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Theatre News: Audra McDonald As Billie Holiday On Broadway + Playwrights Horizons Grant For Danai Gurira

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by Tambay A. Obenson
February 21, 2014 5:38 PM
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Some news from/for the stage that should be of interest, given the names involved.

First, Audra McDonald may return to Broadway a lot sooner than recently announced; we already know that she'll be co-starring with Oprah Winfrey in a revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1983 play Night, Mother, which is scheduled for a 2015/2016 run.

Before that, however, she just might be playing Billie Holiday in a production of Lanie Robertson's Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill.

The versatile, multi-Tony Award winning actress is said to be in talks to star in the show, which is set in 1959 in a seedy Philadelphia bar, and relives Billie Holiday's last performance, taking place only four months before her death at age 44. 

The production made its debut off-Broadway at the Vineyard Theatre in 1989, and starred Lonette McKee. The show most recently played last Spring in Chicago at Porchlight Music Theatre, starring Alexis J. Rogers

And Dee Dee Bridgewater just ended an off-Broadway run in a different musical on the same subject, titled simply Lady Day

Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill has toured the world since its debut.

Assuming an agreement is reached, McDonald's version will be housed at the Circle in the Square Theatre beginning later this theatre season. 

And the second piece of news is that triple-threat Danai Gurira has received a special grant from Playwrights Horizons, the writer's theatre dedicated to the support and development of contemporary American playwrights, composers and lyricists. 

A grant to commission Gurira was bestowed by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation

Best known for her role as Michonne on The Walking Dead, it may not be widely-known that Gurira, who made her Broadway acting debut in 2010, in Joe Turner's Come and Gone by August Wilson, is quite the accomplished playwright. She co-wrote In the Continuum with Nikkole Salter which received the Obie Award and Outer Critics Circle Award for writing. She also received a Helen Hayes Award for her performance in In The Contiuum.  

Other work written by Gurira includes Eclipsed and The Convert.

In addition to the Playwrights Horizons grant she just won, she most recently was awarded the Whiting Writers Award - a $50,000 award given annually to ten emerging authors and playwrights - putting her in great company, as previous winners include August WilsonTarrel Alvin McCraineyTracy Scott Wilson, and Suzan-Lori Parks (Top Dog Underdog) to name a few.

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