Youth (age 16 and under) $20
April 15-May 15, 2022
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 pm
Sundays at 2 pm
The show runs approximately 2 hours and 15 minutes, including 1 intermission.
A moving and celebratory musical play in which hats become a springboard for an exploration of black history and identity as seen through the eyes of a young black woman who has come down South to stay with her aunt after her brother is killed in Brooklyn. Hats are everywhere, in exquisite variety. The characters use the hats to tell tales concerning everything from flirting to churchgoing to funerals to baptisms, and the tradition of hats is traced back to African rituals and slavery and forward to the New Testament and current fashion.
“Taylor pulls off a Hat Trick: She scores thrice, turning CROWNS into an artful amalgamation of oral history, fashion show, and musical theater…Hats off to Regina Taylor for a considerable achievement.” —TheaterMania.com.
“…wholly theatrical…Ms. Taylor has created a show that seems to arise out of spontaneous combustion, as if a bevy of department-store customers simultaneously decided to stage a revival meeting in the changing room.” —NY Times.
“Warm, wise and wonderful.” —Star Ledger.
CROWNS is presented by special arrangement with Dramatists Play Service, Inc., New York.
CROWNS was originally produced at the McCarter Theatre Center, Princeton, New Jersey, and by Second Stage Theatre, New York City.
CROWNS was originally commissioned by the McCarter Theatre Center and was developed with the assistance of the Sundance Theatre Institute.
Special thanks to Hymnary.org for the music and lyrics to “Take My Life and Let It Be.”
Actor/director/playwright/educator/activist REGINA TAYLOR is a Meadows Distinguished Visiting Artist and the Andrew W. Mellon Playwright in Residence at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, the latter a three-year appointment through the National Playwright Residency Program established by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and HowlRound Theatre Commons. Her play Oo-Bla-Dee is being presented at The Repertory Theatre of St. Louis. Taylor is also writing new plays for Audible and for SMU (the black album).
Her playwright credits include Bread (Edgerton Award, WaterTower Theatre); Crowns (four Helen Hayes Awards, including Best Director); Oo-Bla-Dee (Steinberg-ATCA award); The Trinity River Plays (Edgerton Foundation New American Play Award); stop.reset. (Signature Theatre Residency 5); and Drowning Crow (Manhattan Theatre Club, Biltmore/Broadway).
In fall 2017, Taylor was the Denzel Washington Endowed Chair in Theatre (a guest faculty position) at Fordham University at Lincoln Center. She is an artistic associate of Goodman Theatre and is its most produced playwright.
Taylor is featured in HBO’s Lovecraft Country (producers Jordan Peele, J. J. Abrams, and Misha Green) and in Netflix’s All Day and a Night starring Jeffrey Wright and Ashton Saunders and directed/written by Joe Robert Cole (writer for Black Panther), and guest stars on Council of Dads (NBC), The Red Line (producer Ava DuVernay, CBS), and The Good Fight. For her television role as Lily Harper in I’ll Fly Away, Taylor received a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress, three NAACP Image Awards and two Emmy Award nominations. Her other television roles include The Unit. Taylor was the first African American lead in Masterpiece Theatre’s Cora Unashamed, starred as Anita Hill in HBO’s Strange Justice (Gracie Award), and was featured in A Good Day to Die starring Sidney Poitier. She has co-starred in USA Network’s Dig and guest starred in Elementary and The Blacklist. Taylor’s film credits include Saturday Church, The Negotiator, Courage Under Fire, Clockers, and Lean on Me. Taylor was also the first Black woman to play Juliet in Romeo and Juliet on Broadway.
CRAIG MARBERRY was born and raised in Chicago and went to high school in Gary, Indiana, where he wrote a weekly column for “Info,” the community newspaper. He attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, where he won the Charles E. Merrill fellowship to spend his junior year studying at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. He also won the school’s first annual essay contest and in 1981 was named Morehouse Man of the Year. After graduating with honors with a degree in English literature, he was awarded the Thomas J. Watson fellowship to conduct an independent study of Third World media at the University of West Indies in Kingston, Jamaica. He then earned his Master’s from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. Marberry, who has written for The Washington Post and Essence magazine, worked as a television reporter for six years before launching a video production business named Info Video, which he ran for twelve years. His clients included Nabisco, American Express, and Wachovia. When one of his clients needed still photographs for a publicity campaign, Marberry hired commercial photographer Michael Cunningham for the job. The two men had fallen out of touch for five years when, in the summer of 1998, Marberry heard that Cunningham was compiling a collection of photographs of African-American women wearing church hats. Immediately, Marberry contacted Cunningham and proposed that the two team up on the project. In June of 1999, Marberry began writing a book proposal for “Crowns: Portraits of Black Women in Church Hats” (Doubleday/November 2000). From the very beginning, Marberry believed his collection of oral histories would translate well to the stage. In November of 1999, a year before “Crowns” was published, he slipped a mock-up of the book to Emily Mann, the Tony award-winning artistic director of the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, New Jersey. After reviewing Marberry’s collection of narratives, Mann agreed that his work would work onstage. She commissioned actress/playwright Regina Taylor, perhaps best known for her starring role in the television series “I’ll Fly Away,” to write and direct the adaptation. The McCarter Theatre staged the world premiere of CROWNS on October 15, 2002. The play then debuted off-Broadway at the Second Stage Theatre in Manhattan on November 13, 2002. Taylor’s production set box-office records in nearly every city to which it traveled, including Chicago, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C., where it won the Helen Hayes Award (D.C.’s answer to the Tony Awards). Winning awards in each of the seven categories for which it was nominated, CROWNS also swept through the thirty-first Annual Vivian Robinson AUDELCO Awards for Excellence in Black Theatre. (CROWNS was awarded Best Musical Production of the Year, Outstanding Ensemble, Outstanding Lighting Design by Robert Perry, Outstanding Costume Design by Emilio Sosa, Outstanding Direction of a Musical by Regina Taylor, and Outstanding Musical Direction by Linda Twine.) In July of 2000, four months before “Crowns” was published, Marberry began working on his second book: “Spirit of Harlem: A Portrait of America’s Most Exciting Neighborhood” (Doubleday/December 2003). A year after he began his research and interviews, Marberry invited Cunningham to join the project. Marberry then persuaded the legendary photographer Gordon Parks, who began his illustrious career in Harlem, to pen the book’s foreword. The book won critical acclaim, including praise from The Washington Post, which made “Spirit of Harlem” an “Our Critics’ Picks of the Year” selection, describing it as a “fascinating survey of intriguing Harlemites.” Marberry began working on his third book in February of 2003. “Cuttin’ Up: Wit and Wisdom from Black Barber Shops” (Doubleday/May 2005) is his first solo project. In December of 2003, Marberry showed an excerpt of “Cuttin’ Up” to Molly Smith, Artistic Director of Arena Stage in Washington, D.C. Smith loved the idea and wasted no time. By the following spring, she was ready to adapt “Cuttin’ Up” for the stage. Smith approached the multi-talented playwright/director Charles Randolph-Wright—who starred in the original cast of DREAMGIRLS and wrote and directed the play BLUE, starring Tony award-winner Phylicia Rashad. The Arena Stage presented the world premiere of Charles Randolph-Wright’s adaptation of “Cuttin’ Up” November 4, 2005, through January 1, 2006. The play opened to rave reviews. A popular college lecturer, Marberry resides in Greensboro, North Carolina.