theatre of DC) and Medea (Boston Court). On television, she has appeared in Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Power and Elementary among others.

James Duke Walker will play Shamar Campbell, banking employee to Tristan Hartell. Walker made his stage acting debut in BRO at Manhattan Rep and has also appeared onstage in Against His Will (The Vibe). His screen credits include the film Roadside Assistanceand the television series The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel and Diabolical.

Aya Spence portrays Emma Hartell, Leonora’s daughter.  A successful child actress and model, she has appeared in the television seriesA Crime To Remember as well as in campaigns for Target, J.Crew and Little Marc Jacobs.

This staged reading production of Leonora is sponsored by New York City Council Member Bill Perkins and the NYC Council Cultural Immigrant Initiative.

The Williams Institutional CME Church is located at 2239 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Boulevard at 132nd Street, New York, NY, 10027.

Admission to the reading is free.

Reservations can be made at nyclassical.org/Leonora.

PHOTO- Actress Nehassaiu deGannes



    PRESS RELEASE: February 17, 2020

    Voza Rivers/New Heritage Theatre Group and Williams Institutional CME Church presents "IT IS AFRICAN"
    Featuring the music of the AfroHORN Band & International
    Oyu Oro Afro- Cuban Dance Company 


    HARLEM: FEBRUARY 17, 2020
    Voza Rivers/New Heritage Theatre Group and Williams Institutional CME Church will present IT IS AFRICAN, a spiritual afternoon of African music and dance, on Sunday March 8, 2020 at 5pm. This special Harlem premiere performance features Francisco Mora-Catlett and his New York-based Afro Horn jazz ensemble, and a dance performance by the extraordinary Oyu Oro Afro-Cuban Dance company, co-founded by Mora-Catlett's wife, Cuban dancer, international Afro-Cuban folk-lore performer, choreographer, teacher and dance ethnologist from Santiago de Cuba Danys "LaMora" Perez.

    (February 2020 – Harlem, New YorkClassical actress and producer Debra Ann Byrd undertook a remarkable journey to take on the role of Shakespeare’s noble general Othello — which she recently performed for Southwest Shakespeare Company at Taliesin West, winning her the 2019 Broadway World Arizona Lead Actress Award.  This past fall the actress recorded her experiences on becoming ‘The Moor of Venice’ as writer-in-residence at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust in the UK, where she first performed her new solo show. 

    Now Southwest Shakespeare Company in partnership with Phoenix Art Museum are working together to celebrate Black History Month and Women’s History Month in Phoenix featuring visiting artist Debra Ann Byrd, as she performs her one-woman show BECOMING OTHELLO: A Black Girl’s Journey for a limited run at the Phoenix Art Museum, February 22 – March 29, 2020.

  • Voza Rivers / New Heritage Theatre Group and Rudi Mbele presents WOZA SOUTH AFRICA
    HARLEM: FEBRUARY 20, 2020 
    MOTHERLAND Messengers will make their Harlem debut as part of their 2020USA tour on Friday, March 6,at 7 PM at the historic Williams CME Church. Motherland Messengers are an ensemble of South African Gospel recording artists and musicians. Collectively they have wom numerous individul awards and have performed all over the world. This talented group of singers and musicians celebrates the power of spiritual music in their native languages and English and various musical genres including South African traditional gospel, Acapella, American Gospel and R&B. The producers are inviting all New Yorkers to come out and experience this complimentary performance and  these talented artists..
  • harlem is . . . HEALING


    Celebrating Heroes of the Pandemic And the Spirit of Community 

    In response to coronavirus, Community Works in association with New Heritage Theatre Group has launched a digital celebration called Harlem is . . .  HEALING: Celebrating Heroes of the Pandemic in the spirit of its 20-year effort to spotlight local heroes, famous or not, who make a difference.  The disease has prompted Harlem’s activist people and institutions from every field to stand up to help keep our community healthy.

    Over the next few weeks, we will be publicly thanking several who act for many in showing us how to heal. The tributes have started appearing as posts on Facebook, Instagram, Constant Contact and other social media. 

    These include the First Graduates of the CUNY Medical School, immediately thrown into the fray, artist Andrea Arroyo, whose work celebrates a community response to disease, JJ Johnson, a chef who has helped serve emergency workers, Dr. Calvin Sun, an emergency room physician,  the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture’s outreach to those at home, restaurateur Melba Wilson for her citywide efforts on behalf of restaurant owners to keep serving, the nimbleness of Dr. Steven Corwin, CEO and President of NY Presbyterian Hospital, and the community commitment of the Rev. Al Sharpton.

    These stories and those that follow will become part of exhibitions known collectively as Harlem is . . . Music, Theater, Dance and Community first on a website under construction and later at Harlem Hospital where Community Works is developing its Harlem is. . . installations at Malcolm X Boulevard at 136th Street.  Clearly, the hospital display is delayed while the institution deals with the crisis of coronavirus. 

    Community Works and New Heritage Theatre Group are partnering with the hospital to present a free, permanent physical exhibit in the famed Mural Pavilion and on the hospital’s second floor with more than 100 multimedia exhibits drawing from portraits, photographs, films, and archives from previous installations around Harlem and the city over many years. The partners also have commissioned an interactive mural by noted artist Paul Deo which will be displayed on the website as well as outside the Mural Pavilion, home to WPA-era murals that were the first to depict people of color in professional roles, and a 30-foot timeline reflecting a century of Harlem cultural history.

    Through all of these exhibits, Community Works has maintained a common mission to use the arts, performance and workshops to unite communities across differences and to share the legacy of local heroes in the blossoming of a unique neighborhood we see in Harlem.

    For information, please email Barbara Horowitz, Founder and President, Community Works at bh@communityworksnyc.org or call 917-757-2242.


    First Graduates of the CUNY Medical School

    Dr Calvin Sun       
    Dr. Calvin Sun

    Melba Wilson

    Dr. Steven Corwin

    Rev. Sharpton 
    Rev. Al Sharpton

  • THE FANNIE LOU HAMER STORY, The Voice of The Empowered (VOTE)

    THE FANNIE LOU HAMER STORY, The Voice of The Empowered (VOTE) 

    Award- Winning One-Woman Play Announces


    June 19, 2020 8PM

    New Heritage Theatre Group, Harlems’ own and New York’s oldest black not for profit black theatre, celebrating its 56th anniversary. invites you to the premiere live performance of THE FANNIE LOU HAMER Story, the critically acclaimed, award winning, one-woman play, written by and starring Mzuri Moyo Aimbaye, directed by Byron C. Saunders. The Fannie Lou Hamer Story is the story of Fannie Lou Hamer’s fight for freedom and voting empowerment, the story of one of American History’s most powerful civil rights activists.  

    New Heritage Theatre Group Executive Producer Voza Rivers is pleased to join forces with Healing Through the Sound of Music, a non-profit 501 c-3 theater production company located in Altamonte, Fl. who developed the presentation and has presented it over the last 6 years at over 50 select performing arts venues across the U.S. in support of voting rights.

    The award winning solo performance of the Fannie Lou Hamer story will debut as a live online event in Celebration of Juneteenth, on Facebook Live and Instagram Live on June 19, 2020 at 8pm. from the historic Wayne Densch Performing Arts Center in Sanford, Florida. home of the Trayvon Martin tragedy, one of the many symbols of social injustice.

    This powerful and uplifting play follows Fannie Lou Hamer’s rise from Jim Crow’s Mississippi all the way to the halls of Congress leading the Voting Rights Movement in 1964 and is very timely today. 

    “The realities of Covid -19 and the on going challenges and continuing struggles for social justice has brought communities together to deal with the a situation that harkens back to and reminds us of the civil rights struggles of the 1960s,” - Voza Rivers, Executive Producer, New Heritage Theatre Group

    “This unprecedented time of our lives brings with it a sense of urgency that we honor all of those on the front lines who have dedicated their lives to preserving our basic rights of freedom, safety, quality and democracy where all people can thrive.” says Djehuty Se Hotep, Producer Healing Through the Sound of Music.

    For more information about The FLHS visit at www.thefannielouhamerstory.com. Also check us out on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. For additional information: 

    info@thefannielouhamerstory.com and www.newheritagetheatre.org

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