Suddenly we look up and the great white way had the look of a dalmatian. There were actually a few joints on Broadway that had our palates at the forefront, making the idea of spending our time and hard-earned dollars in the theater a viable if not primary option for entertainment. Unfortunately, the pandemic altered those plans and brought everything to a grinding halt. Good news is we presently find ourselves in the midst of recovery but there were a few major works that suffered collateral damage, however. A few stores, however, refused that fate and reconfigured their program. It starts with a limited engagement running for only two weeks from Aug. 18 – Aug. 28 for Dominion Entertainment Group as they will present the Atlanta premiere of Douglas Lyons’ Broadway hit comedy “Chicken & Biscuits.” Directed by the award-winning Tom Jones, it feature a cast of Tonia Jackson, Naomi Lavette, Tequila Whitfield, and Enoch King.
As a 30-year veteran, Robert John Connor, founder, CEO & artistic director of Dominion Entertainment Group has worn many hats in his career. Bringing this production to the city of Atlanta adds to his personal and professional goals. “Several years ago, I realized that my legacy is building bridges. I have had such a charmed life creating, teaching, and working with so many talented and now successful artists. I hope to be known as the man who helped someone realize their potential and their dreams. One of my former students, Devere Rogers, starred in the Broadway production and he called me to tell me he had booked it. When he told me the title, I thought, ‘What the hell…“Chicken & Biscuits”!’ We both laughed and I told him I would be there to see him make his Broadway debut. After seeing the show, I knew this would be a great show for the Atlanta market as it was clever, funny, and familiar.”
He continued, “I immediately reached out to the writer, Douglas Lyons, and said this show needs to be in the ATL! We figured it out and I am very excited that my company, Dominion Entertainment, can bring another quality production to our area. Though we are a small production company we have really grown to be known for bringing quality shows to this area and we work really hard to do so.” For the consumer in the Atlanta area Conner assures that they will leave abundantly entertained. “The title speaks to so much more than what one would assume. Theatrical nourishment. A good meal! No pun intended. We all deserve to escape and live vicariously through other characters and their stories.” Just as important, patronage impacts the big picture, “Take inventory on what you throw your money at. Take our children to plays, operas, and museums. Connect the bridge between our culture and community,” he concludes.
Playwright of the show Douglas Lyons gives additional depth to the point by adding, “‘Chicken & Biscuits’ was written to bring more Black audiences inside the theater. Theaters have to program shows that reflect various cultures. ‘Chicken & Biscuits’ is getting nine regional productions in the next year and six already have Black directors. The work demands the creatives. It’s a ripple effect. That’s how we change the system.” As a performer, Lyons has appeared in two giant productions in “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” and “The Book of Mormon” and he cut his teeth as a writer with credits including “Fraggle Rock” on Apple TV+, “Polkadots” at Atlantic Theater Company’s Atlantic for Kids Off-Broadway, and “Beau” at Adirondack Theatre Festival. With “Chicken & Biscuits” he announced his arrival as a talent with mainstay potential. To that Lyons says, “I feel blessed to see my legacy unfolding. I want to be known as a playwright & composer who wrote for Black women, Queer folks, and children. Celebrating the beauty of each with joy and triumph.” To the city of Atlanta, Lyons gives a brief synopsis of what will transpire on the stage and off, respectively. “Chicken & Biscuits is a rarity in the American theater because it’s a universal comedy that centers a Black family. Historically, Black playwrights have not typically been given space to be silly in our work. There’s been a tint of pain or oppression attached to our narrative. This play ain’t that. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and it will remind everyone in the audience of someone in their family—regardless of their background.” Continually, with using food as a thread, he states, “The play is named to not only honor the delicious recipes passed down through the Black family lineage but to also celebrate the traditions and conversations that surround the meal. The Black kitchen is far more than another room in the house. It’s where laughter, fellowship, culture, and sometimes drama collide.”
When asked in two words what the audience leaves with, he offers: healing and community. “Healing because I’ve gotten messages from people who saw the play multiple times on Broadway stating that it gave them hope for their own families; community because regardless to how audiences enter the theater, they all leave as one congregation who sat through a sermon together. It’s live. It’s human. It gives you goosebumps as you experience it. You’re sharing each moment with 1,000 other heartbeats. The world needs theater to remind us of ourselves.”
If you’re in the ATL, “Chicken and Biscuits” has a home at the Southwest Arts Center with the following scheduled performances dates:
Thurs., Aug. 18 @ 8 p.m.
Fri., Aug. 19 @ 8 p.m.
Sat., Aug. 20 @ 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sun., Aug. 21 @ 3 p.m.
Wed., Aug. 24 @ 12 p.m.
Thurs., Aug. 25 @ 8 p.m.
Fri., Aug. 26 @ 8 p.m.
Sat., Aug. 27 @ 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.
Sun., Aug. 28 @ 3 p.m.
Ticket prices: $45, $50. Available at: www.chickenandbiscuitsatl.com
Over and out. Holla next week, til then, enjoy the nightlife.