When Sade Thompson first read Chisa Hutchinson’s “Dead and Breathing,” she knew it was something quite unique.
“I had never seen it performed, and I wasn’t familiar with it at all until I decided to audition,” said Thompson, a Brooklyn native and Albany resident who along with Barbara Howard is starring in the Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate New York’s production of Hutchinson’s 2014 play. “I liked it, I knew it was different, and I knew it would be a challenge. And the more we worked at it, the more I loved it.”
The Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate New York, created by Jean-Remy Monnay back in 2009 originally as the Soul Rebel Performance Troupe, will be performing “Dead and Breathing” in Capital Repertory Theatre’s new space, the Lauren and Harold Iselin Studio at 251 North Pearl St. in Albany. The show opens tonight and will run over the next two weekends (Thursday through Sundays) through Oct. 24.
The show is limited to just two characters. Thompson plays Veronika, a hospice nurse, and Albany native Barbara Howard is Carolyn, a cancer patient who believes her death is imminent and wishes to speed up the process.
“She’s trying to get my character, the hospice nurse, to basically help kill herself off,” said Thompson. “But Veronika tries to convince her that life is worth living. Through her Christian faith, she tries to tell this woman some lessons of life, and there are plenty of twists and turns. As we progressed through rehearsals, I found myself really liking it more and more.”
Thompson served as assistant director and performed in “Barbecue,” Robert O’Hara’s 2015 play put on by the Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate New York this past summer at the Harriet Myers Residence in Albany. A graduate of SUNY-Potsdam, she is now in her second year of graduate study at the University of Albany.
“I’ll have my masters in teaching next May, and what I want to do is try to get schools more involved in the theater,” she said. “It’s important for kids’ education for them to see theater, and it’s also very important for companies to try to get more inclusion into what they do. They need to be telling stories about people of all ethnicities.”
Monnay, a native of Haiti who moved to New York City in 1982 and the Capital Region in 1997, said the mission of his theater troupe is to “highlight and promote performance and theatrical pieces by artists of color in New York’s Capital Region, and to foster better cross-cultural understanding through the performing arts.”
The group has performed at a number of different venues throughout the area, and Monnay is thrilled to see his actors getting the opportunity to showcase their stuff at Capital Repertory, now under the umbrella of the Proctors Collaborative.
“Having the support of Philip Morris at Proctors and Maggie Mancinelli-Cahill at Cap Rep in providing the Black Theatre Troupe a home is a dream come true,” said Monnay. “We’re not only just in Albany, we are in the right neighborhood which needs us most, to serve our youths and adults alike.
“My dream is to give any kids and adults of any color who are interested in the art a home to come to,” continued Monnay, who is directing this production. “We want them to learn and shine and have the best experience. Also, to continue to work and make the local theater community more diverse and colorful. Philip and Maggie are helping me to continue doing just that.”
Monnay is also happy to be producing “Dead and Breathing,” an off-Broadway hit that drew positive reviews from both The New York Times and National Public Radio. Hutchinson is a native of Queens who went to Vassar College and New York University. She currently teaches at the University of Delaware and is a 2010 GLAAD Award recipient.
“I love plays that teach and educate; stories that bring together people regardless of your race, culture, sexual orientation, religion, etcetera,” said Monnay. “Plays about accepting one’s way of life. ‘Dead and Breathing’ covers all that.”
While “Dead and Breathing” is just Thompson’s second show in the Capital Region, Howard has been performing, often in musicals, since 2013 at several area venues, including the Albany Civic Theater, Schenectady Light Opera Company and Callaloo Theater Company.
‘Dead and Breathing’
WHAT: A production of the Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate New York
WHERE: The Lauren and Harold Iselin Studio at Capital Repertory Theatre, 251 North Pearl St., Albany
WHEN: Opens Thursday and runs through Oct. 24; show times are 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 4 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $22.50-$17.50
MORE INFO: Visit Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate New York on Facebook or www.proctors.org