Theatre Review: Closely Related Keys

Closely Related Keys_6Complications and celebrations of the Mixed Experience are in abundance in playwright Wendy Graf’s new play Closely Related Keys. The opening scene features Julia (played with endless energy by Diarra Kilpatrick) mid-orgasm with her boyfriend Ron (Ted Mattison). Julia is African American, Ted is not. Later we meet Julia’s father, Charlie (played by Brent Jennings), who informs Julia that she has a half sister, Neyla – who is Iraqi. Neyla (the impressive Yvonne Huff) needs a place to stay while in New York for an audition at Juilliard, and Charlie announces to Julia – at the worst time possible in her life – that Neyla will stay with her. The playwright is a white Jewish woman, and the director, Shirley Jo Finney, is African American.

Though the opening sex scene feels somewhat gratuitous, what follows is a balanced and provoking representation of cultures, races and intimate relationships colliding and evolving. Graf is not afraid to tackle race, privilege and stereotypes head-on. And while Graf may not have direct experience living within the cultures she represents, her play displays research and caring for those cultures, and for our contemporary struggle with judgement of those we don’t understand (you can hear more about this HERE in my podcast interview with Yvonne Huff). Through light, witty moments, well-developed characters, and touching monologues by Kilpatrick and Huff, Closely Related Keys leaves the audience cautiously hopeful for the future.

find out more about Yvonne Huff’s theatre company here: Lower Depth Ensemble
follow actress Diarra Kilpatrick on Twitter here:
follow actor Ted Mattison here:

Fri, Feb 28 – Sun, Mar 30
Thursday, Friday and Saturday @ 8pm
Sundays @ 4pm

Show Calendar

Previews: $15
General Admission: $25
Saturdays: $30
Opening night: $30 (with opening night party)

Special Show Info
Running time: 120 minutes.
There will be an intermission.

Lounge Theatre 1
6201 Santa Monica Blvd
Los angeles, CA  90038
Street Parking
Area Map

(323) 960-7774

Cast: Diarra Kilpatrick, Yvonne Huff, Brent Jennings, Ted Mattison, Adam Meir
Director: Shirley Jo Finney
Playwright: Wendy Graf
Set & projection designer: Hana Sooyeon Kim
Lighting designer: Donny Jackson
Music & sound designer: Peter Bayne
Costume designer: Naila Aladdin Sanders
Producer: Racquel Lehrman
Associate producer: Victoria Watson
Presented by Hatikva Productions

Mixed Blood Theatre in Minneapolis

I’ve always wanted to see a show at the Mixed Blood Theatre – whose mission is to invite the global village into its audience and onto its stage for provocative, inclusive, predictably unpredictable and award-winning theater.

Perusing their website, I just noticed that they are currently showing The Sun Serpent, by José Cruz Gonzalez (he was my nurturing and motivating playwriting teacher when I wrote One Drop of Love at Cal State LA). The play runs through March 22, 2014.

Here’s a little more information on the theater from their About page:

With programming in its historic firehouse in Minneapolis, in satellite venues throughout the Upper Midwest, and in the national workplace, Mixed Blood leads audiences to a much larger world, using relevant and entertaining theater to spawn a ripple effect of social change. Winner of numerous awards for its human rights and artistic accomplishments, Mixed Blood pays positive attention to differences and champions access. The company annually serves 75,000 people through its mainstage season of new plays, a regional tour of 5–7 shows, and a series of customized productions addressing workplace inclusion. In 2011, Mixed Blood launched Radical Hospitality, providing no-cost access to mainstage productions.


Velina Hasu Houston’s “Cinnamon Girl” Opens 3/15/14

We are enamored by the plays of Velina Hasu Houston – whose work consistently addresses the mixed experience in new and exciting ways, and whose characters are sensitively portrayed with depth and caring. We can’t wait to see her new play Cinnamon Girl.

Let us know if you go, and if you’d like to add a review to our site. More info on show dates and times here: Cinnamon Girl – a new play by Velina Hasu Houston

Here’s more on Velina Hasu Houston: Official Website and an informative Wikipedia page

CASTING CALL: Mixed Actress Needed

I got to see a reading of this play in Los Angeles and really enjoyed it. Supernatural delves deeply into the lives of 7 women and their life choices, centered around the decision to wear their hair natural (or not) – AND – if you get cast, you get to be in a play with Kim Coles (who here didn’t love Living Single?)!




SUPERNATURAL: The Play is going to Virginia!

Click HERE to hear what people are saying about the show!


SUPERNATURAL: The Play with Kim Coles will be presented at the Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center in Newport News, Virginia on March 29, 2014.  We will be holding auditions for Union and non-Union Actresses in Newport News on March 8th.  If you would like an appointment to audition, please submit your picture and performing arts resume to  Cast breakdown and more detailed information about the show and auditions can be found at!audition-sides/c19es.


Seeking 7 African-American Actresses.  Feel free to forward this email to any actresses who you think would be interested and are in the Newport News, VA area.


Storyline:  Set in none other than Brooklyn, New York in Bed-Stuy at various natural hair events,Supernatural: The Play is a funny and insightful play about Natural Hair journeys.  The play explores the lives of seven women who are forced to confront their hair and themselves. Filled with stories of triumph. These women are guaranteed to make you laugh and  inspire you to think about what God gave you. This is one Natural Hair event filled with testimonies you don’t want to miss!


SUBMISSION DEADLINE:  March 2, 2014.  To submit yourself for an audition, please send your picture and resume to In the subject line put “Submission for the role of [CHARACTER NAME].”  ALL ACTRESSES MUST BE LOCAL HIRES LIVING IN OR NEAR NEWPORT NEWS, VA.


Please feel free to forward this email to any actresses who may be interested.



AEA Letter of Agreement
Producers, Writers and Directors:
Candace O. Kelley, Audrey Kelley and Gilda Rogers
Location: Downing-Gross Cultural Arts Center, Newport News, VA
Performance Date
: March 29, 2014




KEE KEE – Kim Coles (CAST)

[KEE KEE] Age 25-40.  This charismatic African American woman from Brooklyn is an entrepreneur and YouTube rock star who hosts her own natural hair events.  Wears her hair natural – the bigger the better.  Vivacious and colorful yet down to earth.  Looking for a stand-up comedian. (Seeking Understudy)


[DR. JENKINS] Age 30-60. An anthropologist who is on a mission to educate black women around the world about their ancestral history.  Is currently an Associate Professor at Columbia.  Look up Dr. Joy DeGruy Leary.


[HANNAH] Age 30-40. A light-skinned, mixed race woman (black/white) .  Her father is black and her mother is Jewish.  She was caught between gefilte fish and chitlins.  Wears her hair natural.  From New York.


[CONSTANCE] Age 50-65. A suave lesbian writer who looks like a man.  Wears her hair natural.   From San Francisco.


[NIECEY] Age 25-45.  A fashionable, educated woman who is an assistant to a successful politician.  Wears her hair bone-straight relaxed and long.


[BERTINA] Age 35-50.  A dark-skinned woman from Jamaica.  She is concerned that her little sister uses skin lighteners with dangerous chemicals.  Actress must be able to speak with an authentic Jamaican accent.


[DORIS] Age 33-45.  A southern preacher’s wife who is a cancer survivor.  Wears her hair natural.


Laura Kina: Blue Hawaii

We work closely with visual artist, scholar and professor Laura Kina on the Mixed Roots Stories programming for the Critical Mixed Race Studies conference (November 2014). She consistently explores the mixed experience in her work and in her classrooms. Here’s information on her current exhibition:

This week in Memphis – join Laura in person for the opening reception and artist lecture or visit the show virtually.

University of Memphis
The Martha and Robert Fogelman Galleries of Contemporary Art

Laura Kina: Blue Hawai’i

February 21 – March 27, 2014

Opening reception: Friday, Feb 21 5:30-8:00pm

Artist talk: Thursday, Feb 20 7:00pm 3715 Central Ave. #310
“Remembering Painting, Forgetting Photographs”

University of Memphis
The Martha and Robert Fogelman Galleries of Contemporary Art
Art Department
Art and Communication Building
3715 Central Ave.
Memphis, TN 38152
Tel 901-678-2216

Join the event on Facebook

All events are free and open to the public.

View the digital exhibition catalog featuring an essay “Okinawan Diaspora Blues” by Wesley Uenten, Associate Professor of Asian American Studies San Francisco State University

See the works online

You won’t find Elvis or surfboards or funny umbrella-topped cocktails in Laura Kina’s dystopic Blue Hawaiʻi. Drawn from family albums, oral history and community archives from Hawaii and Okinawa, these ghostly oil paintings employ distilled memories to investigate themes of distance, longing, and belonging.

Featuring new works and a selection from her ongoing Sugar series (2009-present), the setting is Kina’s father’s Okinawan sugarcane field plantation community, Piʻihonua, on the Big Island of Hawaiʻi near Hilo. Her obsession with blue was inspired by the indigo-dyed kasuri kimonos repurposed by the Issei (first generation) “picture bride” immigrants for canefield work clothes, and colored by stories of hinotama (fireballs) shooting from the canefield cemetery into the night sky. Blue Hawaiʻi echoes the spirits of Kina’s ancestors and shared histories of labor migration.

Pictured above Laura Kina, Elementary School, 30×45 in, oil on canvas, 2013

Closely Related Keys – World Premiere Play Opens 2/28/14

Closely Related KeysClosely Related Keys tells the story of a young attorney whose carefully constructed life begins to crumble with the discovery of an Iraqi half sister who has fled Iraq,  arriving unexpectedly in the U.S.  It’s about love and loyalty, secrets and lies, and how the past , never being dead, just hovers around waiting to smack us upside the head.   Join us for this journey about picking up the broken pieces of the past to imperfectly assemble a new family and future.
Tickets now on sale!
Closely Related Keys Lounge Theatre
6201 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA
In Wendy Grafs World Premiere drama, an African-American attorneys carefully constructed life begins to crumble when she is shocked to discover she has an Iraqi half-sister who comes to the U.S. with a questionable agenda. Directed by the award-winning Shirley Jo Finney.
February 28 – March 30, 2014Box Office: — with AJ Meijer andSandy Joseph.

One Drop of Love at Choate Rosemary Hall

I had the immense pleasure of performing One Drop of Love for over 300 students at Choate Rosemary Hall last weekend in Connecticut. Here is one of my favorite quotes from one of the students, and a link to the full review:
I’ve seen a lot of white struggle stories, and a lot of black struggle stories, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a mixed struggle story. Zemia Edmondson ’16.