A Raisin in the Sun: An American Classic
The Utah Shakespeare Festival is excited to announce the cast members for this season’s production of A Raisin in the Sun, including familiar faces to Festival audiences as well as new company members making their first appearance here.
Director Derek Charles Livingston is thrilled to direct this great American classic. This is a much anticipated title, as it has been produced in every major theater in America, and now it is the Festival’s turn. “I think audiences will really enjoy getting to know the Younger family,” says Livingston. A Raisin in the Sun is an example of fine playwriting and great characters, dialogue, and “a lot of plot twists that will keep your heart palpitating,” he said.
The cast is as follows:
Jeffrey Marc Alkins is new to the Festival and is performing the roles of George Murchison and Moving Crew in A Raisin in the Sun and Jonathan in The Play That Goes Wrong. He has worked on Broadway in Mr. Saturday Night and off-broadway as Richard of Gloucester in Richard III at The Flea and Planchet in The Three Musketeers at Classical Theatre Harlem as well as playing the Antipholi in The Comedy of Errors at Shakespeare Theatre NJ, and many more. He is a member of Actors’ Equity Association.
Maureen Azzun is new to the Festival and will appear as Beneatha in A Raisin in the Sun and Cobweb in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She has performed as Louise/Ruby/Etta in More Than a Maid with Black Ensemble Theater, Friend in Queen C at Trap Door Theatre, and Emerson in First Date on the Brain with Drawing Cats Productions. She was also in the films Erick and Alisha, Rosemary, and Five-Finger Discount.
Nazlah Black is making their Festival mainstage debut as Mrs. Johnson in A Raisin in the Sun and Sandra in The Play That Goes Wrong. They toured in the Festival’s 2023 Shakespeare in the Schools production of Othello as Emilia and Bianca. Black played Viola in Twelfth Night at Emit Theatre, Cordelia in King Lear at Barefoot Shakespeare, and Gwendolyn in The Importance of Being Earnest at Encounters Theatre. They also played Rosalind in the film As You Like It, presented by Shakespeare in the Woods.
Topher Embrey is new to the Festival, appearing as Bobo and Moving Crew in A Raisin in the Sun and Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Past regional theatre roles include Christmas Present in A Christmas Carol at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Sicinius Veletus in Coriolanus at the Colorado Shakespeare Theatre, Sir Toby in Twelfth Night at the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, and Dromio of Ephesus in The Comedy of Errors at the American Shakespeare Center, among numerous others. He is a member of Actors’ Equity Association.
Dylan Fleming is performing the role of Joseph Asagai and Moving Crew in A Raisin in the Sun, Flute in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and is new to the Festival. He has performed as Omari in Everyman Theatre’s digital release of Pipeline, as Isa in Kill Move Paradise with Rep Stage, and as T.T. Williams in The Member of the Wedding with 1st Stage.
Monique Gaffney will play the role of Lena Younger in A Raisin in the Sun and is new to the Festival. She performed as Monica Coleman in Speaking Truth to Power at Common Ground Theatre, Ashley in The Virgin Trial at Cygnet Theatre, Cynthia in Sweat at San Diego Rep, and many more. She has also appeared on film and television in Tiger Cruise, La Mujer Hambriente, Lincoln Heights, Veronica Mars, and The Chronicle. She is a member of Actors’ Equity Association.
Blake Henri will play the role of Karl Lindner in A Raisin in the Sun and Robert in The Play That Goes Wrong and is new to the Festival. He played The Poet in The Iliad at Oklahoma Shakespeare, Murray in The Odd Couple at WaterTower Theatre, Boddy in Clue at Dallas Theater Center, and much more. Henri has appeared on film and television on Love and Death, American Underdog, Great Plains, and more.
Corey Jones is returning to the Festival and will perform in the roles of Walter Younger in A Raisin in the Sun and Theseus/Oberon in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. He performed at the Festival in 2017 as Tate in How to Fight Loneliness and King John in King John, Caliban in The Tempest in 2013, and Aaron in Titus Andronicos and Rev. Sykes in To Kill a Mockingbird in 2012. Among his many roles, he has played The General in the first and second national Broadway tours of The Book of Mormon, Bruce Laird in the world premiere of A Distinct Society at Pioneer Theater Company, Captain Markinson in A Few Good Men at La Mirada Theatre, Dr. Gibbs in Our Town at South Coast Repertory, and Creon in Oedipus at American Players Theater. He has performed on film and television in Trigger, 11/11/11, Franklin and Bash, A Letter from Birmingham Jail, and Checkout. He is a member of Actors’ Equity Association.
Kayland Jordan is making her Festival debut as Ruth Younger in A Raisin in the Sun and Helena in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. She has been seen as Annabelle “Belle” Pierson in Mirrors at NYTW, Louella in Fancy Maids at Teatro SEA, Lady in Red For Colored Girls…, and Jo in Thorns for African American Museum. She has also performed in numerous films and television shows, including Betty (HBO), In Ice Cold Blood (OXYGEN), Emergence (ABC), and Keep Me At Bay (MICA). She has also been a member of American Fight Directors.
Dylan Nelson and Alyvia Ridgel will be debuting at the Festival as young performers, alternating in the role of Travis Younger in A Raisin in the Sun. Dylan has performed in productions of Willy Wonka Jr., Once On This Island Jr., Dear Edwin Jr., and Once Upon A Mattress Jr. Alyvia is new to acting and is excited to work on this production.
The 2023 season of the Utah Shakespeare Festival runs from June 21 to October 7 and includes Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Jane Austen’s Emma The Musical, A Raisin in the Sun, The Play That Goes Wrong, Timon of Athens, and Coriolanus, as well as all the experiences surrounding the plays, such as The Greenshow, seminars, orientations, and backstage tours. Tickets and information are available by calling 800-PLAYTIX or visiting bard.org.