Friday, March 7, 2014

'Letters From Zora' Returns to Pasadena Playhouse

Original Music by RON McCURDY

May 10 – 18 at The Pasadena Playhouse

PASADENA, CA (March 7, 2014) – The Pasadena Playhouse (Sheldon Epps, Artistic Director and Elizabeth Doran, Executive Director), announced today that they will present the hit production of Gabrielle Pina’s LETTERS FROM ZORA, in association with One Pearl and a Sphinx.  The production, which returns by poplular demand, will play a limited engagement of eight performances and stars Vanessa Bell Calloway. LETTERS FROM ZORA is directed by Anita Dashiell-Sparks with original music composed by Ron McCurdy.  Performances run May 10 - 18, 2014 with a press opening on Sunday, May 11 at 2:00 p.m.

 Sheldon Epps, Artistic Director of The Pasadena Playhouse, says "The incredible audience reaction last summer to both Zora's brilliant words and Vanessa's moving performance immediately encouraged us to make a return engagement of this show a reality. I am thrilled that this imaginative evocation of the eloquent, humorous, and audacious spirit of Zora will be back on our stage once again.  I know that many who saw the show the first time will want to return, and I am so pleased that this upcoming run will provide the opportunity for those who missed it to have this wonderful theatrical experience."

Playwright Gabrielle Pina says,LETTERS FROM ZORAis an authentic multi-sensory experience of an extraordinary woman who defied the social conventions of the day and lived a life of her own creation. The artistic fusion of music, history, and literary prose illuminates the resilience of the human spirit as well as Ms. Hurston's philosophy of life and literature in her own words.”

Through the dramatization of personal letters, LETTERS FROM ZORA explores Hurston’s controversial views on integration, segregation and social justice showcasing a life that was filled with artistic triumphs as well as abject poverty and self-doubt. Veteran actress Vanessa Bell Calloway plays the role of Zora in this provocative multimedia production directed by Anita Dashiell-Sparks and written by novelist Gabrielle Pina. With live music composed by Ron McCurdy and archival images collected by Margie Labadie, LETTERS FROM ZORA will illuminate Hurston’s prose, her life, her distinctive array of friends and foes and her unique view of a jazz-age world.

LETTERS FROM ZORA was originally presented at Bovard Auditorium on the campus of the University of Southern California on March 3, 2012 by Vision and Voices: The USC Arts and Humanities Initiative and made its Pasadena Playhouse debut August 15, 2013.

Vanessa Bell Calloway is an eight-time NAACP Image Award nominee for her critically acclaimed performances on stage, screen and television.  Best known for her roles in the box office hits Coming to America and What’s Love Got to Do With It, she has also starred in the films Biker Boyz, Love Don’t Cost a Thing, Daylight, The Inkwell, Crimson Tide, The Brothers, Cheaper by the Dozen, Dawg, Lakeview Terrace and voiced the lead female role in the animated feature Bebe’s Kids.  Television credits include her current recurring role as Carol on Showtime’s “Shameless”; TNT's “Rizzoli & Isles”; “Hawthorne RN” with Jada Pinkett Smith and NBC’s hit “Go On” with Matthew Perry; guest star roles include “Dexter,” “CSI,” “CSI: Miami,” “The Closer” and “Cold Case” just to name a few.   Television films: The Last Fall, The Under Shepard, The Temptations, A Private Affair, Red Sneakers, Stompin’ at the Savoy, The Cherokee Kid, and America’s Dream: The Boy Who Painted Christ Black.  On stage, Ms. Calloway was in The Pasadena Playhouse and Ebony Repertory Theater productions of Crowns.  She also starred in August Wilson’s Seven Guitars at the Kennedy Center’s August Wilson Theatre Festival and the Los Angeles production of August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson. Also an accomplished dancer, she was in the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls.

“As an actor you dream of a role that you can embody, a character in whom you can become completely engrossed, a role that you wake up each morning excited to portray with dialogue that flows like pure poetry,” stated star Vanessa Bell Calloway.  “For me LETTERS FROM ZORA is that perfect piece.”

LETTERS FROM ZORA will play May 10 – 18, 2014, with a press opening night on Sun., May 11 at 2 p.m. Single ticket prices range from $40 - $100.  Limited VIP Packages including premium seating, post-show meet & greet with Gabrielle Pina, Vanessa Bell Calloway and Anita Dashiell-Sparks and light reception is available for $150 per ticket.  VIP Package are available only on the following performances:  Saturday, May 11 at 8 p.m.; Thursday, May 15 at 8 p.m.; Friday, May 16 at 8 p.m.; Saturday, May 17 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, May 18 at 2 p.m.  The Pasadena Playhouse is located at 39 South El Molino Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101.  The performance schedule is Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.; and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are available online at, by calling The Pasadena Playhouse at 626-356-7529 or by visiting The Pasadena Playhouse Box Office, Tuesday – Sunday from 12:00 p.m. until 6 p.m. during non-performance dates.  On performance dates the Box Office is open Tuesday – Saturday from 12 p.m. – 8 p.m. and 12 p.m. – 7 p.m. on Sunday.  Group Sales (8 or more people) are available by calling 626-921-1161. For more information, visit 

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