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Theatre and Dance News

This April: A Virtual Production of ‘TASHA

Montclair State University Department of Theatre and Dance Virtual Spring Season 2021; A way to continue the journey of learning virtually by performing and capturing during the COVID 19 Pandemic

Posted in: Announcements

Tash title image showing the phases of the moon

The Department of Theatre and Dance presents a Virtual Production of  ‘TASHA, a Protest Play by Yusef Miller, directed by Tia James, and choreographed by Francesca Harper.

‘TASHA is set in a modern republic. White Nationalists are occupying the government. Black communities are under martial law. Newly elected President Waters rules that from henceforth all who defy the police are criminals and will remain unburied should they be killed. Natasha Brown, 27, seeking justice, buries he cousin, murdered by law enforcement. In doing so, ‘Tasha ignites a prophecy long buried, the criminalization of Brown people. But is this prophecy reversible? ‘TASHA was inspired by Sophocles’ ANTIGONE.

Playwright’s Note: ‘TASHA was written while I was facilitating a Devised Theatre class. The aim of the class was to magnify the voices of young women of color, murdered by the police – racial violence perpetrated against the female Black body is seldom told. A prototype of TASHA was first performed for and by Black and Latina students. I strongly urge that any future production of ‘TASHA evolve from a performance lab among theatre students. The process should amplify Greek tragedy through the inclusion of non-traditional voices. The lab goal should be to empower and inspire young artists of color to address race, gender, and the criminalization of Black people.

Yusef Miller (Playwright) is from Houston but resides near the Bronx river. He has a Lila Acheson Wallace Playwright Fellowship and a Le Comte Du Nouy Prize in Playwriting Excellence at The Juilliard School. Yusef holds an MFA in Theatre and Dance from The University of California, San Diego. He holds a B.A. in English from Morehouse College. As Playwright, Yusef is a 2020 Dramatist Guild Foundation Grant recipient. Yusef was a finalist for the New York Theatre Workshop 2050 Fellowship. He was a finalist for the Lincoln Center Artist Mentoring Lab Fellowship. Yusef’s tragedy ‘TASHA was a semi-finalist at the Eugene O’Neill National Conference and received a 20-hour workshop at Hi-Arts, a home for Hip-Hop Art and Urban Culture.
Yusef’s allegory THE PROPHECY OF SHEEP was a Williamstown Festival, Weissberger Nominee. It was performed in Paris/France at Théâtres de Nesle. It was workshopped at The Lark Play Development Center, Lincoln Center’s Directors Lab, and The Classical Theatre of Harlem. As Screenwriter, DING DONG Yusef’s short film which premiered at Ripfest #10 Short Film Festival, NYC. As Actor, Yusef is an AEA and SAG-AFTRA unions member. He is a member of Lincoln Center Theater’s Directors Lab and Tectonic Moment Work Institute. Yusef performs throughout the world – USA, Africa, Europe. France. In AMBITION’S DEBT, Yusef made his Feature Film debut. Yusef is driven to create a platform where homophobia and racism are abolished. He is Filmmaker, Producer, and Creator of ON PROGRAM, a short-film collaboration between writers and musicians from diverse communities. Collaborations reflect uplifting perspectives of people, places, and events long-depicted poorly.

Tia James (Director) is an actor, teacher, director, and vocal coach, currently a faculty member of UNC Professional Actor Training Program, and vocal coach and company member of PlayMakers Repertory Company. Tia has been seen on Broadway in The Merchant of Venice (Broadhurst Theater), and regional theater productions include Julius Caesar (PlayMakers Rep) Native Son (PlayMakers Rep), Richard III (Allentown Shakespeare); Loving and Loving (Stella Adler Studios); The Winter’s Tale and The Merchant of Venice (The Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park), Much Ado About Nothing (Two River Theater) and Civilization (all you can eat) (Woolly Mammoth Theater). Her television credits include “Nurse Jackie” and “Treme.” She has been the vocal coach for PlayMakers Rep, having worked on such shows as The Adventures of Robin Hood, Skeleton Crew, She Loves Me, Bewilderness, Jump, Life of Galileo, and How I Learned to Drive.
Tia served as the Associate Artistic Director for The Shakespeare Academy @ Stratford CT, was a teaching artist for NY’s Public Theater Public Works Program, Mobile Unit, and A Midsummer’s Day Camp; a teaching artist for DreamYard Arts Center, and has directed over a dozen plays including Hamlet, Othello, and The Mystery Plays at NYU Graduate Acting Program, Richard III at The Shakespeare Academy @ Stratford CT, A Bright New Bright New Boise with Atlantic Acting School, Macbeth with PlayMakers Mobile Shakes and Constellations with UNC PTAP. Tia is the recipient of the 2003 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival; Irene Ryan Winner, the 2014 NYU Graduate Acting Diversity Mentorship Scholarship for Voice and Speech, and the 2020 and 2019 Michael Chekhov/Zelda Fichandler Scholarship. Tia received her BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University, and her MFA from NYU Graduate Acting.

Francesca Harper (Choreographer) After being named Presidential Scholar in the Arts and performing at the White House Harper joined and performed soloist roles with The Dance Theater of Harlem and later as a Principal Artist in William Forsythe’s Ballet Frankfurt. Harper has choreographed for The Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Richmond Ballet, Ailey II, Tanz Graz, Hubbard Street II, and her own company, The Francesca Harper Project, which was founded in 2005 and tours Internationally.

Harper performed in four Broadway productions including The Color Purple, then toured in leading roles in Sweet Charity, Sophisticated Ladies and Lady Day at Emerson Bar and Grill.  She also served as a Ballet Consultant for the Oscar winning film, “Black Swan.” Harper was Movement and Casting Director for The Bessie Award winning, “The Let Go,” commissioned by the Park Avenue Armory and for Zendaya and Tommy Hilfiger’s Apollo Theater production for Fashion Week in 2019.  Fellowships include Urban Bush Women’s Choreographic Center Initiative and The Ballet Center at NYU. Harper has also created World Premieres for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the New Jersey Symphony orchestra.  New works include a new creation for Wendy Whelan, Associate Artistic Director of The New York City Ballet and her own autobiographical work, “Unapologetic Body, supported by Urban Bush Women’s CCI.  Recently, Harper completed seven World Premiere Virtual Dance Films for Jacob’s Pillow, Princeton University, the New York Choral Society, and many other venues including another World Premiere in Beijing.  Harper is currently engaged as Executive Producer with Sony Pictures on a series in development while also pursuing an MFA in performance creation at Goddard College. For more information, please visit