-Courtesy of Aversa PR & Events
Angela Bey plays Kila-T in Azuka Theatre’s production of Young Money. Photo by Johanna Austin/AustinArt.org
Azuka Theatre presents the World Premiere of Young Money by Philadelphia playwright Erlina Ortiz, directed by Briana Gause. The show will run from November 3 to November 21, 2021, with opening nights on Saturday, November 6th and Sunday, November 7th, at the Louis Bluver Theatre at The Drake, 302 S. Hicks Street.
Azuka return to live and in-person theatre comes with their continued dedication to supporting local artists and raising up Philadelphia voices. Ortiz is part of the Azuka New Pages Writer’s Group, and the entire cast and crew hail from the greater Philadelphia region. In the play, Tomasina aka Kila-T is Hip-hop’s newest chart topper. Elegant and prideful Gardenia has been laid off from her job of 20 years and now she cleans Kila’s dressing room. When an attack on Kila’s concert forces the two women together, questions of morality, success, and redemption are danced around as these women discover they may have more to learn from each other than they think. Angela Bey (they/them/theirs) plays Kila-T and Johanna Tolentino (she/her) plays Gardenia. Azuka continues its pay-what-you-decide model for this show where audiences are invited to experience the art on stage and pay based on the value of their experience after. For reservations, visit azukatheatre.org. Young Money runs 90 minutes with no intermission and is recommended for all ages.
The 2021-2022 season is presented with support from sponsor Harmelin Media. For the health and safety of patrons, cast, crew and staff, Azuka will require that audience members present proof of vaccination and wear a mask while in the venue, aligning with the safety protocols outlined by Theatre Philadelphia.
“Young Money by Erlina Ortiz is a fiercely funny, energetic play, and the perfect way for Azuka to re-emerge into a season of live theatre,” said Azuka Artistic Director Rebecca May Flowers. “We want to greet this moment with a music-filled story of people from different generations and differing perspectives coming together to find common ground. A rapper whose star is on the rise meets the woman cleaning her dressing room moments before a big city concert. What ensues will have you bobbing to the beat and laughing out loud one second, but will stop you in your tracks and take your breath away the next. This one is the right play for right now.”
Bey is a Black, Non-Binary, multidisciplinary artist from Southwest Philadelphia. They create to inspire decolonization, joy, radical honesty and healing – believing it is our divine duty to build the utopia we may not live to see. Bey is co-artistic director of Wings of Paper Theatre Co. and Shoe Box Theatre Collective. Selected credits – Acting: Fabulation (Lantern Theater), The Niceties (InterAct), D-Pad (Theatre Exile), Code Black Planet (Wilma Theatre), Days of Re-Creation (Philadelphia Theatre Company), Our Ouija Board… (On the Rocks), Candles (Philadelphia Young Playwrights), Twelfth Night (Shakespeare in Clark Park), LP (AE Film; Carl Lerner Award, Best Student Film Nominee at Bronzelens & Woodstock Film Festivals), Bracelet (John Deswert Film, “Best of the Fest” at the San Francisco Independent Short Film Festival), and the Actors Ensemble at Sundance Directors Lab. Playwriting: Germantown Plays Pericles (Shakespeare in Clark Park), Every Everyman (SCP), and The Medusa Play (Shoe Box). They are currently commissioned by Elevate Theatre Company and Lupine Performance Cooperative. Directing: Whisper (Shoe Box), Every Everyman (co-director), The Medusa Play (co-director), and The White Feather Project (self-produced).
Tolentino got her first big break at the age of 16 on the feature film Lean On Me with Morgan Freeman. She’s booked co-starring roles on network television such as the Comedy Central pilot Alternatino, Orange is the New Black (Netflix), Do No Harm, a guest-star role on Law & Order SVU (NBC), a co-star role on The Blacklist and GOTHAM (FOX). Supporting roles in the short films: Taking East New York directed by Exile Ramirez and El Pasaje directed by Noel Nunez; as well as features Keep in Touch directed by Sam Kretchmar; Patti Cakes directed by Jeremy Jasper and Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky sequel; Creed directed by Ryan Coogler and Creed II directed by Steven Carole, Jr. She trained at the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater in audition, vocal, film and theatre acting techniques before booking roles in regional theaters, regional commercials and industrial films in Atlanta and Philadelphia. Theatre credits include Rosa in The Buddy Holly Story at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, Elliot: A Soldiers Fugue, The Conduct of Life at Villanova University, Latinolougues at The Wilma Theatre, and Morir Soñando at Passage Theatre in Trenton New Jersey. Tolentino was Barrymore nominated for a best artist Award for the role of Paloma in the play Morir Soñando by Erlina Ortiz at Passage Theatre Company. She is the creator, producer, writer and star of the web series “Whatever It Takes.”
For Young Money, Azuka is proud to work with many new faces to the company, including the above actors, as well as the playwright and the director. Ortiz is a member of Azuka’s New Pages Writer’s Group. With New Pages, Azuka pledges to produce one new local work from a member playwright at least once per season. She is a Dominican-American playwright, performer, and theatre maker from Reading, PA. Her heartfelt and timely plays ranging from topics of gentrification, domestic violence, and cultural preservation have been presented with Power Street Theatre where she is proud to be Co-Artistic Director. In 2018 her play Las Mujeres received The Bonaly Award for Creation of Community Joy and in Spring 2019 her play Morir Sonyando was nominated for six Philadelphia Barrymore Awards including Outstanding New Play.
Ortiz has received the Amtrak Writer’s residency, the Signal Fire Outpost Residency, in 2019 she gave the Keynote Address at the Delaware Writer’s Conference on the importance of nurturing your artistic community. Ortiz was a member of NEXUS with New York Stage and Film in 2020/2021 and is a two-time recipient of the Leeway Art and Change Grant. She has taught playwriting with the University of the Arts, Power Street Theatre, and Blue Stoop phl. In 2021 she was nominated as Secretary of the Board for Theatre Philadelphia. Ortiz believes being an artist is a superpower, she believes in using her powers for good.
Young Money is directed by Briana Gause, who says she is blessed to be a Philadelphia based Filmmaker, Theatre Maker, Painter, and Teaching Artist. Gause’s mission is to create opportunities for love and education to thrive through art. Recently, Gause was one of the directors for 1812 Productions’ of Set Model Theatre. She was the associate director of Fat Ham at the Wilma and the Assistant Director for No Child at the Arden Theatre and This is the Week That Is at 1812 Productions. She previously directed a reading of Young Money by Ortiz as part of Coffee and a Play’s DigiRep Festival. Here, Gause’s play Discovering Blackness also saw its premier. Through her production company, OMG! Studios LLC, she has produced and featured work in Fade to Black: Issa a Black Philly Film Fest, Sheesh: Issa Blackity Black Joyfest, and Open House at The Palace.
For the production team, Young Money will feature the talents of Marie Laster (Scenic Design), J. Dominic Chacon (Lighting Design), Natalia de la Torre (Costume Design), Anthony Martinez-Briggs (Sound Design), Avista Custom Theatrical, LLC (Properties), Leslie Ann Boyden (Stage Manager), Quinn D. Eli (Dramaturg), Lauren Tracy (Production Manager), Joe Daniels (Technical Director), Faye Telemaco-Beane (Assistant Director), Nick Hatcher (Assistant Stage Manager), and Flannel & Hammer (Scenic Construction).
Young Money marks Azuka’s first in-person, indoor and live show since the World Premiere of Ship by Douglas Williams in March of 2020. Azuka was dark for the 2020-2021 season, and returns with a season that includes Young Money, the World Premiere of Carroll County Fix by Philadelphia Playwright Val Dunn and new play Reverie by Philadelphia Playwright James Ijames.
Young Money, Carroll County Fix and Reverie all tie-in with the larger season vision of bringing to the stage stories of everyday people whose voices aren’t typically amplified by the theatre. “These people are people of this time,” said Flowers. “They are our neighbors and co-workers; the people we pass on the street. They are us. They are deep and complicated and funny as hell. And they are all very different from one another. Spending 90 minutes with these people, seeing how they interact and find their shared humanity, is empathy-building. That’s what we do.”
Each show is a multi-generational story that moves- moving up, moving out, moving on. The characters are parents and children, friends and strangers, restless Americans coming to terms with who they are. Unexpected interactions forge unlikely relationships that ultimately bring us hope for the future.
All three shows this season will also continue Azuka’s commitment to the community by extending the innovative pay-what-you-decide box office initiative. No money is exchanged before the show. Audience members reserve tickets in advance, see the production, then decide on a price which they think is suitable based on their experience and pay as they leave the theater. Ticket payment can be made after the performance by cash, check or credit card. All money collected helps to pay Azuka artists and further support future productions.
For show, special event and reservation information, please visit azukatheatre.org or call (215) 563-1100.