Welcome to The Essential Theatre

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Office - (202) 328-0569

Organizational Mission

The Essential Theatre is a non-profit, professional theatre dedicated, but not limited to producing theatre reflective of the African-American experience that explores and celebrates America's rich, diverse cultural landscape. Paramount to the company’s mission is the implementation of programs for youth in Washington, DC's metropolitan area that promotes interdisciplinary education and positive levels of self esteem. Founded in 1989, the company hosts a play development program, The Essential Theatre’s New Play Reading Series, the Children’s Program in Public Schools and the Women’s Works Program. The company also maintains a relationship with area Social Services programs in an effort to provide job training opportunities.

Institutional Objectives:

Actress Perri Gaffney in 2014 Helen Hayes Award Nominated "The Resurrection of Alice." Photo by Sharon C. Farmer

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What's Happening

Performance/Event Schedule

Thursday June 8th 1:00 PM
Senior/Military Matinee $10 Play date
Must present proof of age or affiliation to be eligible for discount.
Thursday June 8th 7:00 PM Pay What you will upwards of $1.00
Free Post-Performance discussion with "Jean and Dinah" Playwright/Director
Tony Hall
Special guest: Ambassador to the United States for the Republic of
Trinidad and Tobago
His Excellency Anthony Phillips-Spencer

Thursday May 8th 7 PM

Friday June 9th 7:00 PM
Opening Night Benefit Performance
Official Host
Ambassador to the United States for the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago
His Excellency Anthony Phillips-Spencer and Mrs. Tina Spencer
Proceeds benefit The Essential Theatre's Young Audiences Program

Saturday June 10th 3 PM matinee
12:45 Klub
Pre show activities begin at 12:45 performance begins at 3 PM
Persons between ages of 12 to 45 with proof of age buy one half priced
ticket/get one free
Saturday June 10th 7 PM

Sunday June 11th 3 PM
Sunday June 11th 7:00 PM

Thursday June 15th 1 PM
Senior/military matinee $10 Play Date
Must present proof of age or affiliation to be eligible for discount.

Actreses Penelope Spencer and Rhoma Spencer as Jean and Dinah.

Friday June 16 7 PM

Saturday June 17th 3 PM

Saturday June 17th 7 PM

Sunday June 18th 3 PM

Sunday June 18th 7:00 PM

About the Artists

Penelope Spencer
Originally a San Fernando girl Penelope Spencer ‘Pennie’ as she’s fondly called, has been involved in the theatre industry for the last 30 something years. She is the co producer of HAHAHA productions with her friend Nikki Crosby. Penelope is a writer, director, teacher, producer and casting agent in Trinidad and Tobago. Casting for international movies and television, with productions such as: Bazodee, Grown Girls Getaway, (T.V) God loves the Fighter, Locked Up Abroad (T..V), Home again plus a number of local Radio and Television commercials. She has appeared in Plays such as Owl and the Pussy Cat, Mary can Dance, Man Better Man, Best little Whore-house in Guapo, Pizza Man to name a few. She has also appeaed in local Movies such as Grown Girls Get away, Cutlass, Play the Devil. She has written and directed shows such as ‘Think like a lady Act like a Man, ‘Hott Mouth Granny’‘ ‘Mid Life Crosby’, 50 Shades of Gravy and The ridiculous Six and a half, she also written and directed many Children’s productions with Carvalho Productions., Newtown Girls School, St. Andrews Prep. At present Pennie is the artistic director of Necessary Arts School/Productions where she runs a three Months theatre course for the School and just came out of its 20th Cycle with a play called Provoke. Penelope has just co-written her first children’s story book ‘Tales from the Forest.’ Pennie is a Spiritual Being who loves life and living.

Rhoma Spencer
Rhoma Spencer is an award winning actor and director, playwright and cultural critic. Her works have been critically acclaimed in the Globe and Mail, Now Magazine and the Toronto Star. In summer 2014 she was the recipient of a US Proclamation from the House of Congress and a Citation from the Brooklyn Borough President for her contribution to Caribbean Theatre with the play Jean and Dinah. She is also named in the Who is Who in Black Canada and in the Trinidad and Tobago 50th Anniversary Publication of Distinguished Nationals in Canada in the field of Arts and Culture. Acting credits include, Jean and Dinah (Lordstreet Theatre) Mad Miss, Fallen Angel and the Devil Concubine (Theatre Archipelago), Stori Ya (b current) and two seasons of the ground breaking Afri-Canadian sitcom, Da Kink in my Hair for Global TV. Film: Sound of Tears (Short) 2014 which received an African Academy Award for Best Narrative Short (Diaspora). The Apartment (TV series Pilot for CCN TV6). She just completed directing the Caribbean premiere of her play Carnival Medea co-written with Shirlene Holmes which played to critical success in Trinidad. Rhoma is a graduate of York University in Toronto with an MFA in Directing.

Modupe Onilu
Growing up in the “ghetto” of Laventille, spending most of his early musical experiences around steel bands like Laventille Serenaders and Desperadoes, he had a great passion for steel drums. Son of master percussionist Jajah Oga Onilu, (R.I.P.) founder of the Jewels of Nature organization, learning from his father how to make and play instruments never seen to most of the percussion community, has opened doors for him in the music scene in Trinidad. He has performed with well-known musicians/artistes like Big band Charlie’s Roots with band leader Pelham Goddard , David Rudder, Black Stalin, Super Blue, Machel Montano, Busy Signal, Lil Jon, Luis Conte, Collie Budz, John John and Caribbean jazz masters Raf Robinson, Clive Zander, Ray Holman, Ron Reid, Theron Shaw, Sean Thomas, Arturo Tappin, Etienne Charles, Len “Boogsie” Sharpe, vocalist Vaughnette Bigford, steelpan virtuoso Ken “professor” Philmore, Michael Low Chew Tung’s Elan Parle and recently performed with well-known Dominican Cultural Ambassador, vocalist Michele Henderson and The "1st Family of Jazz" in New Orleans Premier Jazz club The Snug Harbor. Modupe has been a band leader, composer and arranger for his own music projects Dayo Bejide Jazz Project and a power trio consisting of his older brother Baba Onilu called the Dayo Bejide Trio that has now evolved into the Dayo Bejide Organic Music Movement. Modupe is one of the most versatile percussionists in his region having played at many jazz festivals and concert like Tobago jazz Experience, jazz artistes on the greens, Barbados Jazz festival, St Lucia Jazz Festival, Crop Over Festival in Barbados OVO Festival in Canada and many more. He is also a well-known Percussionist in the steel band fraternity having played with Top steel bands like Exodus steel orchestra, Courts sound specialists of Laventille and a retired member of the National Steel Symphony Orchestra (NSSO) where he spent two years as a percussionist, timpanist and Drummer. Modupe is currently working on his debut album with his group Dayo Bejide Organic Music Movement entitled Da Truth. 
 Modupe has done clinics and drum workshops in Trinidad and Tobago at various schools and has a clinic every year for the pan in the classrooms program and had a chance to be a guest percussionist with the UWI percussion ensemble at PASIC which was held in Austin, Texas of 2008 having attended over 20 workshops, clinics, master classes in 5 days. He has toured the state of Michigan giving lectures and performances on Trinidad’s culture with the Jewels of Nature organization in 2005.He also traveled to Kentucky for the Travel Professionals of Color conference (TPOC) as a solo percussionist where Trinidad and Tobago received an award for being an authentic heritage site of the world, and also Uganda Africa as a solo musician playing with top bands in the capital city Kampala for 2 nights at the prestigious JazzVille Bugolobi. Modupe also had the honors of receiving an award with Rapsoul band Rhythmic Roots, for most innovative music in the year of 2008 from NYJAC youth committee and various best village’s competitions. Modupe is currently working on his debut album with his group Dayo Bejide Organic Music Movement entitled Da Truth. Modupe Onilu is now a proud endorser of Soultone Cymbals.

Tony Hall
Trinidad born. Functions as actor, director and playwright with Lordstreet "Peoples of the Sea" Theatre Company. Attended University of Alberta and Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. He formulated the Jouvay Popular Theatre Process (JPTP) interrogating the on-going role and function of the characters trapped in the Emancipation Performance Traditions. Most currently known for his 'mas interventions' into the Trinidad Carnival: MISS MILES (2014) and performing MARCUS & AMY (2016). Hall collaborates extensively with leading mas (masquerade) artists including Peter Minshall. His most acclaimed stage plays are: JEAN & DINAH . . . SPEAK THEIR MINDS PUBLICLY (1994), RED HOUSE [Fire! Fire!] (1999), TWILIGHT CAFE (2002), MISS MILES (2011). Some street and environmental plays: A BAND ON DRUGS (1990) on the streets of Port of Spain, the site-specific MACQUERIPE (2003) on Macqueripe Beach, MUD! (2016) on the streets of Fredrikstad with the Norwegian Theatre Academy. For screen with Banyan, Port of Spain: AND THE DISH RAN AWAY WITH THE SPOON (1994) an award winning BBC/TVE documentary looking at television in the Caribbean, GAYELLE (1985-1990) an innovative and internationally acclaimed cultural magazine for TV, a milestone in West Indian broadcasting. Tony has served as a lecturer at California State University, Northridge, Prague Quadriennale, Norwegian Theatre Academy, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, University of Winchester (King Alfred Campus), Hampshire, The Carnival Learning Centre, Isle of Wight. Also at Trinity College, Hartford, University of Trinidad and Tobago, Port of Spain, University of the West Indies, St Augustine, Trinidad.

Ken Joseph

Ken Joseph has been a stage lighting designer for the past thirty years. A part-time lecturer in Technical Theatre at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Trinidad for well over fifteen years, Ken wears many hats. He has been the Stage Manager for Lordstreet Theatre and it's production, Jean and Dinah . . . since it was first performed twenty-three years ago. Ken presently serves as Stage Manager, Lighting Designer, Set Constructor and Technical Director with the Lordstreet Theatre Company.

"African Folktales," Performed as part of Young Audience's Program in select schools in southeast Washington, DC throughout June 2017

Photos by Sharon C. Farmer

Made possible by Support from DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts




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